In early March the COVID-19 virus began spreading rapidly throughout the country. The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board (TALCB) took drastic measures to ensure the health and well-being of the staff while continuing to address the questions and concerns of consumers and license holders. TREC and TALCB quickly determined it was best for staff to transition staff working entirely remotely and allocate resources to do so. It was important that each staff member was able to safely do the same job at home, as they would in the office.
The Customer Relations Division is the front line of TREC and TALCB. Customer Relations handles walk-in customers, emails, and phone calls. With a staff of 22 who answer up to 200 emails and answer between 800 and 1000 calls daily, the task of transitioning all of them to working remotely without disruption was a challenge.
The IT staff deployed additional tools to enable the team to transition to a remote work environment within a week of establishing social distancing guidelines. Due to foresight and planning by the Commission and Board, the TREC and TALCB staff had already transitioned phone systems to voice over internet protocol (VOIP) phones, which allows the staff to answer the phone on their computer from anywhere. This also gave staff the ability to answer the phones from their computers, access the database remotely, and communicate with other team members simultaneously from the safety of their homes.
How did these changes affect license holders? The goal was to ensure license holders didn't even notice and that the transition to this remote work model happened with minimal disruption to customer services. The website and phone system did see some bandwidth issues in the first several days after the transition, but the staff was able to keep up with the demand. During this social distancing season, the TREC and TALCB have maintained a hold time of no more than 15 seconds and answer emails within 4 to 5 hours. Staff productivity and performance have remained high while working remotely.
When asked if the staff thought callers noticed a difference since the contact center transitioned to working remotely, the responses were overwhelming, "no," or if a caller did notice the occasional dog barking or child asking for a snack, they were understanding and grateful to the staff for their continued service. Truly a testament to the kindness and understanding of fellow Texans.
Throughout this challenging time, the staff has worked hard to find a sense of normalcy, and while this is a challenge, the staff has found their stride. Some even stated they are genuinely enjoying their new commute to work! The team misses seeing their coworkers and sharing their joys, as are many Texans, but just like license holders, they are working hard to rise above this challenge and come out the other end of this with a new sense of resilience.
TREC and TALCB staff know this is a challenging time for all, but they are here and ready to help.