Offsite service center to begin takeover of staff BenefitSU calls

Beginning later this month, general questions about university medical plans and other benefits that have been answered in the past by BenefitSU staff on campus will be routed to ExcellerateHRO, a human resources administration company.

ExcellerateHRO employees, operating out of offices in New Jersey, will begin answering telephone calls made to BenefitSU during Open Enrollment, scheduled this year from Oct. 26 to Nov. 15, said Brian Talbott, director of strategy and finance for Human Resources.

Campus BenefitSU staff will still be available to answer questions regarding 2005 benefits until Dec. 31. ExcellerateHRO will begin answering all medical and life insurance benefits questions beginning Jan. 1, 2006. Questions about retirement will continue to be handled by campus BenefitSU staff, he said.

Telephone numbers for BenefitSU won't change. The service center hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) Monday through Friday, except for the final seven days during Open Enrollment (Nov. 7-11 and 14-15), when hours will be extended until 7 p.m. (Pacific Time).

ExcellerateHRO, which is owned jointly by Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Towers Perrin, provides human resources administrative services for more than 400 businesses and organizations. Contracting service center operations to an outside firm that specializes in human resources administration is expected to provide additional services to callers, Talbott said. It also will allow BenefitSU staff to concentrate their efforts on other matters such as benefits design and strategy, he said.

The university also can't match the investment ExcellerateHRO makes in its administrative computing systems, Talbott said. The business invests $100 million a year in technology, he added.

Six full-time employees previously staffed the BenefitSU service center, according to Benefits Services Supervisor Patty Michon. Half have found other jobs on campus and half left the university before their jobs ended, Michon said. Temporary employees currently are staffing the campus service center.

Up to 10 ExcellerateHRO customer service representatives at a time will be available to answer questions from Stanford employees, Talbott said. Due in part to the company's ability to electronically track the demand for services, nine out of 10 callers will speak to an ExcellerateHRO service representative within 30 seconds, and 99 percent will speak to someone within two minutes, he said.

All calls will be forwarded to a live person, rather than to a list of automated questions or voicemail. (A short automated menu of choices will route callers to operators at the beginning of each call.) The ExcellerateHRO service center also can link Stanford callers to live translators in virtually any language spoken by campus employees, he said.

Unlike the current BenefitSU service center, the service center operated by ExcellerateHRO will not record voice messages after hours. However, questions can be sent 24 hours a day through a "Contact Us" feature on the BenefitSU website. Due to federally mandated Internet security regulations and privacy issues, responses to e-mail will be made by telephone, typically within one or two business days, Talbott said.

Contracting service center operations to an offsite vendor also will reduce the amount of in-person customer service that will be provided to employees at the BenefitSU offices at 655 Serra St. Some employees who walk in with questions will be referred to the BenefitSU website or telephone service center, Talbott said. Phones and computers will be available in the office lobby, he said.

Other key changes include the following:

  • Employees can enroll in benefits by telephone. (Since 2002, employees have been required to enroll online.)
  • All telephone calls will be recorded.
  • To maintain confidentiality, employees will need to have their employee ID number and a PIN to access information about medical and life insurance benefits.
  • To ensure that information is up to date, the beneficiary designation for life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment benefits will not automatically roll over. For this year only, all employees will need to re-enter beneficiary information.
  • All employees will be required to certify student status for dependents during Open Enrollment.
  • In addition to providing telephone customer service and the website for Open Enrollment, on Jan. 1, 2006, ExcellerateHRO will begin providing additional administrative services, including new employee enrollment and recordkeeping and benefits administration for all employees. Those services currently are provided by a different administration firm. New employees hired during the remainder of 2005 will enroll through the current administrator for 2005 benefits and with ExcellerateHRO for 2006 benefits.