New call center goes into operation
MAJOR CHANGES AT the Boilermaker National Funds office will improve services to participants, employers, and health care providers, Curtis Barnhill told the Boilermaker winter construction conference March 4.
Barnhill is the executive administrator of the funds, which encompass the Boilermaker national pension, annuity, and health and welfare plans. He said the office has beefed up its staff, instituted new training, and purchased a sophisticated telephone system. Other changes include creation of a new staff position (employer outreach coordinator), the development of new forms and procedures, and improvements to the funds’ Web site (www.bnf-kc.com).
Customer Care Department created
ONE OF THE MOST dramatic changes is the new Customer Care Department, said Len Beauchamp, associate executive administrator and chief operating officer of the funds. Located on the second floor of the New Brotherhood Building, the department is being staffed with service representatives who are being cross-trained to handle questions across multiple funds. Previously, each fund had designated representatives who handled calls only for that fund. Callers who had questions about several funds found themselves being transferred, and on-hold times were often lengthy.
Currently 17 representatives in the department handle calls, but that number is expected to reach at least 30 as new hires come on board and are trained. The department’s new phone system allows tracking of calls to determine the load and other statistics.
“This is a major initiative,” said Beauchamp. “Ultimately, we want to measure ourselves against the best call centers in the country. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re improving. Abandoned calls — people who couldn’t get through — are going down. And the amount of time it takes a caller to get an answer is going down as well.”
Beauchamp added that the use of a U.S. contractor has helped to address the call load. More than 35,000 calls come into the funds office every month (not including calls about the annuity or employer contributions). Nearly half of those calls are “provider calls” — inquiries from health care providers regarding the eligibility of patients. Shifting those calls to a contractor has allowed the funds office representatives to focus exclusively on calls from Boilermakers and their family members. These calls are the most time-intensive and require the most in-depth knowledge about the various plans. Beauchamp said provider calls may be brought back into the Customer Care Department at a future date.
Employers get help with contributions
ANOTHER AREA RECEIVING attention is employer contributions. Studies done by the funds office show that benefit contributions are frequently incorrect. Kathy Duran, who recently filled the new “employer outreach coordinator” position, said that fact is not surprising. “Reporting fringe contributions in this industry can be a complex task.” She said employers must contend with many variables: different area and local agreements, varying contribution rates, different effective dates, varying apprentice classifications and rates, and special modifications to the collective bargaining agreement, including agreements with multiple crafts.
“My goal as employer outreach coordinator is to assist employers, business managers, and International reps with any issues relating to contribution reporting to the Boilermakers National Funds.”
Duran discussed several procedural changes, including a new policy regarding how employers handle overstated hours. The funds office now requires employers to use a specific form, and any corrections to overstated hours must be approved by the funds office. This form and others are now available on the funds’ Web site under the Employers tab. Duran said additional Web-based forms are in development.
In explaining her new position as employer outreach coordinator, Duran said, “I can make myself available to travel and assist an employer who is having difficulty preparing a contribution report or during a difficult audit. I will also be available to assist with a new business manger training session. I can make sure when you’re negotiating a new contract for your Boilermakers that you understand exactly what you’re getting for that contribution.” Duran can be reached by phone at 913-906-7398 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New reciprocal agreement available
DURAN ALSO ANNOUNCED a new reciprocal agreement form developed by Barnhill and Construction Division Director Dale Branscum. She encouraged all business managers to use the form whenever it is necessary to modify a collective bargaining agreement so that other crafts may perform Boilermaker work. Such arrangements may become necessary when there are not enough Boilermakers available for a particular project. The contract modification allows benefit contributions for the other craft workers to be sent to their home craft fund office. Use of reciprocal agreements ensures these workers can maintain their health and welfare eligibility and can contribute to their pension.
“There are many variations of reciprocal agreements being used today,” Duran said. “The standardized agreement developed by [Barnhill and Branscum] would be a much better choice. The important aspect about this reciprocal agreement is that the excess money between the two craft packages goes into the Boilermaker National Annuity Fund. Because of this, there will never be an economic incentive for an employer to hire other crafts to do the work of Boilermakers.”
Barnhill noted that the new standardized agreement includes legal language designed to protect local lodges, the funds office, the employer, and the participant.
Duran stressed that locals must send the funds office a copy of any agreement that involves benefit contributions.
Web site improvements cited
THE FUNDS OFFICE continues to expand its Web site, Duran said. “We are adding things all the time, and we hope people keep coming back to the site to see what has changed.” The site offers resources for employers, plan participants, and health care providers, including 40 forms which may be downloaded. In addition, the site offers links to the Boilermakers International, J.P. Morgan, Cigna, Express Scripts, and Delta Dental.
Barnhill reminded the conference that participants in the annuity plan can log onto the site and review their account information. He reported that the office is changing over to a new benefits administration computer system that will have the ability to “speak to” the Web site. He said the funds office plans to offer users the ability to access information about their pensions and health and welfare accounts at some point in the future.
Another key development, said Duran, is a new Web-based reporting process that will allow employers to submit participant hours electronically. “Once fully developed and implemented, this electronic process will minimize employer errors due to manual reporting. The process will also help reduce delays that can occur when reports are sent through the mail.
“Timely submission of employer reports increases the accuracy of the information available for health and welfare eligibility, helps improve claims payment turn-around, and allows annuity contributions to be invested more quickly for our participants,” she said.