Providing Service to 50 Million People

This recent op-ed from The New York Times talked about a little bit about the need for a huge call center to help ease the transition to digital television that is expected to happen on February 17. A huge number of people are going to be affected by this switch – most likely more than 50 million. To quote the story:

Nearly 1.5 million calls are expected to come into a special Federal Communications Commission call center on each of the two days following the transition, but this center will be able to handle only about 350,000 calls a day.

Needless to say, that is a lot of calls and a lot of confused television watchers. Assuming the call center is hope 24/7, that will be more than 62,000 callers an hour (more than a lot of call centers work with in a year or at the very least, a month). How can the FCC deal with that many calls? Chances are, they can’t. They would need a small army (read: a couple of thousand) call center representatives available around the clock and flying through calls in order to handle the rush. It sounds like they need to increase the size of their staff significantly and probably invest in better hardware/software to be able to handle the volume.

The FCC needs to invest in other methods of communication. Some ideas:

  • A plethora of self-service options (online videos posted on their web site and on YouTube, searchable FAQs, an extensive knowledge base, illustrated guides, and so on).
  • Live chat options so representatives can work with 2-3 (or more) people at once instead of just one at a time.
  • An online / forum discussion board where people can get help from others.
  • Community groups to help confused television watchers (this is suggested in the article).

There are a lot of possibilities and the FCC is hopefully prepared to do many of them. There is an okay, but not great web site called DTV Answers that provides some of the information, but there is definitely a lot of room to improve. To handle all of those people and something that affects as many people as this, they need an in-depth, interactive web site with all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t look like the government invested what they should have in making the switch simple.

What would you do to make the switch