If you called a business and were hung up on every time, you’d probably quit calling and find a competitor.
But you don’t have that option with a government agency that has a monopoly on a service. That’s something Bradley resident Ken Goodwin is learning firsthand.
For two weeks, Goodwin has been calling the customer service line for the state police’s firearm services bureau. He wants to find the status of his application for the renewal of his firearm owner’s identification card.
But no one answers when he presses “O” for operator. He hears a recording of a man’s voice: “If you are having problems getting through to a customer service representative — it is between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. — please try calling later as we’re experiencing a high call volume.”
Then a female voice chirps, “Goodbye.”
A dial tone follows.
The Daily Journal called the line a dozen times last week and got the same recording, except twice when the recording stated there was a high call volume and to “please hold for the next available operator.” The second time was after the firearm bureau’s hours, about 5:15 p.m. After a half hour, an operator answered. She said she was working overtime.
Residents can apply for their FOID card and concealed carry licenses online. Goodwin already had applied for his card, but wanted to check the status of his application because his current card expires Sept. 1.
“I hear the state police are understaffed. I keep getting the recording. I can’t get through to a human being,” Goodwin said.
He said he submitted his application in early June and has been waiting 10 weeks for his new card.
“How many calls are they getting? If they’re getting a backlog, why don’t they give an alternative to being hung up on? Maybe give you a chance to leave a message,” Goodwin said.
Lt. Joe Hutchins, a state police spokesman, said the firearm services bureau is staffed with five people, which is not enough to handle the call volume. The state police, he said, has been working with the state Central Management Services Department on the current system, but a solution has not been identified. The state police report that it receives about 25,000 FOID card applications per month. Last year, a state study showed the bureau received 15,668 calls over five days in late October, Hutchins said.
In response to Daily Journal questions, Hutchins said he was taking the opportunity to announce that the state is working on installing a more automated system where people can complete applications without speaking to agents.
“It also is interactive in that it will work in conjunction with our existing system and agents to populate their computers with information ahead of receiving a caller to better and more quickly assist them,” Hutchins said in an email. “The call flows allow callers to select their specific issues and potentially resolve them independent an agent.”
The new system also would include a callback feature so a person would not need to remain on the line.
The estimated cost of installation is $750,000, with a $10,000 monthly cost. Presidio is the vendor.
Hutchins said his agency has been receiving complaints about the bureau’s line for some time. He noted cards remain active as long as holders apply before their application date.
The FOID number is 217-782-7980.