Current ivr problems




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CURRENT IVR PROBLEMS

11/17/2009


PROBLEM #1:
Every time the employee calls in for the same FMLA condition, a new FMLA number is assigned.
Response to #1:

This statement is not accurate. If an employee keys in or states they already have been assigned a Case Number for an approved or pending approval FMLA condition and provide the number associated with the active case, a new number will not be assigned. However, if the employee fails to provide the case number or enters an inappropriate case number or indicates they do not know the case number, IVR will perform FMLA due diligence which may result in the creation of a new FMLA case.


It is the employee’s responsibility to use the appropriate case number. The case number is provided upon completion of the initial request for leave protection associated with a FMLA covered condition and employees are instructed to write the case number down. The case number is also imprinted on the cover letter within the FMLA packet mailed to the employee’s home of record.

PROBLEM #2:
Employees, whether they are on restricted sick leave or not, are generically being advised that their supervisor MAY be requesting documentation. Then if the employee comes in, they are being told that they were advised at the time of the call to provide documentation.
Response to #2a:

This statement is not accurate. IVR advises employees “Please be aware that upon your return to work, you may be required to explain your unscheduled absence.” Except when the Supervisor has instructed the system to advise the employee;



Acceptable documentation is required because you are on restricted sick leave.

Acceptable documentation is required because your total leave request exceeds three scheduled work days.

Acceptable documentation is required because your supervisor deems it desirable.
There appears to be no distinction from an employee who was flagged in the system. For example, if an employee was flagged in the system because he/she asked for annual leave on Superbowl Sunday and was denied, then they would be flagged. How is an employee to know if the same generic message is on the computer?
Response to #2b:

This statement is not accurate. There is no programmed relationship within IVR or eRMS which associates denied leave and statements made by IVR to employees. However, Supervisors may use eRMS to enable IVR to notify the employee:




  • Acceptable documentation is required because you are on restricted sick leave.

  • Acceptable documentation is required because your total leave request exceeds three scheduled work days.

  • Acceptable documentation is required because your supervisor deems it desirable.


PROBLEM #3:
NBA Vance Zimmerman has a situation with an employee who was injured on duty. The employee’s name is William Jackson out of Dayton, Ohio. The Postal Service sent him for a fitness-for-duty and their doctor contends that he is fit-for-duty. Under the IVR when he calls in the system asks if this is an injury-on-duty. It tells him to call his supervisor. The supervisor says it’s not an injury-on-duty per the Postal Service doctor, and he is unable to secure proof that he calls in.
Response to #3:

The contention as to whether the employee is in an injured on duty status or not must be resolved at the local level. However, IVR was designed to process leave requests associated with non-job illness or injury, or emergency. At the beginning of each call, IVR states, “This is the unscheduled leave request system for non-job related illness or emergencies. For other leave requests, call your supervisor….”


While IVR does accept leave requests associated with a FMLA protected condition, at this time IVR should not be used to request leave related to a job-related illness or injury.

PROBLEM #4:

According to:

Jon Grumet

Maintenance Craft Director, Denver, CO NDC

Since the inception of IVR the system it has been riddled with problems. The most current malfunctions are when you prompt the system for the date of call in by saying “today” it doesn’t understand and hangs up on you causing the employee to restart the whole call in process.


Response to #4:

This statement is not accurate. IVR prompts the user, “…say Today if your leave starts today, or the begin date of your leave” then repeats the caller’s response


PROBLEM #5:

According to:

Jon Grumet

Maintenance Craft Director, Denver, CO NDC

The system also has problems comprehending basic language and delays the process as well.


Response to #5:

This statement is not accurate. IVR successfully addresses over 3 million requests for unscheduled leave per year.



PROBLEM #6:

According to:

John Grumet

Maintenance Craft Director, Denver, CO NDC

The system is down for maintenance during tour change hours. This task would be better scheduled during work hours and not during common start times.


Response to #6:

This statement is not accurate. IVR uses a redundant system. Should the primary IVR sever go down, the back-up service immediately begins to respond to calls. However, IVR does use down scripting, informing employees to contact their supervisor, when it is unable to communication with eRMS. Although this rarely occurs, through the 24 hour per day 7 days per week operating period, beginning October 1, 2009 through March 30, 2010, IVR has incurred 37 minutes of downtime. These system outages were the result of scheduled eRMS maintenance.



PROBLEM #7:

According to:

Bob Patterson

President

Salem Area Local #604
The entire Portland District is under eRMS and IVR, except for Level-18 offices and below, so I am told. That said, the system itself is frequently down, callers get dropped and have to make redundant calls, it is time consuming (which is aggravating for those employees who are quite ill and don’t feel up to the 20-question barrage of questions), and the IVR is not well tuned to those employees who have pronounced accents, such as the many Hispanics, Russians, Slavs, and Asian-Americans that work for the Postal Service in the NW region. God forbid that you be hard-of-hearing, but not necessarily deaf or hearing-impaired.
Response to #7a:

This statement is not accurate. IVR can process calls for over 10,000 employees simultaneously. IVR is also capable of understanding regional dialects. IVR allows callers to respond to prompts by using the key pad on their telephone. Hearing impaired employees are provided with a separate toll free number, where a call center agent responds using a TTY machine. Hearing impaired employees are asked similar questions to those existing in IVR.


The most significant problem with the IVR system, however, which leads to the most grievance entanglements (the ones that I most often deal with and which I’m currently involved with), is the fact that local postmasters, managers, and supervisors have reporting procedures. In short, these local PMs and managers require to the point of discipline that employees make as many as two or three calls when calling in for each sick leave instance, FMLA absences and/or emergency annual leave.
Response to #7b:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.


It’s not enough that the ill or injured employee follow the IVR procedures and call in to IVR, consistent with the eRMS/RMD system. Once the employee has accomplished that process, the employee is then required to phone their immediate supervisor (postmaster or station manager) with a “follow up” phone call to replicate the procedure. This is so the PM/Manager/Supervisor will also have “timely” notification of the call in and can then subject the employee to yet another round of questioning. This follow-up phone call quite often is required to be made on the manager’s personal or USPS cell phone within moments of the employee having called the IVR.
Response to #7c:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.


Ostensibly this is “operationally necessary” as one of the many flaws of the eRMS/IVR system is that it didn’t make allowances for early report times and for various PMs and managers to respond to back-staffing for those employees who would call in sick. As an example: An employee is to report to work at 0600. Calls IVR at 0500, but now has to call her station manager (who normally wouldn’t report until 0700), so the Manager can make arrangements for a replacement employee. But, if the employee can’t contact the station manager, he now has to call yet another supervisor in hopes of letting that supervisor know the problem --- and so forth.
Response to #7d:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.


If, however, the manager (or other supervisor) is not available and the employee made the “courtesy call” to the post office, station or unit and provided the follow-up call to another craft employee; the employee calling in will regularly and routinely receive a return call from the unit manager to either confirm the employee’s illness and/or to press the issue and yet again engage the employee in the redundant round of questioning. It’s usually at this point that the employee is “instructed” to bring in medical documentation, which if it were a righteous request, could have been made during the IVR prompt.
Response to #7e:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.


The “personal policies”, of course, run afoul of established USPS policy and are a direct concession by local PMs and managers that both eRMS and IVR is a flawed system, does not work, and more importantly inhibits local operations, especially as it relates to staffing early AM opening units. If and when employees either fail to or refuse to produce the “follow-up” phone call to their managers consistent with the local or personal policy, discipline inevitably follows. Presently as I write this, I’m working on a L. O. W. and a 14-Day Suspension base on that very allegation.
Response to #7f:

The statement “IVR is a flawed system, does not work, and more importantly inhibits local operations, especially as it relates to staffing early AM opening units” is not accurate. While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.


The ELM, the F-401, F-21, and F-22 all echo the same language: “Local management must designate a person to whom employees are to “call in” notice of an unscheduled absence.”
Response to #7g:

This statement is not accurate. The ELM indicates employees must notify appropriate postal authorities. Local management has designated IVR as the means to provide this notification


ELM 512.412 Emergencies

An exception to the advance approval requirement is made for emergencies; however, in these situations, the employee must notify appropriate postal authorities of the emergency and the expected duration of the absence as soon as possible.


ELM 513.332 Unexpected Illness or Injury

An exception to the advance approval requirement is made for unexpected illness or injuries; however, in this situation the employee must notify appropriate postal authorities of his or her illness or injury and expected duration of the absence as soon as possible.


When the USPS introduced RMD, eRMS, and the IVR, particularly the latter, IVR became “that person” to whom the employees were to call in. I see nowhere in USPS policy where any local manager may require any employee to make multiple call-ins to satisfy this requirement, nor do I see where management has any right to pester employees at home, either by return phone calls or showing up on the employee’s door step to check on their physical status. If I am wrong, Sister Williams, please correct me. Otherwise, I shall grieve management accordingly.
Response to #7h:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.


Where does it say that our employees have to call in more than once a day, whether it’s to IVR or to John Potter?
Response to #7i:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.



PROBLEM #8

According to:

Janalee Banks

Provo, UT - Eastbay

I have had times when the system spreads my eight hours of sick leave requested over several days. I am in Provo, Utah Eastbay. I have not had more leave taken than I asked for. I have not been disciplined because my supervisor recognized the “glitch” when he called me in to talk to me about attendance after I was red-flagged by the system.


Response to #8:

This is not an IVR issue. There are two inaccuracies in the last statement. Neither IVR nor eRMS automatically flags employees nor is there a glitch in either system. When the employee states the day the leave is to begin and the date the leave is to end is equal to three scheduled work days, and also states the amount of leave requested is eight hours, eRMS will reflect the leave requested as eight hours distributed over three days. If the employee states correctly that they are requesting 24 hours of leave, the leave will be distributed correctly at eight hours per day. Procedures exist in eRMS to allow supervisors to indicate how leave hours should be distributed across multiple leave days.



PROBLEM #9

According to:

Pensacola, FL

System will randomly say “Goodbye” and hang up; has happened quite a few times out of this office.


Response to #9:

This statement is inaccurate. IVR does not randomly “say “Goodbye” and hang up”. However, IVR is very sensitive to background noise. It is possible for IVR to interpret background noise as the caller saying Good Bye or Bye then respond with Good Bye and disconnect.



PROBLEM #10

According to:

Bryan Embry, Local 66 Chief Steward, Tour 1

Sacramento, CA (Sacramento P&DC)

IVR system inadvertently hangs up on you during the call. Call back and it may happen again and again. This has happened to me several times.


Response to #10:

This statement is inaccurate. There have been no reports of IVR arbitrarily disconnecting callers.



PROBLEM #11

According to:

Bryan Embry, Local 66 Chief Steward, Tour 1

Sacramento, CA (Sacramento P&DC)

Management continues to refuse to post an official alternative number for employees to call to speak to a supervisor. Manager Karen Padden told [the] Union President during the last L/M meeting that management was reluctant to post an official telephone number because they believed that employee’s would call that number instead of the IVR. Management’s other complaint was the problem of staffing a telephone for the sole purpose of taking call-ins. To this day, management has yet to provide an alternative official phone number for employees to use for contacting their supervisor. Currently employees just call the General Clerks office, but usually no one answers, or they tell the employee they must call the 1-877 number.


Response to #11:

While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.



PROBLEM #12

According to:

Bryan Embry, Local 66 Chief Steward, Tour 1

Sacramento, CA (Sacramento P&DC)

I was very, very ill at one time, in serious pain. On my way to the Veterans Hospital for treatment I called the IVR and it eventually connected me to a live representative after having answered all the questions required by the IVR. When the live representative answered, and attempted to force me to answer the same questions the IVR system had already asked, and had been answered, I explained my situation and told her I could not go on with the call much longer due to the severe pain I was suffering, and therefore requested that she just put me down for sick leave – non work-related. In the end, the live representative stated she couldn’t help me if I refused to answer ALL the questions ALL OVER again, and eventually hung up the phone on me. Who do you lodge a complaint with when the HRSSC representative is not professional?


Response to #12:

IVR prompts callers with a series of questions in order to obtain the information necessary to complete a PS Form 3971. If the caller does not provide an appropriate response or IVR is unable to interpret the caller’s response, the question is rephrased and asked two additional times. If IVR is still unable to interpret the caller’s response, the caller is transferred to a call center agent. The agent will ask the caller questions, similar to those presented by IVR, to obtain enough information to complete the PS Form 3971. Call Center Agents are not allowed to deviate from their call in script. This ensures standardization of the call in process.



PROBLEM #13

According to:

Joanne Sullivan

Clerk Craft Director, Springfield, MA Local 497

Problems in Springfield, Massachusetts are pretty much the same as the sampling I’ve read online. I will just elaborate a little. We had a case here a year ago. It was a 14-day suspension for four instances of AWOL. During the investigation of the grievance for arbitration, one of our stewards discovered a report called a “leave deletion” report. The grievant had, in fact, called in for each of the four absences (Sick-FMLA). She had a live FMLA condition. These deletions did not show up on any of management’s other paperwork and we couldn’t tell from their reports who had deleted and then altered her rings. If the steward hadn’t found out about that report, we may have failed at arbitration and the grievant’s subsequent discipline (removal) may also have been upheld.


Response to #13a:

IVR maintains no information following the conclusion of the call. All information is transferred to the eRMS application. eRMS does not have a “leave deletion” report. However, the application does provide a Removed Leave Log. This report is available to the Supervisor and other eRMS roles. eRMS also provides a Leave Audit Log. This report lists all leave and changes made to this leave (including removal) entered for an employee over an indicated time period.


We have requested and not been furnished daily call-in logs, so we can maintain a book of the calls as originally requested. Bottom line is management can and will manipulate the calls as originally requested.
Response to #13b:

This is not an IVR issue and must be addressed locally.


Employees are not given 3971’s daily, but sporadically and in large quantities. The employees, although urged by the Union to make out their own 3971’s, end up signing them.
Response to #13c:
This is not an IVR issue and must be addressed locally.

PROBLEM #14

According to:

We have had several instances of the IVR system hanging up on employees without accepting their calls.


The IVR system will ask if “you have your FMLA case handy”. A lot of employees do not have it readily available at the time of call. This in turn generates a “new” FMLA number, new request for FMLA certification, a subsequent denial of FMLA when the employee does not run back to the doctor for a new certification, and a new case file number. Discipline is subsequently issued and it’s all the employees fault for not having their case file handy.
Response to #14:

Postal policy requires employee to use their FMLA Case number when requesting leave associated with an approved FMLA condition. While IVR is cited, this issue must be addressed locally.



PROBLEM #15

According to:

Timothy Northern

President, Western New York Area Local (716) 462-7221

Many of the issues already addressed in the data previously provided have also been problems within our Local. The following additional issues have occurred within the Western New York Area Local as experienced by our members:


A request for 16 hours was charged 16 days.

On or about 2/25/2008, the system would not recognize the members personal ID number as a valid number. The system transferred the member to a “live person” who informed the member they could not help them, that they had apparently called the wrong number.


Response #15

Procedures exist in eRMS to allow supervisors to indicate how leave hours should be distributed across multiple leave days. However, the statement relating to being transferred to a “live person” is inaccurate. Callers must provide their EIN at the start of the call-in process, if IVR does not validate the provided EIN; the caller is instructed to contact their Supervisor.



PROBLEM #16

According to:

Janet Gross

Lafayette, IN

When I call in with a migraine, it takes my call without a problem on the first day. I ask for one day at a time, in case it gets better. Whenever I have to call in a second and/or third day, it will get about half way through and then say “Goodbye” and hang up. It does not notify the supervisor on those days. I received LWOP twice now. I have started calling in on my cell phone, so there is a record of my dialing the number. As I have to be at work several hours before my supervisor, I can’t call them.


Response to #16:

IVR does not randomly “say “Goodbye” and hang up”. However, IVR is very sensitive to back ground noise. It is possible for IVR to interpret back ground noise as the caller saying Good Bye or Bye then respond with Good Bye and disconnect.



PROBLEM #17

According to:

James Patarini/Denise Hernandez

Alaska

We are having these same issues, especially the inputting of incorrect dates and hours, and the FMLA numbers not being in the system.

We had one person that was at work and showed up in ETC as calling in sick.
Response to #17:

Employees must provide an EIN when requesting leave using IVR. IVR will repeat the entered EIN and ask the employee to confirm the number entered. However, if the employee makes a mistake entering their EIN and confirms the inaccurate EIN, it is possible for the leave to be associated with another employee, although, the inappropriate leave can be removed from the system.



PROBLEM #18

According to:

Pensacola, Florida

System will randomly say “Goodbye” and hang up; has happened quite a few times out of this office.


Response to #18:

IVR does not randomly “say “Goodbye” and hang up”. However, IVR is very sensitive to back ground noise. It is possible for IVR to interpret back ground noise as the caller saying Good Bye or Bye then respond with Good Bye and disconnect.



PROBLEM #19

According to:

Brenda Cronin, President

Greater East Texas Area Local 0826

Longview, Texas

How do we find out if our area is included in the IVR system? As you can imagine, communication from management doesn’t exist. I noticed that Tyler, Texas has experienced problems and they are near us, but to my knowledge our office has never used IVR. Longview, Texas is in the Dallas District. Primary zip is 75601. Can you tell me if we should be using IVR?


Response to #19:

IVR usage is at the discretion of local management.



PROBLEM #20

According to:

Detroit, Michigan P&DC

Attendance system does not accept calls from Canada. I spend weekends there and the system says it is an invalid number.


Response to #20:

The toll free IVR telephone number will accept calls from all Postal Service delivery areas.


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