Ivan Romanov, Director of the Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine: “Based on Corezoid and Sender we provide consultations in messengers”

Ivan Romanov, Director of the Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine

How was the Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine created?

On September 4, 2003 Ukraine signed the Agreement with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which included a number of projects aimed at modernisation of the State Tax Service of Ukraine. This agreement was ratified by Ukrainian law #1317-IV on November 23, 2003 titled “On financing of the project of modernization of the State Tax Service of Ukraine”.

On August 15, 2007 the Government of Ukraine issued the resolution #1049 titled “On the creation of the Contact-Center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine. The Contact-center was established as an independent legal entity within the structure of the State Tax Service of Ukraine.

Have You been the leader of the Contact-center from the day of its creation?

In 2007, I worked as the Head of the State Tax Service in Khmelnytsky region, and I was invited to become a Director of the newly created Contact-center. At first I hesitated, but then the desire to implement a large and ambitious project of creation of the "Contact Center" prevailed.

Initially the Contact-center was aiming to have 196 full-time employees. Of course, from the moment when the Contact-center was officially established in September 2007 until the New Year, it was impossible to hire that many people. So we hired 96 employees at the first stage and 100 employees on the second stage after the New Year.

Official meeting in the Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine

When the Contact-center accepted the first phone call?

On March 31, 2008. We purchased the necessary hardware and software and Incom company helped us to configure everything. Anyhow, we didn’t have enough time to build the server room. When the first phone calls came through, we still had servers on the desks cooled with fans.

When the first phone calls came through, we still had servers on the desks cooled with fans.

Like in a real startup launch!

Yes. What is important is that people started to trust the Contact-center. We put together a great team. Everything was created from scratch: the accounting department, the HR department, the operators team, the quality control department.

What challenges did you face from the very beginning?

People call the Contact-center with their questions. And we need to answer these questions. Where do we get the answers from? It turned out that we needed to create a knowledge base from scratch. Nowadays we have a knowledge base that consists of 15,000 answers to various questions.

Remote Zoom focus group

And so the number of the calls to the Contact-center started to grow?

At first there were not so many calls. We were practising. We arranged random checks and various stressful situations calling each other. We had a large TV-screen hanging in the office. And all the departments saw real-time dashboards and could compete with each other. During the first months of our work we were receiving approximately 10,000 calls per month. Nowadays we get 100,000 calls per month, 3,000-8,000 emails and thousands of incoming requests in chat.

Nowadays we get 100,000 calls per month, 3,000-8,000 emails and thousands of incoming requests in chat.

During the launch of the Contact-center we also conducted a large-scale advertising campaign. There were promo-videos in the subway, press-conferences, publications in printed media.

I couldn’t believe journalists were actually interested in this topic. Now I see the example of “Diia” mobile application and I understand that journalists will always be interested in technological innovations in the public sector.

How did You start using Corezoid and Sender technologies?

According to the strategy of implementing innovative technologies in the State Tax Service of Ukraine we started to provide consultations to people in popular messengers: Viber and Telegram. This project was launched together with a technology partner of the State Tax Service of Ukraine – Middleware Inc. company based on Corezoid Process Engine and Sender Communication Engine platforms. This project was initiated and launched by one of my deputies – Andriy Kushnir.

Andriy Kushnir, Deputy director of the Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine

Middleware technologies allow to build chatbots for messengers, as well as configure the operator workplace for consultations in Viber, Telegram, Facebook, Apple Business Chat, Google Business Messages, widgets on web-sites and any other channels that are convenient for citizens. Middleware solutions are used by the Government Contact Center, the Ministry of Digital Transformation (for the “Diia” online support team), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kyiv City State Administration, Ukrainian Railways and other state-owned companies.

I like how the Contact-center works with messengers.

I like how the Contact-center works with messengers. We created a separate department that works with chats in the Khmelnytsky region. Nowadays a lot of people spend much time in gadgets, tablets, smartphones. It is comfortable to ask a question in chat instead of calling. Also the employee in chat has the time to think and better prepare the answer. Taxpayers can be different, some of them are nervous and stressful. It is easier to handle the communication in chat.

What are the main topics of the questions that people ask?

The most popular subjects in the chat are the personal income tax and social tax. There are also a lot of questions regarding the VAT and single tax.

What is the average duration of a chat consultation?

3-4 minutes. We have set time limits for the responses. Also we ask clients to give feedback at the end of every dialogue.

Do operators get a lot of negative feedback?

For the most part, the feedback is positive. Sometimes people are not satisfied with the operator’s answer. However, the operator answers correctly and in accordance with the law. Definitely, we don’t put any fines on the operator in such cases.

Contact-center at work

Do the salaries of the operators include bonuses for the consultations?

Yes. The bonus depends on the number of quality consultations provided, the correctness of the answers, compliance with the Rules of communication. We have a department of quality control. Every month we see detailed statistics on the quality of work of each employee.

Do call-center operators and chat staff use the same knowledge base?

Yes. Everyone is using the same knowledge base. This knowledge base is used not only by the Contact-center employees, but the entire State Tax Service of Ukraine. All managers tell employees that before giving an answer, you need to check with the knowledge base. You can't speak for yourself. And there can be no "individual approach", otherwise taxpayers will receive different answers to the same questions, which is wrong.

The Department of Methodology of the Contact-center

How did the pandemic affect your work?

Our Contact-center has always been active and energetic. When other organizations closed, we kept working. Some people were transferred to remote work. Although people sometimes find it difficult to adjust: children, noise, the dog barks. Also the spirit of teamwork gets lost a little bit. But now it has been decided that all state employees should be vaccinated. We are gradually returning to normal work.

Please, tell us about your team?

The staff of the Contact-center today is 280 full-time employees. The team has been formed since 2007. For me it is important that the employee is a good person, strong professional and a team player.

Me and my deputies, the heads of departments, managed to assemble the team that understands the cause and our mission. If You look at the work of Contact centers in other countries, not many people work there for more than 2-3 years. In our Contact-center we have people who have been working with us since 2007.

Why should young people join the Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine?

The Contact-center of the State Tax Service of Ukraine is exactly the place where the employee communicates directly with the taxpayer, feels what the client needs and grows as a professional. We have such an approach to young specialists: we train them and then give them the opportunity to move to other structures of the State Tax Service or other governmental bodies, gaining some knowledge of tax law, the skills of communication with taxpayers.

Contact-center at work

How can candidates join the State Tax Service of Ukraine?

You can easily start working for the State after getting through the competition. Public organisations publish their vacancies on the "Single Portal of Vacancies". Usually the requirements for the position are described in such publications, as well as the salary. Also state employees get bonuses for the years of service, bonuses for the rank, 30 days of paid vacation per year. After 5 years at service one more vacation day is added to the basic level. The public service gives good prospects for the young people and provides a stable source of income.

Would you please recommend to our readers some interesting books, movies, TV series?

I recommend “Dune Chronicles” by Frank Herbert, in particular, the novel “God-Emperor of Dune”.

Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
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