NEW PORT RICHEY — People calling the Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office no longer will have to navigate through a sea of menus, pressing buttons for options or talking to a digitally generated voice.
The callers now will find human beings on the other end of the phone line.
Five workers began answering the phones on Wednesday as part of training, Tax Collector Mike Fasano explained.
The operators are supposed to be up to full speed by Monday, but the fast progress during the trial run this week delighted Fasano. The main phone number in West Pasco is (727) 847-8165.
The agency already had most of the resources on hand to create the new department, Fasano noted. About the only expense was the purchase of five headsets.
The Gulf Harbors office in New Port Richey already had plenty of space for the phone operators.
Fasano simply reassigned customer service representatives for the new phone operator slots.
Tim Couet, the call center manager, and Gary Joiner, the division operations manager, helped set up the gear. Pat Trapnell, the training manager, developed all the reference materials for the call center employees.
Some of the most experienced employees at the Tax Collector’s Office decided to take on the challenge. Joanne Raspanti has spent 23 years at the agency, while Ilene Stovall has 22 years. Other call center operators are long-time workers Vicky Ippolito, Crystal Moore and Cynthia Doorlag.
They will direct calls to the proper person during regular business hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Greg Giordano, director of customer relations, said.
The five employees, however, also will function as a kind of help center, Giordano elaborated. Not only will they field questions about the many services at the tax collector’s office, but they also will attempt to redirect callers to other agencies better able to handle their questions.
All call center employees have an extensive directory of government agencies and other outside groups that could field questions, such as Social Security Administration, sinkhole claims or street paving
The call center also has a customer service representative who speaks fluent Spanish.
Fasano envisioned a call center in which multiple individuals would answer calls and provide as much information and assistance as may be possible to each caller.
To make the call center a reality, the antiquated phone system in the tax office needed to be replaced, Giordano said. With the installation of a voice over Internet protocol system the ability to have a true call center has become that reality.
The extensive recorded information hotline will be available during all hours that the call center is not in operation.
Requests for duplicate tax bills, lien holder information, publicly available drivers license information, vehicle registration requirements and drivers license renewal details are all examples of services that will be provided through the call center.
Not all transactions, however, can take place over the phone. Drivers license renewals, for instance, will require a personal visit by the customer to one of the offices. a drivers license photograph can only be done in person.
Federal law requires that certain documents must be inspected to verify the identity of an individual.
Also, the call center will not conduct monetary transactions over the phone.