Employment insurance poll reveals call centre shortfalls

by Leo Almazora03 Feb 2017
The Canadian government has released the Employment Insurance Service Quality Review Report, which assesses how Service Canada delivers the Employment Insurance (EI) program. Led by a panel of three MPs including Terry Duguid, Rodger Cuzner, and Rémi Massé, the national review gathered stakeholder feedback from May to November through meetings, online submissions, surveys, written submissions, and employee questionnaires.

The survey found that Canadian citizens wanted clearer and easier communication with Service Canada; better support for those trying to navigate the EI program; and more accessible call centres. Many EI clients felt either neutral or dissatisfied with the quality of service, with nearly seven out of 10 EI clients having to wait longer than 10 minutes to talk to a call centre agent. Forty-eight per cent of EI clients had to call an average of two to five times before they could reach an agent.

“One of the main, if not the main, challenge facing Canadians is low call centre accessibility, which is a root cause of many frustrations and delays in service,” the report noted. “The fact that call centre accessibility is so low has a direct impact on how many Canadians and stakeholders feel about the EI program.”

The problem was not lost on the service providers. Departmental performance data showed only 31% of call attempts in 2015-16 resulting in the caller actually getting queued to speak to an agent. In 2015-2016, only 37% of calls were answered within 10 minutes, far below the current target to answer 80% within 10 minutes.

The call centre experience appeared to be the main negative for EI clients, 72% of whom indicated that they were satisfied with the service overall. Twenty-nine per cent felt a shorter phone wait would have had the most positive potential impact on their efforts to communicate with the government after applying, while 25% felt they would have been better served if allowed to communicate online and completely bypass the phone channel.

EI call centre employees suggested enhancements such as increasing the number of agents, enabling electronic communications, and providing a callback option. They also proposed that service standards should focus on positive claimant outcomes rather than speed of processing.

The Service Quality Review Panel formulated 10 recommendations based on the study. These include tapping private-sector call centre experts to develop an improvement plan, and replacing Service Canada’s outdated technology systems through a prudent, phased-in approach.

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