News : Hold Times, Hang-up Rates Both Cross Limits
Madison, WI, US, Jan. 26, 2015 -- Understaffing at MTM Inc.'s call center in Madison appears to be the reason why more than 24% of people who called to schedule a medical ride in September hung up before getting through to a person. That's according to MTM's corrective action plan, obtained by the Public Investigator under a public information request.
MTM's contract with the state of Wisconsin caps the number of hangups at 5%. But in 2014, rates steadily climbed from 10.3% in March to 24.1% in September. Meanwhile, state officials sat by without enforcing.
That's because MTM's contract says the 5% hangup limit isn't enforced until the average hold time exceeds 4 minutes. The company came in under that every month through August.
However, according to newly released statistics, hold times finally exceeded the 4-minute limit in MTM's contract in September. This triggered enforcement of both the hangup limit and the hold time.
Readers tell the Public Investigator they believe MTM is skirting the hold time limit by having a rep pick up the phone within a few minutes to stop the hold time clock, then put people back on hold.
Milwaukee resident Tiffany Janik said that's been her experience four times in the past week and a half when she called to schedule rides. The rep who picks up the phone first asks a few questions, then puts her on hold for up to 15 minutes. Then another rep picks up, asks the same questions and lets her schedule a ride. She says this has happened four times in the past week and a half.
"Initially, my call was picked up within two minutes. The rep I got my basic information, like my member ID, then put me on hold. I was on hold again for five to 10 minutes. Then we had to start over again," she recalled.
From start to finish, a call with MTM typically lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, she said.
"There's no reason why anyone should be on hold for half an hour to get through to anybody. That's why I wasn't using (medical transportation) before, because it was an issue," she said. "There are a lot of people who really count on this transportation for medical transportation and you can't come through."
MTM provides rides to Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus members who have no other way to get to their plan-covered services.
Michele Lucas, a spokeswoman for MTM, said Janik's experience isn't typical and doesn't reflect how the call center is supposed to operate. She said call center reps are trained to schedule rides during the first interaction.
"In limited instances a caller may be transferred to another resource, such as if eligibility cannot be determined, the call is outside the days' notice requirements, or the member wants to submit a complaint," she wrote. "These are exceptions and not the norm."
Claire Yunker, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said officials have been closely monitoring MTM's performance. When officials saw that hold times exceeded the contractual limits in September, they requested that MTM immediately reduce its hold times and submit a corrective action plan on how to become and remain compliant.
The plan became effective Nov. 1, 2014, and runs through Jan. 31. It only consists of a few bullet points, but states that the call center needs "to maintain appropriate staff levels" and that MTM will be implementing a new "workforce management tool that will create greater efficiency to monitor existing staff."
Lucas said the company has added staff and resources at its Madison center and is coordinating more closely with corporate workforce managers. The company also transitioned to a new phone system that allows it to more accurately forecast needs and optimize work schedules at the call center accordingly.
MTM is still recruiting for positions at its Madison call center, she said.
Yunker said state officials will hold MTM to its plan but want to give the company a chance to improve before seeking monetary damages.
"After the plan is in place, if the performance does not sufficiently improve, the department may assess liquidated damages," she wrote in an email.
She said the state maintains careful oversight of the MTM contract.
"State staff... is on site at MTM multiple times per week directly monitoring MTM's operations and performance," Yunker wrote. "MTM is also required to submit a monthly report, which is posted online, to the department outlining their performance."
Statistics have a three-month lag time in release, but Lucas said MTM has seen improvements since the plan took effect.
"We are happy to report that preliminary data shows we have reduced our average speed to answer and abandonment rates well below the contractual threshold for each month in the fourth quarter," she wrote in an email.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2015