The National Cemetery Scheduling Office (NCSO) has recently gone through a major change, including a $1 million renovation, which culminated in a rededication ceremony May 3, 2019.
The “ribbon cutting ceremony” was the culmination of a National Cemetery Administration (NCA) investment in improved technology, business processes, employee training, and organizational structure.
In a business where there is only one chance to get it right, the call center handles over 300,000 calls each year, schedules 96% of burials requests at 136 national cemeteries, and supports benefits eligibility determinations for national, territorial, state, and tribal cemeteries.
The recent improvements are not just a one-time spending spree, they include changes in the way service is gauged. Thanks to technological leaps, NCSO managers now track 120 data points to maintain superior customer service. The NCSO Division Scheduling Chief, Steve Ecker, said that data tracking helped show when the call center is busiest. This then led to a change in employee work schedules to better accommodate the workload.
Eckers has worked at the NCSO for eight years and said it was great to see the changes.
“We’ve come a long way in just this last year. … We’ve made changes across the board. … It’s great to know we can better serve our Veterans”
In addition to technological upgrades, the staff at the scheduling office was increased by 25%. This contributed to decreased hold time from 39 minutes to less than five minutes. Streamlined processes have resulted in reduced time needed to resolve each customer’s issue. The average amount of time until resolution is down from 14 minutes to eight minutes, 15 seconds.
The NCSO is also in the process of implementing new training for new employees, working closely with the NCA National Training Center, which is also located in St. Louis, according to Ecker.
Consistently rated among the highest in customer satisfaction of any agency or company surveyed by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the NCA assists in over 350,000 Veterans burials each year. All Veterans who were not dishonorably discharged are eligible for burial benefits, as are their spouses and eligible family members. This can include burial at a national cemetery or providing a headstone or marker for Veterans who choose to be buried in a private cemetery. Family members may also request a medallion which can be affixed to a privately-purchased headstone or marker showing the branch of service of a Veteran. More information on NCA burial benefits is at: https://www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits/need.asp
Additionally, a survivor benefits legacy planning booklet is available online at https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/docs/factsheets/Planning_Legacy_Booklet.pdf
Story by Martin Wright, NCA Public Affairs