By Mary E. Hart
Today starts the beginning of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and this year, the theme for NDEAM is Inclusion Works. NDEAM is observed each October and serves to celebrate workers with disabilities while also educating the world on the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Here at NTI, we absolutely believe that inclusion works as it’s something that encompasses everyone we work with from the companies we partner with to our candidates who wind up working for those companies and even our colleagues as well.
Let’s start with the great folks here at NTI. Thanks so much to Leah Terrasi and Lynda Gardner, who took time from their busy day to speak with me about how important inclusion is at NTI and how we work to serve both our partners and our candidates to work together and thrive in an inclusive world.
One of the partners who have found success choosing inclusion and working with NTI for years, thanks to people like Leah and Lynda, is the IRS. NTI provides the IRS with call center agents, who are known as Order Entry Clerks, for the Forms and Publications line. The candidates who are placed in these positions help those who call in to have forms mailed to them; direct callers to where they can find a form or publication on the website; and answer procedural questions about fraud or a Tax ID number, for example.
The IRS has continued to be pleased with the candidates they receive from NTI, stating “The quality of your candidates is the best we’ve ever seen.” Accuracy, especially when it comes to tax forms and documents, is so important and the IRS reviews calls on a regular basis to ensure that accuracy is being achieved. For NTI, in 2015, the IRS found that the yearly customer service accuracy was 99.47% from January to December of that year. We’re thrilled to be able to provide the IRS with such great candidates who continue to do a great job.
Flexibility is also a top requirement from our partners, and the IRS is no exception. Last year, due to tax form changes, they anticipated that they’d need more hours than originally budgeted and asked NTI to provide candidates for those additional 12,000 hours. Yes, you read that right. 12,000 hours, and we were able to fulfill those hours with ease. Self high five!
John Hancock is another customer/partner that has found happiness through choosing inclusion with NTI. When they first talked with us about a partnership, they had never had workers that started off as Work at Home, so they had justifiable concerns about reliability, phone presence and strong tech skills. Customers aren’t looking for IT specialists, but candidates that work at home must be able to install the computer and system that they’re given to work and also be able to figure out any issues that may arise with the technology.
John Hancock did a presentation at the New England Call Center Conference about work from home employees. During the presentation, they mentioned NTI and gave us a lot of kudos about professionalism and the candidates we’ve given to them. The kudos included:
- “They sent us super stars”
- “Hit our sweet spot and allowed us to smooth out our call volumes”
- “We haven’t missed our service level agreements (SLAs) since they got here”.
For Work at Home candidates, a phone presence and pleasant demeanor is so important as the only experience a customer may have with a company when they call is the person they speak to on the phone. So, the person must be able to know how to retain and keep customers.
One Fortune 500 retail company that partners with NTI for call center workers prides itself on their customer service setting them apart from their competition. Because of that, candidates for their call center positions need to be friendly and bubbly on the phone to keep that reputation going.
How do candidates learn if they have what it takes to be that friendly presence that’s needed on the phone or if they’re even cut out to be a call center representative? Training, training and more training. At NTI, we set expectations very early on in the process with a general pre-screen interview, which covers the skills that are required for call center positions, including having a strong voice quality; strong communication skills; strong technical skills of working on a computer; a certain typing speed (which varies per company and can range from a requirement of 20 wpm to 70 wpm or more); and some sort of customer service position -- be it volunteer or paid.
From there, candidates go through a few assessments, and then partake in a three-day certification training, which helps them learn first hand what it would be like to work as a work from home call center representative. This training helps candidates to brush up on their skills as needed and also provides a reality of the jobs and what’s coming to make sure that it really is the right fit for them.
For candidates that need a little extra help, NTI has created a mentoring team. The members of this team help to guide and coach candidates throughout each part of the process from interest to becoming employed by a partner. The mentors will also help with resumes, interview role-playing and any accommodations that are needed. This mentoring team is being created because “We’re successful if they’re successful”.
Remember: Inclusion works!!
If you would like to get involved with NTI, feel free to connect with us on our website at www.nticentral.org/learnmoreBIO: Mary E. Hart is the Digital Communications Specialist for NTI. She is also a freelance writer, editor and content strategist, specializing in writing copy that will help you reach the right people at the right time. Previously, she worked in Demand Generation marketing for UBM Tech and Ziff Davis Enterprise. In her spare time, Mary is working on the next great ghost novel.