How Customer Experience Technology Helped the State of Michigan’s Department of Human Services

Customer experience technology wouldn’t be the first thought that springs to mind in a conversation about the state of Michigan’s Department of Human Services, following the 2008 economic crisis. But, CX technology plays a starring role in this story.

After the 2008 economic crisis, Michigan’s Department of Human Services experienced a 25% increase in the number of people seeking assistance during a 24-month period, due primarily to a high unemployment rate (over 13% at the time) and deep cuts in federal unemployment benefits. Similarly, the department also suffered from fixed staffing levels and limited funds, crippling caseworkers’ ability to deliver critical benefits to the growing number of those in need.

In an unprecedented move, the department determined that an investment in customer experience technology was an efficient and cost effective strategy to enable the department’s 4,000 caseworkers to deliver much needed assistance to more than 2.8 million clients across the state.

Here are the key outcomes: 

In 13 months, the Genesys solutions handled 496,145 phone calls without involving a Department of Human Services caseworker. At an estimated five minutes per call, that relates to several thousand hours per month released for caseworkers to conduct more complex work. 

During the same period, the department collected 188,300 application forms through Genesys technology without those people having to enter an office to see a caseworker―a massive time saving at one hour per form.

Loyalty360 talked to David York, SVP Public Sector and Global Partners, Genesys, about this fascinating story of how CX technology resolved a serious problem.

What factors prompted the state of Michigan to invest in CX technology after the 2008 economic crisis and how did it impact the results?

York: In a period when the citizens of Michigan were struggling from the economic climate, the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) decided to break down the barriers that existed for families that were in need of child support, public assistance, and other benefits from the state. For families struggling to make ends meet, the Office of Child Support under DHS was the first stop in order to receive assistance.
Unfortunately, only 55% of the incoming calls were being serviced resulting in delays in benefits.

Can you talk about how this CX technology worked and helped the situation?

York: Prior to transforming the process, many callers were forced to leave voice mail messages. This resulted in frustration for the families needing assistance, as well as the case workers, because it caused delays which could be up to a week in receiving a response for their cases. To help resolve those issues, Genesys technology, in conjunction with a process overhaul, was deployed in order to make it easier for families to do business with DHS.
The Genesys Customer Experience Platform helped to improve processes for self-service and caseworker-assisted transactions. Single toll-free numbers were added and IVR applications created to handle routine phone inquiries. For example, in the food assistance program, which handles about half a million calls per year, clients were no longer left on hold for a case worker. With an automated IVR system in place, thousands of hours each month were freed up for case workers to manage more complex family needs. Where assisted-service is needed, this technology enabled callers to talk with a live agent and for DHS to transition to a business model that accelerated benefits to families, not be a hindrance to them.

What does this example say about the power of CX technology and its potential impacts?

York: The power of CX technology enabled Michigan state caseworkers to be 40% more productive. One example is that prior to deploying Genesys, frustrated callers took their complaints to management, the state legislators, or the governor’s office. Complaints now have almost disappeared. Additionally, the case backlog was eliminated in less than six months and inbound calls have been reduced from 26,000 a month to 16,000.

Why do you think this technology worked?

York: The technology worked because DHS leadership agreed to make the necessary business process transformation in conjunction with deploying enabling technology. With both the vision and the Genesys technology, the customer experiences for families were transformed, which led to reduced frustration by caseworkers and families in need. Many barriers were removed to allow the process of handling cases to be more efficient, which led to DHS to provide great customer experiences and allowed families to receive their benefits sooner. This new, efficient virtual environment allows 90% of the caseworkers to work from home, which is an additional benefit.

What is the key to effective CX technology? 

York: The key to effective CX technology was to look at how people, processes, and technology can be combined with strategy to deliver measurable improvements in customer experience. Collaboration between Genesys and the state of Michigan’s Department of Human Services defined tactical and executable recommendations that were customized for families and also for the challenges faced by DHS. 

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