Riding the Wave:
Strategies to Successfully
Navigate Service Delivery

Riding the Wave was presented by C!A in proud partnership with the Washington Department of Social & Health Services, Texas Health and Human Services, and APHSA.

Webinar Questions and Answers

Thanks to those who attended the Riding the Wave webinar on April 16, 2020, and submitted questions. Please find below answers for the questions that we received. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Unemployment numbers are changing so rapidly the graph that was included in the webinar was almost already obsolete when the webinar was conducted. Since that time, unemployment has continued to steadily increase. As of April 25, 2020, unemployment initial claims reached 26.5 million, which bring us to approximately 5X growth.

For programs that require an interview, workers make outbound calls to the applicants. If they reach the applicant, they will conduct the interview, try to get missing verifications through system cross-matches and three-way calls with third party verification sources (employers, landlords, banks, etc.), to achieve a determination prior to hanging up the telephone. If they do not reach the customer on the first try, we instruct them to leave a message stating the intent of the call (because screening happens). They then call back in 2-5 minutes.

There are agencies that achieve up to a 65% answer rate with this method.

States like Texas also employ the use of an automated outbound dialer for customers scheduled to renew their benefits.

For programs that do not require an interview, the worker will attempt any allowable methods to gather missing verifications, including submittals by the customer through online customer portals (where available), e-mailing, etc.

The only thing that is required by the customer is to make the ask, either online, via phone, or mail or drop-off. Once the ball is in the court of the agency, there are many strategies put in place to allow the customer to be served.

Washington: 3,500 applications daily

Texas: 11,800 daily

Yes, however, they will also rely more on tele-work.
None. Both Washington and Texas rely heavily on the eligibility worker applying a “First Contact Resolution Approach” which provides/requires specific steps to help the customer gather required verifications. While workers spend more time on each case upfront, they also prevent future unnecessary interactions with the customer and reduce overall processing time. The time spent upfront (about 10-20 more minutes) saves 60 minutes and 3 more customer interactions later in the process.
No. The successful model is to have workers process one case at a time, and while they are processing this case, ensure they follow the prescribed process and use of consistency tools to enable a determination/decision 7 out of 10 times. It is a “task-based model with a focus on First Contact Resolution”. Workers “Get next” customer and process all associated tasks; use consistency tools to ensure standard processing; conduct interactive interviews; apply First Contact Resolution to pend less and provide same day decisions; and get next customer.

The reason is that if 100 different workers have their own caseload, you will have 100 different ways of doing the work, OR no consistency whatsoever. We put tools in place to ensure that workers are asking the same questions (when an interview is required), adhering to the current verification requirements, and taking the time and focus needed to complete 60-75% of applications at the time they first touch it. This also allows a system where a worker that may inherit the processing of a case 25-40% of the time to trust the work of the worker that first touched the case.

Washington: Home-grown system with a few licensed pieces.
Texas: Home-grown system.
The outbound call is the first step in the process, as opposed to asking the customers to call into their Virtual Interview Center. However, if the customer does answer the outbound call, they are asked to call in at time convenient to the customer.

Feel free to e-mail blake@changeagents.info and/or leo@changeagents.info and they will provide case studies and connect you with the appropriate people in those states.

We will ask the states to gather some insight from local leadership to help answer this question and will update this answer as it becomes available.

Texas transitioned five years ago to a task-based model with a focus on First Contact Resolution.
Both Washington and Texas have transitioned the majority of their eligibility workforce to a remote and tele-work environment that enables them to serve customers now requesting services via statewide call centers, online, mobile, or mail at a much higher rate than before. Consistent business practices, regardless of access point, consistent tools, and consistent metrics facilitated this transition. Yes, staff have computers (laptops or their assigned PC from the brick and mortar location) and phones. The process is going very well and both states are caught up with their work. Both states had a limited number of staff in tele-working settings prior to COVID which accelerated their plans to increase the use of these practices.

Both Washington and Texas have retained or instituted new practices to ensure continued access to vulnerable and/or homeless populations with no access to phones, Internet, or mailing addresses. The strategies are various and range from how to get EBT cards in the hands of customers to staying on top of processing the incoming mail. We suggest putting you in contact with specific managers in these two states who can help address the specific area or questions. Please contact blake@changeagents.info and/or leo@changeagents.info and we will gladly help coordinate these conversations.

  1. Identify your current work model (Case Management or Task-based)
  2. Identify your current customer volume (applications, verifications, renewals, changes, calls / visits, as well as the percentage that each contact). For example, Applications typically make up less than 40% of this volume, meaning that a high rate of the other contacts are unnecessary. Questions / calls typically make up 40% of volume because we are in contact with customers 3-5 times between application and determination, when 60-75% of the time, it could be just once.
  3. If you identify a large volume of “unnecessary customer contacts,” begin spending more time with each customer contact to bring as many interactions as possible to completion. It will seem counterintuitive, but you will find that the overall volume begins to reduce because many calls/visits are repeat interactions with the same customer. If you complete them at first contact, you will often eliminate 2-4 additional contacts, and up to two hours of extra work, for each customer. The capacity that is freed up is like you’ve hired new staff that are already trained!
  4. Once you see volume reducing, begin working on consistency in process and documentation. This would typically be done prior to implementation, but in time of crisis, you need to establish a way for volume to decrease and rely on the eligibility training that has been supplied to your staff.
  5. Measure the appropriate operational items. At all times, you need to know – in real-time – how much work is waiting by type and age, how many cases are being completed vs. pended at each contact, transaction times, and days out.
  6. Communicate early and often with staff – ensure they are part of the mission. Ensure it is not just about the numbers, but that you are stressing that the numbers are indeed families in need.