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Retirement Administration Service Center gets technology boost

When faculty, staff and retirees call UC’s Customer Service Center, they’ll get more consistent answers and spend less time on hold than they might have previously, thanks to new state-of-the-art technology.

The new customer relations management (CRM) software is the latest milestone in the newly created Retirement Administration Service Center (RASC).

The RASC is a stand-alone center that combines customer service with the departments that calculate pensions, disability benefits and survivor benefits and manage retiree health insurance administration.  About 80 people staff the RASC, which serves faculty, staff and retirees systemwide.

To fully appreciate the RASC, you need a little history.

In 2008, as part of restructuring of the systemwide Human Resources and Benefits department, a project was initiated to determine the feasibility of having a third-party vendor assume responsibility for retirement benefits administration functions.

A request-for-proposal process was completed, but in early 2009, President Mark G. Yudof ultimately decided that university faculty, staff and retirees would be better served by an in-house service center..

Yudof’s decision began a two-year process to reorganize several functions into one unit, replace outdated technology, and redesign processes for efficiency and cost savings.

Under the guidance of RASC Director Joe Lewis and a newly formed, cross-functional management advisory board, chaired by Dwaine Duckett, vice president of human resources, a new organizational structure and management team was put in place, and in early May the RASC deployed what Lewis calls “the backbone of the service center”: a new CRM tool.

CRM software systems are widely used in business to improve customer service, reduce costs and provide data to help measure efficiency and effectiveness.

The first phase of the CRM launch has focused on the Customer Service Center.

“One of the advantages of the CRM is that it provides uniform instructions for handling routine calls,” said Napua Fejarang, a customer service representative since 2009.

For example, if an employee calls to begin the retirement process, the CRM automatically loads a set of questions and instructions Fejarang goes through with the caller, ensuring she gets all the information needed to prepare documents the employee needs to make retirement decisions.

The CRM shows the history of a caller’s interactions with Customer Service and what’s been done to answer a caller’s question or solve a problem.  “I can’t always resolve the problem myself; it needs other departments to actually resolve it,” Fejarang said.  “But now I can see where the other departments are in resolving the problem and report that to the caller.”

With the old technology, Fejarang would have to call or email the other department, wait for a response and then respond to the caller.  Many times she had to call her customer back.

Fejarang and other customer service representatives receive more than 5,000 calls and 1,000 emails a month, many more in high-volume periods such as Open Enrollment.  So improved efficiency can make a big difference in the number of calls that get answered and the amount of time a caller is on hold, especially during busy periods.

“We’ve always tried to be efficient and serve callers as best we can, but I feel better about the service I’m able to provide [with the CRM]. The calls seem to be more streamlined.

For Ellen Lorenz, director of business controls and customer service, the CRM’s data reports are an additional advantage of the system.  “Previously we could tell how many calls come in and, of those, how many get handled and how many people hang up.  Now we can tell why customers call in.”

The information is turned into performance metrics that can be used to improve service, and the metrics help Lorenz set and measure performance goals. The customer service center currently exceeds its goal of answering 80 percent of calls within 90 seconds.

The data also identifies recurring questions, which can help the RASC and other departments improve processes and communications.

”The customer service function has been the primary focus of the first phase of implementing the CRM, but it won’t be the last,” said Lorenz.  The process for helping an employee retire is next up for redesign. Current processes are under review, and Lorenz expects a revised process will be in place by next summer.

With the CRM deployed and plans for additional improvements, Lewis said, “we’re poised to live out the President’s vision for having this service center ‘in house’ and of use to employees and retirees systemwide.”

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