Surging demand for public assistance
The Family Support Division (FSD) at the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) helps people in need across the state of Missouri by determining their eligibility for public assistance.
Around 450 agents handle about 30,000 calls weekly. This includes a dedicated line for customers seeking food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and needing to book interviews, either over the phone or in person at one of 140 resource centers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency saw a surge in SNAP applications from low-income families, as well as increased requests for healthcare, temporary assistance, child support and other vital services.
On-premises tech struggles to surge
Tough situations were inadvertently made worse by failing technology. Limited to using the phone, customers would suffer extended wait times due to on-premises technology that struggled to cope with spiking volumes.
“Once it reached a certain limit, our old phone system stopped accepting calls and played a message directing customers to website information,” said Nichole Conway, Program Manager at Missouri Department of Social Services. “All of this caused negative media attention, a poor customer experience and, potentially, non-compliance.”
Along with a lack of reporting and forecasting tools, the FSD had to compete with 16 other government agencies for internal IT support — meaning the simplest of IVR or call flow changes could take a significant amount of time.
An online appointment request was created as a stopgap. However, employees would still have to call back to manually schedule interviews based on staff availability and the customer’s preferred resource center location.
Flawless migration to the cloud
Backed by its CEO, Missouri DSS participated in a task force to radically transform its contact center operations. The race was on to find an omnichannel cloud-based solution that would offer greater customer choice, automation and self-sufficiency.