When financial services firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. could not account for thousands of employees missing after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the company called on its teleservices employees to help track them down.
More than 1,000 customer service representatives in six call centers joined the effort to find Morgan Stanley employees unaccounted for after two jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers. The company had 3,700 employees — mainly back-office, support and marketing staff — stationed on about 25 floors of the 110-story towers.
Morgan Stanley chairman/CEO Philip J. Purcell enlisted the company's Discover Card business unit to make outbound calls to determine the status of employees who worked in the two buildings and handle calls to a toll-free hotline that people could call to get information about missing employees.
Following the attack, the Discover Card call centers received their instructions, set up the toll-free hotline and began outbound calling about 12:30 p.m., said Beth Metzler, director of public relations for Discover.
Discover canceled routine outbound sales calls, but kept taking customer service calls through the disaster. CSRs juggled credit-card service issues while helping track employees.
“They're not crisis-management professionals,” Metzler said of the telephone representatives. “But they wanted to help.”
Tied-up phone lines made outbound calling to the New York area difficult, forcing CSRs to dial the same number up to 50 times to get through, Metzler said. They used the Morgan Stanley employee database, which contained contact telephone numbers for the employees.
Two days after the attack, Morgan Stanley had tracked down all but 40 of its missing employees.
The number has been reduced to 15, as of Sept. 17. Discover Card call centers fielded more than 50,000 calls on the day of the attack and staffed phones around the clock.
Every time an employee was found, CSRs gave out a cheer. At any given time in the hours after the attacks, about 300 Discover agents were on the phone.
“All of our Discover employees are part of the Morgan Stanley family,” Metzler said. “What I saw was employees pulling together just as a family would.”
The bulk of the calling was done at a Discover call center in Phoenix, but call center employees involved in the campaign were stationed as far apart as Delaware and Utah. The call centers were connected through open phone lines to a command center at Discover headquarters in Riverwoods, IL.
Morgan Stanley has set up a relief fund for victims of the disaster, including its own employees and for emergency personnel. The company is matching employee donations dollar for dollar and has committed $10 million to the effort.