KS Labor Dept. Revamps Phone System

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Kansas Department of Labor is revamping its phone system, hoping to ease the frustrations of thousands of customers. The changes to the phone system went online last week.

Ever since the economic downturn, labor departments across the country have been overwhelmed with customers. It's no different here in Kansas. We've heard complaints for years now that people can't get through when they need the system the most.

"Customers should not be on hold as long as they were previously with the new phone system when the queue's are at capacity," said KDOL Spokesperson Sue Henke.

The goal of the new system is to ease the frustration. Thousands of Kansans who find themselves in the unemployment line have been fed up with the labor department's phone system, sometimes finding themselves on hold for a half hour or longer.

The labor department admits its phone system has been outdated for years. Now, callers should be told within two minutes that the lines are full and they should call back later.

"The biggest change for the claimants is now the option of responding to prompts by simply speaking instead of touch tone phone pads," Henke explained. "The prompts were designed in a way to help people more easily get to where they need to go."

It's called I-V-R, or Interactive Voice Response. Henke says this is just the first phase of a complete overhaul of the labor department's phone system and website.

"Early next year, we'll be adding more speech recognition tools, including the ability to file an initial application for benefits, to check their claim status, or to file a weekly claim," Henke said.

Despite growing frustration over the department's handling of callers, Henke tells KAKE News the plans have been in the works for more than five years. So far, feedback on the new system has been mostly positive since it went online last week.

But things may be getting even better. The October labor report for Kansas showed the unemployment rate was at 6.4 percent, which is down from 6.7 percent in October of 2009.

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