Driving innovation and cost savings with a custom cloud solution

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced its offices to close, the American Heart Association (AHA) successfully shifted all agents to a full work-from-home model nearly overnight. And, thanks to the Genesys Cloud™ platform, the AHA can provide better support as it moves to release emergency cardiac care products faster. In addition, customer satisfaction scores continued to hit 4.8 out of 5.


pivot to full home working


or fewer calls abandoned

97% email


4.8 out of 5

customer satisfaction rating

Saving $500,000

annually in office space expenses

Freed up

headcount for other tasks

Now, we don’t have to worry about capacity. We’re serving customers faster with the information they need. And we’ve freed up three headcount to help with other tasks.

— Chip Sugrue, VP Customer Strategies, American Heart Association

Center of clinical excellence

The six cardiologists who founded the American Heart Association (AHA) in 1924 would be amazed. Today, the AHA has over 100 U.S. offices and is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke. At the AHA National Engagement Center in Dallas, about 125 customer care agents handle incoming calls, outbound campaigns, webchat, email and social media communications. They also process more than 100,000 memorial and tribute donations each year for the entire organization.

During 2019–2020, AHA recorded around 662,000 contacts, 53% of which were calls. Although these operations ran on the Genesys PureConnect™ Cloud application, there was opportunity for improvement.

“We’re not a typical out-of-the-box enterprise and have more need for certain features than others,” said Chip Sugrue, Vice President Customer Strategies at the American Heart Association. “We wanted a customized cloud solution that could be closely meshed around our specific needs, while accelerating innovation adding newer software, technology and AI development.”

Overnight switch to home working

Assisted by customer experience experts Avtex, AHA began to build a commercial case and bespoke design for moving to the Genesys Cloud platform. “It’s so much easier when a partner listens, understands your business, and can clearly articulate the technology you need and what you will gain,” said Sugrue. “Our Avtex account representative was a key business partner and made sure we got the best value from our investment.”

But the pandemic meant AHA had to put those plans on hold. “We closed our offices on a Monday and quickly pivoted to full home working the following day with our existing Genesys solution,” said Sugrue.

The lockdown was a particularly tough time for AHA. The organization had to deal with learning about the impact of COVID-19 on the cardiovascular system, and then educate a reluctant general public to continue going to the hospital if they had signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The pandemic also had a negative effect on securing financial donations. The donations-processing team moved to working from home with two staff volunteers making regular office trips to print receipts and send personalized cards to families of those being honored with memorial and tribute donations.

Focused on innovation

Undeterred, AHA pursued the opportunity to innovate and transitioned to Genesys Cloud two months later. The stakes were raised with Giving Tuesday Now, a much-needed email fundraising campaign scheduled to launch within 12 hours after the cutover.

“It was the smoothest transition I’ve ever been involved in,” said Sugrue. “The first time ever our training staff conducted virtual training, and most agents were up to speed within a couple of hours.”

Since then, call volume has increased and abandon rates have remained consistently below the 10% target. Customer satisfaction continues to achieve scores of 4.8 out of 5. And out of 2,000 monthly emails received, AHA autoresponder templates produce a 97% first-response resolution, which saves the company time and improves customer satisfaction.

With the upcoming release of its Emergency Cardiac Care 2020 guidelines, AHA integrated its IVR system with Amazon Lex speech recognition. Callers simply enter their ZIP codes, and the system searches and plays back the locations of their nearest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training classes. In the first five months, the automated service answered more than 7,000 calls.

With Genesys Workforce Engagement Management, we pretty much know how our day is looking regarding shifts, queues and staffing levels.

— Chip Sugrue, VP Customer Strategies, American Heart Association

“We used to be able to handle around 30 of those type of calls per advisor, per day,” added Sugrue. “Now, we don’t have to worry about capacity. We’re serving customers faster with the information they need. And we’ve freed up three headcount to help with other tasks.”

Accelerating financial benefits

AHA does a major Emergency Cardiac Care Guidelines product update every five years. Having prepared with the Genesys Cloud platform to see call volume triple, the National Engagement Center is now prepared to handle the release of the entire sutie of Emergency Cardiar Care products at one time.

Ruby, a home-grown Amazon Lex voicebot will also assist by answering FAQs. A bold departure from 2015, this big bang approach will put emergency cardiac care products in the hands of customers sooner, while reducing time to revenue for AHA.

COVID-19 has changed the world for all non-profits with greatly intensified competition for funding. AHA agents are trained to listen carefully to circumstances and transfer calls to charitable estate-planning partners. Last year, 110 such calls generated $10 million in donations. More than ever, securing donors comes down to having the right agent in the right place at the right time.

“With Genesys Workforce Engagement Management, we pretty much know how our day is looking regarding shifts, queues and staffing levels,” said Sugrue. “Last year, one very generous donor called offering $1 million so long as we met that day. And, if we hadn’t been able to make that happen, the gift would probably have gone to another good cause.”

Going forward, AHA plans to have agents continue home working and relocate operations functions to its National Center. “We are planning for an estimated savings of $500,000 per year in expenses associated with leased space and servers, which we couldn’t have done with our old technology,” said Sugrue.

Innovation never stops at AHA. On the docket for 2020–2021 are improved post-call email surveys, hold-your-place-in-line callbacks and screensharing. AHA will also introduce InteractionSync, a useful Avtex solution that links Genesys Cloud with Microsoft Dynamics — further reducing agent call handle time and increasing customer satisfaction.

Make a donation

To support the fight against heart disease and stroke, please donate to the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.

At a glance

Industry: Nonprofit

Location: U.S.

Company size: 125 agents


  • Transform customer care with a highly customized cloud solution
  • Reduce time to innovation and boost fundraising efforts