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FMCB Supports Efforts to Improve MBTA Call Center Services

Posted on May 1, 2017

 BOSTON – The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) today approved MBTA management entering into final contract negotiations with Global Contact Services (GCS) for operation of the MBTA customer communication center. By partnering with GCS, customer communication is expected to be enhanced with expanded hours of operation and MBTA operating costs are expected to be reduced, with the MBTA anticipated to have cost savings over the proposed five-year contract of $8.5 million dollars.   

“We are pleased to have the Board’s support in moving forward in talks with GCS,” said MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve. “GCS’s transition plan was the strongest with a clear timeline and a significantly lower cost than the competing bidder. Along with the company’s experience in the transit industry and with customer service, GCS has displayed strong technical performance and possesses a strong management team. We’re excited that these talks with GCS will continue.”   

The MBTA Customer Communication Center currently includes twenty-one employees who respond to inquiries via telephone, email, and online forms. The Communication Center is multi-lingual and its employees record, communicate, and resolve customer complaints by working with other MBTA departments. Employees also provide information to those who cannot access it, such as customers without Internet access as well as customers with visual or cognitive impairments.    

Though inquiry volume has decreased by twenty-five percent from FY13 to FY16, (479,000 in FY13 versus 360,000 in FY16), the cost to operate the Customer Communication Center has risen by six percent for the same period, ($2.4 million in FY13 to $2.6 million in FY16). Fully loaded FY16 costs totaled $3.6 million, with $2.6 million designated for wages and benefits, and materials and services, $0.8 million designated for retiree healthcare costs, and $0.2 million in additional pension costs.   

After reviewing proposals from eight companies, the MBTA Contact Center Selection Committee unanimously recommended GCS to the FMCB. GCS has proposed one percent in annual cost growth over the life of the contract, below the MBTA’s revenue growth. In partnering with GCS, the MBTA saves $1.4 million in fully loaded operating costs in its first year with the fully loaded base operating cost totaling $2.2 million, including the remaining MBTA employees. Cost savings over the five-year contract are anticipated to be $8.5 million.  

  Contract terms with GCS are proposed to include a three-year period with two one-year options, an annual one-percent price increase, expanded weekday hours, and future weekend hours (which are not currently offered by the MBTA’s Customer Communication Center).   

Key service-level agreements include a forty-five-second average call answering speed, a five-percent abandonment rate for calls longer than forty-five seconds, post-call survey satisfaction greater than eighty percent, secret shopper satisfaction, and error-free data entry greater than ninety-seven percent.   

The MBTA contract management team will actively supervise the provider through daily service and performance monitoring, weekly staffing-level check-ins, monthly secret shoppers and data quality audits, on-demand call recording reviews, monthly service level agreements and penalty payment reviews, and monthly service efficiency improvement plans.   

The sixty-day transition plan will be implemented by July 1, 2017, with a soft launch scheduled prior to this date. All current Customer Communication Center employees will be offered operator roles and the opportunity to apply for other MBTA positions.

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