When I was named the Deputy Executive Director of TREC and the Deputy Commissioner of TALCB in August of this year, part of my expanded role at the agency was to focus on the agency operations, particularly the frontline customer service aspects of licensing and call center performance. I am happy to report that over the last several months, due to the implementation of technological improvements, additional staff, and the hard work of existing staff, there has been a marked improvement in the overall performance of both.
On the call center front, the Agency instituted a Call Routing System, or call tree, in June and a Courtesy Callback feature at the end of August. The call tree gives a person calling the agency the option of pressing a number to direct a call to a fully qualified person based the type of information needed. The Courtesy Callback feature allows a caller the option to leave their phone number with us without losing their place in the queue. Instead of waiting on hold for their call to be answered, once it is their turn to receive assistance, the system will automatically call them back and connect them with a live person. Both of these features have helped reduce the wait times and increase the number of persons the call center staff is able to assist on a daily basis.
For example, for the month of October, a total of 22,445 calls came into the call center. This was a 13% increase in the number of calls received by the agency in September. Of these calls, staff engaged with 18,686 callers, or 84% of the total calls received. While this was the same percentage of calls handled by staff the previous month, staff assisted an additional 2,414 individual callers, an increase of 15% from the previous month. 6,695 calls were returned through the “courtesy call back” feature, or 36% of all calls handled in October. Since the Courtesy Call Back feature was implemented at the end of August, over 14,000 callers have used it.
The staff has also made progress on the top IT-related projects that we believe have the greatest effect on the frontline operations of the agency. For example, anyone who currently wants a Certificate of License History for a license holder must submit a form and pay to have the history researched and completed. This process is time-consuming for both staff and the person requesting the certificate. Over the last month, extensive work has been done to automate that process. Once automated, a PDF of a license history will be generated about a license holder at no cost to the requestor via the agency website. Automation of this process accomplishes two things. First, it provides this information to the requestor immediately for free, without having to wait for agency staff to research and process the request. Secondly, it automates a process that often requires one staff person up to 20 hours per week to complete. That staff will be able to spend more time processing applications and renewals. We hope to have this process automated for real estate license holders by mid-November. It will be implemented for appraiser license holders at a later date.
Staff is also working on an “application status tracker” that will allow an applicant to go on the website and track the status of his or her particular application. The tracker will provide an applicant with information via the website that the applicant would otherwise have to call the agency to get. We hope to have the application tracker operational by the end of the year. The tracker will initially be implemented for new sales applications only, our highest demand item. Please note that this is the first step in developing a more robust “license holder portal” through which new applicants and existing license holders can manage their accounts and licenses with the agency. Other more complex license types will be added as additional progress is made on this project.
Staff has also made progress regarding an online process uploading application and education documents through our online services instead of faxing or emailing them to the Agency. If all goes as planned, the Agency is on track to implement that service sometime in January 2019. Once implemented, this process will provide applicants and license holders a significantly more convenient method of providing the agency the documentation needed to issue a license and, on the staff side, will increase workflow efficiencies and help to decrease application processing time.
While these are all good steps in the right direction, we continue to be committed to finding ways to provide great customer service, to improve overall processing times, and to provide access to information in new and innovative ways for both persons regulated by the Agency and the clients they serve. Stay tuned in as we continue to find new ways to serve you better.