Web app to the rescue

Web app to the rescue

Air Force personnel center in Denver reduces its call volume by half


It was information run haywire. Not so long ago, 36 employees in the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver were deluged with 44,000 phone calls a month, and most were routine requests.

In 70 percent of the cases, more than 900,000 callers wanted the same thing: copies of the DD214, a retirement benefits document.

They asked for their last military evaluation record. Some asked for information about joining the Reserves. Others simply wanted to report an address change.

Lt. Col. Frederick A. Bromley III, deputy director of communications and information at the personnel center, knew there had to be an easier way of fielding these requests. He found it on the Web.

Since March, the center has used a package from RightNow Web, a Bozeman, Mont., software company, to respond to basic customer requests. The daily phone calls that once flooded the personnel center have decreased 50 percent, Bromley said.

'We did it because we thought it would help our customers,' he said. 'We wanted to do it to get a better handle on the category of customers.'
The center initially posted 200 frequently asked questions and answers at its site, at www.arpc.org. The site is now up to nearly 300 FAQs, Bromley said, and reservists from as far away as Japan, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands log on daily.

Save $200,000 monthly

Most of the customers are pleased with the quick answers to basic questions that alleviate calling the center and being routed to the right agency, Bromley said.

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size="2" color="#FF0000">A Web application helped improve customer service at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, trimmed costs and reduced staffing needs, Lt. Col. Frederick A. Bromley III says.

The Air Reserve joins the Postal Service, Customs Service and the Social Security Administration in using the customer-relations management software package, said Dan Nichols, marketing director at RightNow Web.

Bromley declined to say how much the Air Force paid for the Web application, aside from saying 'it was affordable.'

'It represents better than a $200,000 savings on a monthly basis,' said Bill Keller, RightNow Web senior federal account manager. 'Eighty percent of your customers are really only after 20 to 30 percent of your knowledge base.'

The new app let the personnel center forgo adding 15 to 20 additional customer service representatives in the New York office.

'We enable people to find their own answers,' Nichols said. 'People want instant answers. This allows them to find answers. From our knowledge base, which we start out feeding with answers, we can answer 70 to 90 percent of the questions.'

Reservists may also e-mail questions to a customer service representative, and workers are still available by phone if an answer can't be found online.

Phone calls are down to about 26,000 each month, Bromley said.

'It's really easy to use,' Bromley said. 'And it doesn't take a team of people to maintain it. We buy maintenance on it, and they keep giving us updates.'

The next version of the software will feature a method for determining, based on the words used, whether a reservist felt angry or frustrated when he or she submitted an e-mail question, company officials said.

It will also prioritize e-mail questions based on the response needed.

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