DUO spokeswoman Tea Jonkman hopes that these excessively long waiting times are a thing of the past, and she’s feeling hopeful. There’s extra funding this year: Minister Van Engelshoven released an additional 26.7 million euro for DUO in the Spring Memorandum. Part of this amount, 6.5 million euro, is meant to make it easier to get a DUO employee on the line. Since 2017, 75 extra employees have been hired to answer telephone inquiries. “Once again, new groups of employees were recruited and trained in early 2019”, says Jonkman.
In a campaign, DUO has called upon students and former students to not wait until the last minute to make any necessary arrangements. “If they wait too long, they’ll end up calling during the summer peak period. We would prefer that the demand for our services doesn’t come all at the same time.” DUO also hopes to reduce the workload using a new chat functionality.
DUO’s ICT system, which has been operational for a year, is also starting to bear fruit. Students and former students can arrange more matters themselves in this system, without having to use complicated forms or assistance from DUO employees. Requests and changes are immediately visible, and as a result, students have fewer questions. “Thanks to the new system, DUO’s manual processing of incoming mail has been drastically reduced, and there has been a 20 percent drop in telephone calls in the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018”, explained Van Engelshoven in response to Parliamentary questions.
The minister believes it’s important that students or former students calling DUO quickly get an employee on the line to assist them, but she emphasises that in the summer period, waiting times may exceed ten minutes. However, she does expect that callers won’t be waiting as long as they did in 2018.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep caller waiting times under ten minutes. It’s all hands on deck”, says Jonkman. But she can’t make any guarantees. “You can’t predict what might happen.” But according to the spokeswoman, DUO is prepared to meet the challenge.