Problematic TN unemployment phone system gets upgrade - WSMV Channel 4

Problematic TN unemployment phone system gets upgrade

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After months of delays, the unemployment phone system that has been the source of complaints for years has gotten a pretty hefty makeover.

A common complaint, one that has been echoed year after year since the recession started, is that those who are trying to receive an unemployment check can't get anyone on the line.

The reason, officials say, is due to huge numbers of applicants and an antiquated phone system.

But at long last, a long awaited new phone system is in place.

"This phone system is geared to improve self-service components by up to 60 percent. We also added additional phone lines," said Don Ingram, with the Tennessee Department of Labor.

The state received federal money to upgrade the phones.

But it turns out that was easier said than done, leading to a big delay in finishing the project.

"It was an extreme challenge to implement this new telephone system. Not that it's difficult to implement a telephone system, it's difficult to implement a call center specific to unemployment, especially with all the mandates and extensions," Ingram said.

The goal is to eventually reduce the wait and also add a virtual hold system for those calling in. But leaders warn this is not a silver bullet.

"The reality is it's just like the interstate system. There are traffic jams during rush hour. And let's face it, Monday mornings are rush hour at the unemployment office," Ingram said.

The phone system is only one part of solution. The Department of Labor has also expanded its internet applications to reduce the burden on the call centers.

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