Discover News

COVID-19 Update for Recruitment, Onboarding and Training Efforts

Last Updated: 4/06/2020

A message from the Discover CEO, Roger Hochschild

From March 12th to all Discover employees

Challenging times have always brought out the best in Discover – and these are without a doubt challenging times. I want to talk to you about the steps we are taking as the coronavirus impact expands – to protect our employees and all who work in our sites, to support our customers, and to make sure that Discover continues to thrive.

First – for our employees. We have, and will continue to take steps to reduce the risk of infection, using the latest information from the CDC and regional health officials. We have eliminated all non-essential travel, canceled certain events, and increased the frequency of cleaning in all of our locations, among other precautions. Air circulation has been set to maximize the flow of fresh air from outside into our centers. We have established a strict protocol to deal with suspected cases of exposure to the coronavirus including quarantine and medical attention. We are ready to take further steps within each location based on changes in the rate of community transmission in those geographies. And should it be required, we have a broad set of benefits to manage the health and any related financial impacts of affected employees.

For our customers, the most important support is the ability to talk to one of our great representatives. That’s why we are ramping up our work-from-home capabilities for agents as fast as we can, and activating our business continuity plans across every function. And for those customers who experience financial hardship, we have expanded our payment plans and the ability to skip a payment – much as we have done when other natural disasters have struck.

Finally, Discover has the financial resources to not only make it through this challenge but to continue providing a brighter future – which is needed now more than ever. My commitment to you is to put the people of Discover first, and continue to keep you updated as conditions change.

Your top priority should be the health and safety of you and your family. Let’s make sure we take care of each other by showing compassion and supporting one another, with a special thanks to the hardworking Facilities and Security staff who are working day and night to ensure our safety. Let’s also stay focused on the valuable work we do and services we provide to the millions of customers and their families who depend on us. We will succeed together, as Discover always has, and I have never been prouder to be a part of this team.

– Roger Hochschild – CEO, Discover

How Discover Mobilized an Army of 8,000 U.S. Call Center Agents to Work from Home in a Matter of Days.

By Tom Eavenson, Vice President of Infrastructure Services at Discover and Steve Mendelson, Vice President of Customer Service and Engagement Strategy and Operations at Discover

As the coronavirus started to spread across the globe in early 2020, its arrival in the U.S. and effect on the workforce was inevitable. In the interest of safety, and with all of its customer service operations in the U.S., Discover quickly devised a plan to move nearly all of its call center employees from their close-quartered cubicles to the relative comfort and protection of their homes and other remote locations.

In less than 14 days, 95 percent of our call center agents were off-site and continuing to serve customers.

Cross functional teams labored 24/7 to create work-from-home kits with monitors, keyboards and cables. Some drove around town searching for power strips and bubble wrap when supplies ran low. Others organized a drive-thru process to allow agents to more easily transfer the equipment to their cars. One-by-one, as many as 1,900 agents per day were equipped and ready to work off-site in four different states.

What’s more, we accomplished this while coping with the impact of a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that hit our Utah call center, the largest of the four.

How did Discover move so quickly?

Having the right technology in place — and incredibly committed teams –made the difference. We have never seen anything like the work orchestrated to mobilize so many thousands of people. We’ve simply never done anything at this scale.

Evolving Technology Before COVID-19

Agents typically come into one of our call centers in Arizona, Delaware, Ohio and Utah to serve our customers around the clock.

Over the past few years, Discover has experimented with a way for agents to work off-site. We equip them with virtual desktops and thin clients, or lightweight computers, that establish a remote and secure connection to our servers.

Deploying this highly secure technology started as a way for military spouses to continue to work with us as they moved from place to place. Over time, we found this model to be effective. Eventually, we grew it to about 20 percent of our agent workforce. The technical model was working so well that we decided to deploy that same technical solution in our locations and were preparing for the roll out when COVID-19 illnesses started to mount.

This modern platform adds significant benefits:

  • Virtual desktops and thin clients are easier to maintain and secure.
  • They are simple to administer.
  • We can seamlessly push out software updates and roll them back on the rare occasion when needed.

We had already built out the environment to support this new model and had been testing and tuning it for months when the coronavirus struck.

On March 13, we started the day with a plan that would ramp up our work-at-home capability gradually over the coming weeks. By mid-morning, Discover’s executive leadership authorized us to accelerate our plans dramatically as news of the coronavirus spread evolved.

Within hours of the decision, employees — from information technology to human resources — already were working on the task. They equipped 300 agents with virtual desktops and thin clients by the end of the first day.

To help more colleagues get out the door, our field teams imaged the thin clients. As makeshift assembly lines formed to move equipment out at each center, network teams behind the scenes added more capacity to Discover’s VPN (virtual private network) and back-end servers that power all of the virtual machines.

Across the call centers, business technology staff set up more than 1,900 thin clients each day. By March 20, one week later, more than 70 percent of all agents were working from home. We pulled everyone we could who had the right skills and stopped other work. In a tireless effort working 24/7, our teams collapsed what would have been a month’s worth of work into a week.

Even an Earthquake Did Not Stop Us

In the midst of relocating employees, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake rocked Utah, where Discover has its largest call center, as well as a mail processing center. Ceiling tiles crashed. Chairs and tables tumbled. Elevators stopped working.

Both facilities were evacuated and one building was shut down for the better part of a day. But we were lucky. Our employees and their families were safe.

When our building reopened more than 12 hours after the quake, the elevators were still out of service. So our field teams formed a human chain from the upper floors down the stairwell to the ground level to move equipment to the doors and into the arms of agents waiting to head home.

Customer Service Never Stopped

By March 25, more than 95 percent of call center agents were working from home. Throughout the move, the majority of customer calls have been getting to agents within two minutes except for March 18, when the earthquake struck and wait times averaged six minutes. Wait times toward the end of March and into April averaged about 74 seconds.

Employees at Discover are using the same tools as they did when they worked on site, such as Webex, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Yammer, and we continue to use the same security measures and actively monitor for threats.

We didn’t relax any of our controls in terms of getting folks home. We just changed where the work was being done.

The incredible accomplishment of those who came together to make this work across Discover, including numerous teams working in the background, can’t be overstated. It’s amazing to see how this all came together.

FAQs for Candidates, Applicants and New Hires

How will I interview for the role I’ve applied for?

Interviews are still being conducted, via WebEx or Skype, so there is no need for you, our hiring managers or recruiters to be onsite. For interviews already scheduled, our teams are working to communicate the change in format to hiring leaders and candidates as soon as possible.

Is Discover providing Site Visits?

Since interviews are being conducted via WebEx or Skype, this means that all site tours for agent roles have stopped at this time. Site tour highlights on our work environment and culture can be shared during the video interview process. We encourage you to ask your recruiter specific questions about our onsite amenities and environment.

How will I be notified about the safety precautions Discover is taking?

We are proactively communicating with all applicants about measures we are taking as a company to ensure everyone’s safety, including updates to this page with the most current information relevant to our response to the virus COVID-19. We want to reassure you that all interviews will be conducted via phone or video until further notice.

For applicants between offer and start date who have accepted an offer but have not yet started, we are being as transparent and proactive as possible to ensure you have the information you need prior to your first day with Discover. We will continue to monitor this and your recruiter will provide more specific updates relevant to your situation.

How has your New Hire Onboarding changed?

For new hires starting in Riverwoods:

Currently, you will be provided information to come to campus to pick up your work ID badge and your laptop. Your hiring manager will be in touch to discuss virtual onboarding remotely following your badging and laptop distribution. We will continue to explore other options for laptop and badging so please check back for additional information.

For new hires in our Field Locations:

New hire onboarding and training is now virtual for our Lake Park, UT, Phoenix, AZ, New Albany, OH and New Castle, DE locations. New employees will receive information to come into the office on their first day to pick up equipment and participate in a New Employee Orientation.  Starting Day 2, all new employees will start their virtual training program and onboarding from their homes.

While at the office on Day 1, we are implementing social distancing measures. Training staff will be onsite for new hires support for the first day.

As a summer intern or a full-time hire after I graduate from college, are there changes to my program or start date?

Since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, we continue to monitor the situation closely. The safety and well-being of our colleagues and new hires remains our top priority. At this time, we are planning for the summer intern program and full-time new hire start dates as scheduled.  We will contact all campus hires and interns directly if there are changes to the program or timing.