Categories: NewsPublished On: 09.05.2024

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— Anna, please tell us about the call center of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Ukraine and the work it performs.

— The call center is an important department in any organization, but this is especially true for a charitable organization like ADRA Ukraine. Because we provide assistance to people in need, those who are referred to as “beneficiaries.” Accordingly, people contact the hotline of our organization, call the numbers listed on the official website, as well as write to messengers, social networks. Over the entire period of the call center’s operation, we have received approximately 2.5 million calls to the hotline. Also, through Viber and Telegram, we have received over 100 thousand inquiries. Call center employees, among other things, process requests on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, as well as inquiries received at the official email. Our employees also work on the evacuation hotline, involved in the MEAL department (conducting surveys to monitor the quality of assistance provided).

— What needs do people address on the hotline?

— Every day we receive a lot of inquiries, but most of the calls are requests for financial assistance. Unfortunately, at present, the call center does not register for this type of assistance, as the required number of beneficiaries is already registered within the framework of current projects. The process of payments is currently underway. The call center also conducted registration for a type of assistance called “cash for rent.” This is a very important form of assistance for internally displaced persons who have partially or completely lost their housing, those who are left without means for existence, who have lost everything. Registration was particularly important during cold weather, and beneficiaries received this assistance.

Also, mass appeals are coming in to the hotline for food and other humanitarian aid. Currently, we cover areas (or parts thereof) such as Khersonska, Mykolaivska, Kharkivska, and Luhanska. Operators provide information on current food distribution points, their schedules, and categories of individuals eligible to receive these packages. We collaborate with the United Nations World Food Programme, and within this project, there is a transition from food assistance to cash. Cash assistance in the amount of 1,500 hryvnias (38 USD) over four months is provided to beneficiaries who previously received food products. Active registration is currently underway, and the call center is also involved in this process. We make outbound calls, inviting people to the distribution point to apply for this assistance. These are people with vulnerability criteria such as internally displaced persons, people with disabilities, elderly individuals facing difficult life circumstances, and so on.

We have centers for internally displaced persons that are actively functioning, where there are comfortable living conditions. The call center receives applications from people who have been forced to leave their homes, after which I redirect them to a representative who deals with the settlement of these people. Currently, this is mostly a transit shelter located in Lviv, organized by the Boris Voznytsky Charitable Foundation. It has already accommodated over a thousand internally displaced persons. This shelter is temporary, people can stay there for no more than 2-3 weeks. Preference is given to people with disabilities, large families, low-income families, internally displaced persons, people who have lost family members, or those whose homes have been destroyed due to hostilities.

Calls are coming in to the call center regarding evacuation. The majority are from Kherson, as well as from Donetsk region, including Pokrovsk, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Kurakhove, Selydove, and Kostiantynivka. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, ADRA Ukraine has evacuated a total of 44,936 individuals from frontline regions.

— How many people are on the call center team?

— Currently, our call center team consists of nine operators (previously there were more, this is related to the number of ongoing projects). There are days when we can receive over a thousand calls, and for nine people, this is a significant workload. We simply cannot physically answer all calls. Considering that operators are not only involved in answering calls but also handle emails, social media, evacuations, and are engaged in the MEAL department.

— Can a person call the hotline if they are dissatisfied with something or want to complain about something? Or a person who has experienced a disaster and wants to share their experience. How do call center employees react in such cases?

— Yes, there are many cases where a person calling is truly in distress. The operator needs to empathize with this person, somehow comfort and reassure them. We try to dedicate as much time to the person as they need. First and foremost, the operator should listen to this person, their requests, and if we can assist with the issue they’re reaching out about, we do help. If psychological support is needed, operators don’t provide it but refer them to a psychologist. If we can offer some other form of assistance, we inform accordingly. If we cannot provide a specific type of assistance, for example, if a person calls us requesting financial aid but we don’t have registration open at that time, we explain that registration is not currently being conducted, but they can track this information on our website, social media, or call back later, as there might be an opportunity in the future. In some cases, when our organization doesn’t have a relevant project to provide assistance to this person right now, we provide information about other charitable organizations they can also reach out to. In short, we listen to the person and in any case provide them support or information.

— How do the operators themselves handle such workload?

— Call center operators also need psychological support, they need periodic relief because they work every day, the schedule is very tight, there are many calls per day, each person has their own story, these stories are complex. Therefore, every week we hold meetings where employees meet with a team of psychologists. Operators enjoy these meetings, find them interesting, useful, they get to know each other better, communicate more, become more active. After meeting with a psychologist, they feel relieved.

— What qualities should a call center employee have to cope with such work?

— First of all, it is probably a responsible attitude to work. It is also important to be communicative, stress-resistant, balanced, able to control emotions. Literacy, ability to learn quickly, purposefulness, punctuality are also important.

Is it possible that people complain that they cannot get through to the call center, or do they eventually get through?

— Sooner or later, everyone gets through, but there are complaints that they cannot get through on the first try. As I mentioned, we have a lot of calls. Since the beginning of the war and until today, over 2,295,000 calls have been recorded on the hotline, but not all of them are answered due to the high call volume and the small number of operators. Unfortunately, we cannot answer absolutely all calls immediately. For example, if we have nine operators on shift, they are unable to answer thousands of calls a day.

Therefore, some people have to call the hotline again or write to us in a messenger. All messages in the messenger are read, and everyone receives a response. There is not as much colossal load as with calls.

However, there are days that are less busy, there are more, depending on what news comes out. For example, if today the website publishes information that we are starting registration for financial assistance, we would receive up to 8,000 calls a day.

Currently, within the project supported by the UN World Food Programme and ADRA Switzerland, ADRA is transitioning from food to cash assistance. Where our operators are involved, they invite beneficiaries, accordingly, the number of calls has increased because some people could not get through, they call back. Now there are a lot of calls, more than a thousand a day.

What does the call center need most now?

— It would be nice to have more employees in the call center. But this can probably be solved if the charitable organization has more projects and support from donors because this issue lies in the plane of financing the operators.

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