Economy— Oregon unemployment call ?centers receive changes to lower wait time, improve claimant experience

To try and improve the experience for those seeking unemployment insurance, the Oregon Employment De­partment has instituted some changes in its call centers. This was sparked by lengthy wait times reported recently by claimants.

“We rec­ognize that many Ore­gon­ians calling our unemployment insurance center are experiencing long wait times,” said David Ger­sten­feld, assistant director for unemployment insurance programs. “This is totally un­acceptable to us. So, we took a long look at why this was oc­curring and what could be done to improve.”

Gerstenfeld said Oregon is not alone in this challenge. Due to declining revenues from the U.S. Department of Labor, many states have had to rethink how services can be provided.

“Some states have drastically reduced the number of hours their call centers are available to the public, and some states are eliminating their call centers altogether, opting for providing all services online,” Gerstenfeld said. “We are looking for alternatives that will actually increase service, while staying within our budgetary constraints.”

The number of claimants has decreased 10 percent in the last year. The unemployment center staff has also decreased by 17 percent as well. These facts, compounded with the claimant experience, led to several changes.

These changes include staffing more employees during peak call times and bringing in staff from other sections of the department as needed to assist in the call center. There will also be changes to the online services that include providing more self-service options.

But Gerst­enfeld said the department is also asking claimants to report their claims each week and use the online and automated phone systems to help reduce the call center wait times.

“Making these two changes will free up the phone lines for those who have an issue that requires they speak to a claims agent,” he said.

Claimants can use the online system at workingin or call 1-800-982-8920 to file claims, check their claim status, sign up for electronic deposit and other self-serve options.

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