Emory Report
February 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 18



Emory Report homepage  

February 2
, 2009
UTS staffer dials service to higher level

By Margie Fishman

Jennah Simpkins, a Univer-sity Technology Services Call Center employee, fields some 500 calls per day for Emory University and Emory Healthcare, from relaying emergency pages to retrieving the phone number of the math department.

Now she can add student recruiter to her resume.

The call came in on Jan. 2, a rainy Friday morning. The mother of a prospective student, who had traveled to campus from New York City, was frantic because she couldn’t reach the Office of Undergraduate Admission to check on a tour for her son. A recorded message informed her that the office was closed until Jan. 5 — confirmed by the switchboard and security. Already en route to campus in a taxi, Jill Danenberg was in panic mode.

Simpkins sprang into action. She began dialing campus offices to try to locate someone — anyone — who could help the visitors.

Ten minutes later, Simpkins reached Campus Life, which arranged for the prospectives to have a personal tour and lunch with Dean of Campus Life John Ford. Later, they joined an information session hosted by admissions, even though the office was officially closed for the holidays.

Now, Emory is David Lichtenberg’s first choice and his mother was so impressed with the level of service they received, she wrote to Simpkins’ supervisor. The positive news trickled all the way to the president’s office.

“When I asked if I could call her supervisor, she insisted she was just doing her job and that no additional praise was necessary,” Danenberg said. “My son and I both thought that this was a very special experience and we so appreciate the effort Ms. Simpkins made on our behalf.”

Simpkins is one of 33 call center specialists, who work round-the-clock answering as many as 10,000 calls per day, many of them for Emory Healthcare. Operators route calls to the appropriate personnel, provide notification and emergency communication support, and schedule conference calls. The average call time is only 30 seconds, but call center employees receive from 8 to 12 weeks of training, said center supervisor Bonita Russell.

“The impact one person can have on positively branding Emory is enormous,” said Russell. “Every one of us has a stake in Emory’s success regardless of the job duties or title.”

Simpkins exemplified Emory’s core mission by going out of her way to solve a problem for a prospective student, said Rich Mendola, chief information officer and vice president for information technology.
“When people see a story like this, it’s far more powerful than us just telling the community how they are connected to Emory’s vision,” he said.

Known as the mother hen in her office because she’s always baking lasagna or checking on a sick colleague, Simpkins recently celebrated her one-year anniversary at Emory. She has three children living at home, including an 18-year-old goddaughter who is applying to Emory this year.

Simpkins said she can identify with her callers and is willing to expend extra energy to connect them to the right people.

“I do try to extend that hand a little extra because I would want somebody to treat me the same way,” she said.