Call center renews focus on customer service

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photograph of employees at education conference
ASWB staff members prepare to return to Culpeper after their day at the 2019 Education Conference in Arlington.

“THINK POSITIVE” says the sign on the wall over Felicia Dennison’s desk. Another plaque just below her computer monitors says “Make it Happen.”

Dennison, who joined ASWB as candidate services manager in July 2018, clearly brings the same upbeat attitude to her work. Her management of the Candidate Services Center focuses on “growth for the individuals in the call center and growth for the department,” she says.

Like many call centers, increased traffic on online platforms has resulted in somewhat lower call volume in the CSC, but Dennison sees that shift as an opportunity. With less emphasis on keeping call times short, “we can focus on quality customer service,” she says.

That focus is paying off, according to a new survey system CSC implemented in March. Previously, examination candidates had one chance to rate their registration experience through a survey administered after they take the examination, sometimes many months after their registration experience. Dennison has implemented an immediate customer service survey, with representatives encouraging candidates to complete the short survey as soon as their call is completed. In March, approximately 27 percent of candidates completed the phone survey—and the first month’s numbers are impressive.

ASWB’s staff gets high marks on how knowledgeable they are (above 4.5 on a 5-point scale), efficiency of the call center (99.65 percent respond that they are getting helped in a timely manner), and overall customer service quality (again, 4.5 out of 5). Dennison says that she is proud of the call center’s work, and she believes there are still opportunities for improvement. She would like to see a higher volume of exam candidates completing the survey in the second quarter, for example.

The CSC has implemented an ongoing training program for representatives, which blends videos, case studies, and role playing. Candidate services reps are paired up for some activities, with more experienced representatives teaming up with newer employees. And both are learning from working together on things like positive problem-solving. “Getting off the phone sometimes can help build relationships with each other,” Dennison says, which helps employees deal with some of the more challenging calls. “The news that they deliver [to candidates] on a regular basis is often difficult news,” she continues, and ongoing training and support makes that job easier.

In addition to training, the department has implemented team-building and social activities to give representatives opportunities to relax and get to know their colleagues. As a group, the Candidate Services Center recently completed an escape room exercise offsite, and they’ve implemented semi-regular potluck lunches.

Dennison knows firsthand how demanding call center work can be. She started out in a call center before college, working there for several years while she completed her undergraduate degree. She also earned her MBA while working in management for a water treatment company in the region.

That management experience has led her to restructure how CSC assigns tasks. Previously, a few senior representatives were assigned to more challenging tasks. Now the department is spreading those jobs around. The representatives are divided into three teams that rotate through different responsibilities. This system allows candidate services reps to cross-train, building capacity within the department and offering new experiences for the representatives. “Any time you can switch it up,” Dennison says, “that keeps it interesting” for the staff.

By giving candidate services representatives “the opportunity to take on new tasks,” she continues, “they show us what they’re able to do.”

photograph of CSC in a meeting
he Candidate Services Center staff met with ASWB leadership in April to talk about their impressions of the sessions they attended at the 2019 Education Conference. CEO Mary Jo Monahan and COO Dwight Hymans answered their questions about topics like social work scope of practice, licensure exemptions, and categories of licensure and added to their knowledge about ASWB’s role in serving social work regulators.


photograph of Felicia Dennison
Felicia Dennison, candidate services manager, joined the rest of the Examination Administration staff at the conference debrief meeting, which saw a lively exchange of ideas, information, and perspectives.