Unemployment Insurance Virtual Hold

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1 STATE OF OREGON EMPLOYMENT DEPARTMENT Unemployment Insurance Virtual Hold NASCIO Award Submission 2011 Category: Fast Track Solutions Sponsors: Susan Johnson Unemployment Insurance Assistant Director Troy Rutten Employment Department CIO Project Managers: Rick Leventhal, Technical Support Manager (503) Peter Hemm, Project Coordinator

2 Executive Summary Prior to April 2011, Oregon had been among the top 10 states with the highest unemployment rates every month since September Following the implementation of the CISCO Unified Call Center system in October of 2009, the Oregon Employment Department (OED) continued to see challenges in managing call volume, workload, and a less than satisfactory customer experience. With over 200,000 unemployed Oregonians, the Oregon Employment Department was in a key role and position to provide stability to many Oregonians and their families. Information about benefits, claim balances, and sometimes just having someone to talk to about available services took on greater importance the longer the economy slumped. OED constantly strives to provide a high level of service to claimants, jobseekers, and employers. The most recent and significant Call Center technology implemented by the Oregon Employment Department is the Virtual Hold Technology solution. Virtual Hold gives the customer the option of having their place in line saved, and then receiving a call back from an OED representative, instead of being placed on hold waiting for service. This project, from conception to completion, spanned only 8 months with the majority of the work occurring between the September 1, 2010 kickoff and December 12, The Virtual Hold project had the following objectives: Improve the customer experience when contacting the call center; Reduce complaint calls caused by extended hold times and busy signals; Reduce costs of toll charges for toll calls caused by extended hold times; Improve the opportunity to right size the staff and phone lines, as call volumes decrease and the economy improves. Once the economic conditions improve and demand for OED services and funding return to levels seen during periods of a healthy economy, the Oregon Employment Department will have an increasing need to more effectively manage call volume and flow through the Call Centers. The Virtual Hold technology will continue to help Oregon successfully manage this process, and during necessary agent staff reductions, minimize the impact on customer service NASCIO AWARD SUBMISSION 2 P age

3 Business Problem The State of Oregon Employment Department offers two options for customers filing initial unemployment claims, online and via telephone. Approximately 50% of applicants file their claims online with the remaining filing by phone. Oregon has recently made significant improvements to their Call Center Technology by implementing the CISCO Unified Call Center solution. Efficient call center staffing is a challenge due to customer call patterns, with significant peaks occurring during early and late morning hours, and again early in the afternoon. Managing staff schedules to meet call volume demand through the peaks and valleys continues to be challenging. Information in the media about the potential for new benefits has caused call volumes to surge above 10,000 calls in a single day, with high volumes continuing for multiple days. Adding additional staff and equipment would add long term costs to meet a short term need. As part of on-going improvements in Call Center operations, there is a need to find cost effective solutions that improve customer service and reduce caller frustration by offering customers an additional choice. Project Significance The implementation of Virtual Hold has created a more level distribution of calls throughout each day. Distribution of calls has allowed managers to more effectively manage staffing levels, instead of reacting when the call volume suddenly peaks. The goal of the virtual hold system is to reduce wait times by offering customers a call back option. Two significant benefits have been realized in the implementation of the Virtual Hold system. The first benefit is an improved customer experience overall, initiated by limiting the frustration of callers waiting for help. Time saved by reducing the number of frustrated callers has allowed call center agents to handle more calls per day. The second benefit is a significant reduction in toll call charges that are accrued while customers wait on the phone in a queue. While improved customer service and lower toll charges are important and significant benefits of this project, for this Fast Track Solution submission, the significance is also expressed through the speed of project execution. In May of 2010, the acting OED Assistant Director of Unemployment Insurance, Tom Byerley and OED Chief Information Officer, Troy Rutten attended a National Association of Workforce Agencies conference in Seattle, Washington. Both served as participants on a panel that addressed best 2011 NASCIO AWARD SUBMISSION 3 P age

4 practices in call center operations. The State of Washington was also on the panel and presented their recent implementation of Virtual Hold Technology. It was during this panel discussion that the potential value of a similar solution for the State of Oregon became apparent. This submission for the Fast Track Award is based on speed, quality, and effectiveness in the execution of this project. From idea to complete implementation, the project duration was 8 months with the majority of the project occurring between the September 1, 2010 kickoff, and the go live date of December 12, During the period between October 1, 2010 and December 12, 2010 the project team formed relationships, defined the implementation plan, built and configured the test system, and then released the final system into production. The project team included OED UI business analysts, OED IT systems and network analysts, Verizon technical staff, Virtual Hold Technology technicians, State Data Center technical staff, and a Genesys project manager. Fast Track projects like this one are made possible as a result of strategic contract work by the State of Oregon Department of Administrative Services/State Procurement Office, and the Department of Justice staff developing statewide contract agreements. Contract negotiations for any body of work can add months to any project. Having the ability to leverage existing statewide or multi state contracts creates opportunities for Government Agencies to demonstrate our ability to be as agile as private organizations. Project Benefits The benefits associated with the Virtual Hold - Fast Track Solution, include but are not limited to the following. Meeting Department and State Objectives Continuously improve the use of Information Technology (IT) in support of state government programs and services Improve quality and consistency in Unemployment Insurance (UI) program delivery to improve customer satisfaction Meeting NASCIO Priorities Modernization and business process improvement Service Benefits Virtual Hold has significantly improved the caller experience during busy periods. Instead of waiting on hold the caller will be educated on current queue conditions, and presented with the option to receive a callback without losing their place in the queue. On a busy day, as many as 4, NASCIO AWARD SUBMISSION 4 P age

5 or more callers chose a Virtual Hold call back instead of waiting on the line. The call centers have also seen a significant improvement in abandonment reduction and retries. Finally, callers and Agents are able to have more positive interactions as Virtual Hold eliminates frustration and venting by callers to agents due to long hold times. This translates into savings related to handling time. Additional benefits include: Improved customer experience when contacting the call center Customer feedback has been very positive. Customers appreciate timely call backs and reducing the annoying time spent waiting for an agent. Reduced complaint calls caused by extended hold times/busy signals The first week that Virtual Hold was put into production, complaint calls to other parts of the organization were reduced by 90 to 95%. This resulted in a reduction of staff time required to manage complaint calls. Financial Benefits Reduce the cost of toll charges for toll calls caused by extended hold times exact figures for these savings have not yet been compiled. Oregon conservatively anticipates a $250,000 savings in 12 months on toll charges (based on preliminary estimates). Allows for staffing for base call volume as opposed to staffing for peak call volume, thereby reducing overall costs to operate the UI program. Allows for reducing phone lines for base call volumes and allowing Virtual Hold to manage the peaks. Planning is currently underway to leverage Virtual Hold as OED anticipates economic improvement Non-Financial Process Benefits Opportunities to leverage Virtual Hold in other OED business processes Reduce the number of failed call attempts This impact is felt by OED phone carriers. Heavy call volumes in the Call Center have an impact on the capacity of the phone systems that carry the calls. Conclusion The objectives of the Virtual Hold project were met in a significant, beneficial, and timely manner by applying a Fast Track Solution. This innovative approach will allow the Oregon Employment Department to continue providing a high level of service to all claimants, jobseekers, and employers throughout Oregon NASCIO AWARD SUBMISSION 5 P age

Oregon Employment Department. Unemployment Insurance Call Center Upgrade. May 28, 2010. Submitted by: Troy Rutten, CIO Oregon Employment Department

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