Ron Nelson, Director of Customer Service, says the transition from call centers to home offices has gone smoothly.

If you had asked Ron Nelson a couple months ago if OUC’s Customer Service representatives might work from home someday, he would have replied, “Not anytime in the near future.”

Well, it looks like the future arrived a lot sooner than he expected.

In early March, OUC leadership directed employees who could work from home to do so as a precautionary measure to fight the spread of the coronavirus. In just a few days, 53 Customer Service reps stationed at Reliable, Gardenia and Pershing were trained and equipped for working remotely. Meanwhile, four other call center team members remain at Pershing to run a command center under social distancing guidelines.

“We did a pilot with four people on March 17 and didn’t encounter any problems,” says Nelson, Director of Customer Service. “Using an aggressive equipment delivery and training schedule, we had everyone trained by March 20 and on March 23 everyone was working from home. I think initially some were intimidated by VPN (virtual private network), but once they signed on to it a few times they were good.”

To help them get ready for the transition, Aldrenia Byrom, Manager of IT Support Center, and her team of 13 scrambled to prepare laptops for call center work. IT Support also set up call forwarding to each OUC-provided mobile phone assigned to a rep.

“I can’t say it was easy but IT Support made it look easy,” Nelson says. “Aside from a couple of equipment swaps, everything has worked beautifully.”

Nelson says call volume has dropped 30 percent since OUC announced it would not disconnect customers for lack of payment during the national crisis. But the amount of time it has taken a rep to complete a transaction has gone up by 25 percent, a stat he attributes to today’s technology challenges with some many people accessing the Internet at any one time.

Customer Service Rep Cherrise Rogers says she doesn’t like working from home ― she LOVES it.

Service Representative Cherrise Rogers says she loves, not likes, LOVES working from home. She says she had no problems transitioning from her Gardenia workspace to her Orlando home, which she shares with three others, including her 2-year-old grandson.

“Grandmother is at work, so they leave me alone,” she says. “There are no distractions.”

Rogers says that other than the loss of face-to-face interaction, which is a good thing at this time, she hasn’t noticed much difference between working in an office and at home.

“I am focused on taking care of my customers,” she says. “I can do that just as easily at home as I can in an office, although I would much rather do it at home. I love working at home. I didn’t say I like working at home. I LOVE working at home.”

Senior Call Center Rep Jennifer Hartley enjoys telecommuting from Clermont, where her fluffy friend, a Bichon Frise named Cody, keeps her company at home.

Senior Call Center Rep Jennifer L. Hartley works out of her Clermont home with Cody.

“Working from home has been really great,” Hartley says, “and I find it’s been really easy to adapt to since a majority of my communication is by e-mail and everything runs very smoothly.

“I could see myself working from home as long as I could come in to Pershing from time to time to see all my wonderful co-workers, who I miss terribly.”

Nelson says the big takeaway he’s gotten out of this experience is “technology gives us a lot of options. We were able to pull this off in a very short period of time. I’m proud of everyone. They’re making it appear seamless.”