How the MOE Call Centre transformed to manage COVID-19 head on
As you already know, Singaporean parents are very involved in their children’s development.
MOE call centre staff working from home due to the outbreak of Covid19. PHOTO: GovTech
So it’s no surprise that the MOE Call Centre (MOE CC) had to handle a surge in calls from parents and other stakeholders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just to give you an idea, here’s a rough summary of the nature of calls handled by MOE CC over the past few months:
Jan - March: Parents asked about the precautionary measures undertaken by schools to ensure the safety and well-being of their children, e.g. seeking clarifications on travel declarations, Leave Of Absence, mask-wearing guidelines etc.
Late March: Tuition / enrichment centres had to suspend their operations. Call enquiries surged from these centres as well as from parents, seeking clarifications on the advisory and alternatives.
Early April: When full Home Based Learning (HBL) was announced, there was another surge of calls from parents asking about the scope of HBL, alternative childcare arrangements, definition of ‘essential services’ etc.
MOE Call Centre adjusted to manage the sudden volume and accelerated our ability to WFH
On one hand, we wanted to enable our staff to be able to answer calls and serve our public customers from home, as this would mean reducing the risk of Covid-19 exposure for ourselves and our families.
But on the other, this meant our staff needed to be able to remotely access MOE’s Call and IT systems from home. We had never done this, because we met with all sorts of challenges in all our previous tests! We were very uncertain how this could work.
We knew it would tax the existing VPN network with both voice and data traffic and were unsure if our officers’ home networks would be stable enough to ensure undisrupted call connectivity and reasonable call audio quality.
The main concern? We did not want to frustrate the public if we could not hear each other properly, or worse still, have calls dropped midway through a conversation! There was definitely apprehension.
Given that MOE did not have the recommended QOS (Quality of Service) for our LAN/VPN network infrastructure, maintaining call audio quality was also a concern. COVID-19 was truly an unprecedented event, and no one in 2019 could have foreseen that we’d all be working from home en masse in 2020.
To overcome this, we worked A LOT harder so MOE CC could serve our customers seamlessly
Our team could only carry out most of the system configuration work and testing for our Call System after our hotline operating hours, to minimise service disruption to the public – kinda like how SMRT does track maintenance.
Our team worked round the clock, including weekends and public holidays, with daily conference calls (due to the COVID-19 situation) to meticulously resolve and track project progress which included end-to-end testing, validating results and fixing issues expeditiously and effectively through close collaboration.
Some useful learning points:
Call Centre staff working from home without missing a beat. PHOTO: GOVTECH
Always bring in the experts early - The network team was brought in to join us in our daily teleconference with our vendors. This enabled more direct communication amongst the technical experts (both from MOE and vendors) which facilitated faster resolution of issues.
Communicate with empathy - Seeking to understand one another’s priorities, identify the conflicting ones and discuss, de-conflict and agree on the most viable option. Being able to discuss, and at times argue openly, objectively and focusing on the end goal would move the collaborative projects along quicker, and more productively.
Purpose and teamwork – Having workdays that stretched till 2 am was definitely taxing on us, but two objectives kept us going.
The first was that for every passing day that the solution was not in place, our frontline colleagues would have to commute into MOE to attend to calls from the public. Now, more than ever, they needed to cater to the needs of their children who were undergoing home based learning and other family members during this challenging COVID-19 period. The second was that, in times of crisis, maintaining communication with the public was paramount; and delivering reliable and consistent service was of utmost concern to assure the public. These were always at the top of our minds.
Our officers at MOE CC might not be putting their lives at risk like medical personnel, but they too have an important role – keeping parents calm, informed and reassured during such turbulent times.
As for us? We’re just glad to have made WFH possible for our MOE CC colleagues, so they could balance their children/family’s needs, and continue to serve the parents and public well throughout this crisis. ☺
Written by: Somebody who was in charge of the WFH transformationhttps://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/How the MOE Call Centre transformed to manage COVID