Launching the 1st data-driven VA Enterprise Contact Center Operation Hub

“Delivering on the promise to improve the Veterans and Employee Experiences”

In October of 2016, the VA kicked-off a new and aggressive activity aimed at making rapid, meaningful progress in support of several of the myVA Breakthrough Priorities: the Enterprise Contact Center Modernization Operations Hub, or Ops Hub.

Why The Ops Hub? Today, there are a number of important efforts taking place across the VA, and specifically within the Veterans Experience Office, which provide the foundation for a greatly improved Veteran and employee experience. The purpose of the Ops Hub is to leverage and integrate the valuable outputs from these efforts (along with other data collected from across the VA enterprise) to make impactful changes directed towards VA’s Enterprise Contact Center operations with a laser-focus on greatly increasing customer satisfaction.

What Is The Ops Hub? The Ops Hub is comprised of a dedicated team of government and contractor personnel whose sole focus is to perform daily analyses of key Contact Center performance data, develop recommendations based on the analyses, and implement a continual ‘backlog’ of improvement initiatives across the spectrum of Contact Center enterprise operations throughout the VA.

The Ops Hub follows a ‘command center’ model where a diverse range of Ops Hub experts are co-located, assigned specific functional areas (e.g., customer experience, workforce management, operations) and are empowered by a wide-range of data and tools. Data is key, and as such, the VEO has established a Customer Experience Data Warehouse that provides a rich set of unfiltered, raw Contact Center data. This data warehouse is the life blood of the Ops Hub’s day-to-day operations, allowing its experts to review detailed data on current Contact Center operations at both site and enterprise levels and to track performance of improvement initiatives.

To make sure we hit the mark with Veterans, the Ops Hub employs human-centered design (HCD) techniques in the execution of all of its activities. HCD ensures that Hub activities are tailored and targeted purposefully to maximize the value to the Veteran and employee. This includes working with Veterans and employees to understand their needs, experiences, and desires as to how VA can best serve their diverse needs.

How Are We Aligning to myVA Priorities? The Ops Hub directly addresses several key objectives across four of the myVA Breakthrough Priorities, namely —

  • The Ops Hub Improves the Veteran Experience (Priority #1) by analyzing both qualitative data (e.g., Veteran and employee surveys) and quantitative data (e.g., number of calls blocked, time to answer call and provide resolution). The Ops Hub’s dedicated Customer Experience Management (CEM) team analyzes this data, provides recommendations for improvement, and assists in the implementation of solutions.
  • Service to our Veterans is always top-priority, and as such, it is the Ops Hub’s daily operating mantra and it is how its success is ultimately measured. In the Contact Center business, the saying “a happy employee is a happy customer” holds particularly true.

The Ops Hub — ready to make a measurable, positive impact in service of our Veterans and employees alike!

VA Contact Center Modernization Initiative – MyVA311 Launched!

VA Enterprise Contact Center Modernization Initiative

With approximately 272 national VA Contact Centers that receives almost 140 million annual calls and services 9 million Veterans, VA has had no consistent approach to customer service. VA studied the best practices of America’s top customer service organizations to learn how they excel at delighting customers. Based on that information and appointing a Responsible Officer to oversee the VA Secretary’s Contact Center Modernization transformation breakthrough initiative, we create a holistic frontline customer service program to make access to the care and services Veterans have earned predictable, consistent, and easy.

On Veteran’s Day 2016, VA launched the MyVA311 telephone platform: A unified and centralized enterprise wide approach that Veterans can use to easily find information via telephone.

VA introduced 1-844-MyVA311 (1-844-698-2311) as a go-to source for Veterans and their families who don’t know what number to call. This new national toll-free number will help eliminate the feeling of frustration and confusion that Veterans and their families have expressed when navigating the 1000-plus phone numbers that currently exist.

Veteran feedback has been instrumental helping us streamline the way we get callers routed to the right place at VA. With 1-844-MyVA311, Veterans, families, and caregivers can access information about VA services like disability, pension, healthcare eligibility, enrollment, and burial benefits, in addition to a self-service locator to find the nearest VA facility. And if they’re looking for immediate assistance with housing or are having a mental health crisis, MyVA311 will route callers to the Homeless Veteran help line and the Veterans Crisis Line.

VA is also making improvements to the overall Veteran experience eliminating blocked calls, leveraging new or existing call center technologies and hiring more people to reduce wait times and improve Veterans experience. We will continue to gather feedback from our Veterans to ensure VA is meeting their needs. The new MyVA311 phone number is just one step in a larger effort to modernize VA contact centers so Veterans have a seamless, positive experience.

Creating a Connected City in Today’s Ever-Evolving World

Rosetta Lue, Chief Customer Service Officer & 311 Contact Center Operations Director, City of Philadelphia sat down with Argyle to discuss the in’s and out’s of running customer service for a city.

In today’s society, how do you create a connected city?

There are multiple levels to creating a truly connected city. We are working through public private partnerships to leverage technology and all available resources to make our services innovative, accessible, more efficient, and adaptable based on customer needs.

Another element of a connected city is that city departments can talk to each other easily and effectively to provide high quality service to our citizens. In our newly upgraded Customer Relationship Management solution, City agencies are better able to work together, with real-time information updates, creating more accountability and increasing the completion rate of service requests and customer satisfaction.

How have you expanded customer service into the community?

The design of our digital service platform is entirely based on our customers. In order to improve customer service in the City of Philadelphia we identify and engage with our target audience, establish a strategic plan, listen to the community’s feedback, and adjust our process accordingly.

In the same spirit, we have community engagement programs that operate in the community, like the Neighborhood Liaison Program. The Neighborhood Liaison Program, a community empowerment program within Philly311, we are able to encourage citizens to utilize 311’s services while educating them on how to get the most out of our system they in turn share that information with their neighbors, family and friends. With this program, we can connect influencers with each other through trainings and workshops. The Neighborhood Liaison program empowers citizens with tools to interact with their government and get problems resolved.

“We are working through public private partnerships to leverage technology and all available resources to make our services innovative, accessible, more efficient, and adaptable based on customer needs.”

When it comes to customer service initiatives, why it is important to have them?

In city government, we understand that the citizen is our customer, and using those terms as synonyms, have reoriented our overall framework. The citizens’ customer experience expands beyond providing city services, it is about how they feel from the time they submit a request to the time that request has been completed.

Customer experience is frequently lumped in with customer service; (though it is the foundation of it) customer experience is the long game. Customer experience is the total experience, and every interaction the customer has with the supplier. As a city contact center, customer experience becomes all encompassing. The citizen’s experience often goes hand in hand with their experience with all city services and not just the call center itself. Every improvement we make for our customer affects their quality of life.

What are important things to consider when building partnerships?

Especially with the implementation of the new customer management system, our partners have played a significant role in helping us move towards our goals this year. Government has limited resources, which is why partnerships are so important. When working with external organizations it is important to keep in mind that organizations mission and goals and make sure it aligns with our own. We try to identify and respond to the needs of the groups we work with and value its input in planning and decision-making.

For both partners and customers, we focus on transparency, efficiency and effectiveness – a top priority of Mayor Nutter and his administration. It is an important aspect of why we want to provide the highest quality customer experience possible.

“Customer experience is frequently lumped in with customer service; (though it is the foundation of it) customer experience is the long game. “

How has the government effectively used social media in emergencies?

Every day we at Philly 311 have a duty to provide citizens with factual information and critical answers about City services, but when the City is facing a crisis, the importance of that information is magnified. Citizens look to the City for guidance, and we provide it. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through our social media channels.

One example is snow emergencies. During major snow events the contact center often remains open 24-7 to handle in high call volume. 311 uses social media to answer frequently asked questions, providing citizens with relevant information before they ask for it. We know the information citizens need during these types of emergencies, for example, we have seen from experience that they want to know about parking, street cleaning, and trash collection. This information is easy to share on our social media, and through our social media working groups we are able to multiply the potential audience reached with this information by coordinating strategic and intentional messages so citizens know how to react in these situations without submitting information requests.

Hurricane Sandy is another example of an emergency situation that we were able to respond to effectively. In Philadelphia during Hurricane Sandy, public transportation was shut down, Philadelphia International airport suspended flights, and all major highways were closed. At Philly311, we had a plan ahead of time. Working with city departments, such as the Office of Emergency Management, we were able to collect data and stay up-to-date on the progress of the storm. We established a strategy ahead of time and were prepared to deliver accurate information through multiple channels, including our social media accounts.

Do you have any last thoughts that you would like to share?

One of our goals is to reach and engage our citizens on channels they are comfortable using. The Philly311 app makes our services more accessible to diverse audiences. Research by the PEW Foundation and others, suggests that many low income citizens do not have internet access in their home but do have internet on their smart phones. We want everyone to be able to use 311, which is why we have so many channels, including the call-in and walk-in centers for more tradition communications. We also provide language services in 17 different languages on the app, which increases accessibility. We want to make sure that all citizens have positive and productive interactions with local government.

 

Originally published in 2015 by Argyle Journal – http://www.argylejournal.com/customer-care/creating-a-connected-city-in-todays-ever-evolving-world/

 

Bringing Government Agency Contact Centers and the Internet Together for a Seamless Customer Experience

call-center-website

Taxpayers often turn to the government when they are overwhelmed and stressed out by personal circumstances. A fragmented experience across government websites compounds their distress both increasing the burden on call center staff and the cost of meeting taxpayers needs. A consistent, thoughtfully designed experience (starting with websites and contact centers) will make a tremendous difference in the lives of taxpayers and government employees.

The government agency will better serve all stakeholders by establishing a focus to oversee the design and implementation of a human-centered design centric strategy that:

  • identifies and responds to key touchpoints in a stakeholder’s journey
  • streamlines, integrates, and scales websites and call centers consistently over time
  • takes a holistic, iterative approach to prioritizing improvements across channels
  • maintains a mobile experience first philosophy (people seeking information often
  • use mobile devices first because they want information immediately, or rely on mobile exclusively because it is what they can afford)
  • uses clear, concise, and consistent language and messaging across all channels
  • establishes a feeling of trust by providing consistent experiences across channels to different stakeholders firmly focuses on the future by laying the groundwork to
  • integrate social media and emerging technologies in later phases of the project

Leading a human-centered design change initiative requires vision and broad oversight to bring stakeholders, products, technical processes, and communication into alignment.

Picture Jane, a retiree who needs help. She goes to one website on her phone to get information fast, but it doesn’t help. Later she visits another site on her laptop and can see it better, but finds additional information, organized in a new way, and described with different language.

Jane doesn’t know what to do or trust, so she tries a call center looking for a person to talk to instead. The wait times are long because so many others are having the same problems. When she finally gets through, the call center staff wants to help but they talk about services and options in yet another way.

Jane is distressed by her experience across siloed channels. She encounters disconnected technologies, has to translate between different language use, and finds that information is inconsistently organized or even offered — leaving her frustrated and miserable. The call center staff who takes her call can hear that misery as it overflows into their conversation making the staffer’s job harder, the call longer, and both the financial and emotional costs higher for both.

Each time Jane’s journey plays out for another taxpayer or call center staffer, taxpayers lose confidence in the government agency and increase the costs of call center operations.

A single focus and oversight for government Contact Centers and the internet presence is a logical first step towards an improved Customer experience. Needed research must be conducted across channels and changes prioritized coherently across all platforms to maximize results. If the system is not treated as a whole, customer experience will continue to be fragmented and frustrating no matter how many isolated improvements are made over time.

A seamless experience requires a consistent approach to technological solutions, human needs, and organizational responses. The goal is to inspire taxpayer confidence and government efficiency by making it easy to start with a website, reach out to a call center if needed, and then complete tasks on the web when they are ready. In the future, integrating social media will increase responsiveness and better serve millennials and future generations.

A robust online database of Frequently Asked Questions can enhance customer experience based on insights from web analytics and call center topics. Web analytics and the call center knowledge management technology can be used to identify frequently accessed data, searches that come up empty, and how often users access particular information. In depth interviews with call center personnel can shape resource allocation and better prepare them to address complex situations since the basics are covered in a searchable database.

Starting with aggregated website and call center data creates a solid foundation for human-centered research to address persistent pain points across channels then effectively design and deliver satisfying stakeholder experiences.

What if Jane went to a central website and found the basic information she needed quickly and easily? If she still wasn’t sure what to do in her situation, she could reach out to a call center. When she did, her wait time would be shorter since more people were finding what they needed on a streamlined easily searchable site that highlights frequently asked questions. Jane wouldn’t be so upset when she connected with a staff member, her questions could be answered more quickly, costs would go down, and Jane would regain confidence in the government agency. Later when it worked for her schedule, she could fill out any required forms on the website and get immediate confirmation that they were submitted. Now when Jane talks about the government agency she shares her experience — I get help when I need it, I get things done on my schedule, and I trust that the government agency has my back.

Integrating processes, products, services, and content in an organization like a government agency takes time, vision, and leadership. Consolidating oversight with the right vision offers the best possible chance to successfully transition the taxpayers to a coherent seamless experience.

Using Human-Centered Design (HCD) Approach to Improve Your Government Contact Center’s Experience

Every interaction the taxpayer has with the government is a touch point that shapes their impression on the quality of service received based on a positive or negative experience. The contact centers for government are an integrated platform that provides taxpayers and their family members with accurate information about services and information that can provide taxpayers with their desired requests. Rather than government leaders improving solutions that seem accurate to taxpayers, there has been a commitment to creating ideas that better meet taxpayer’s needs by developing processes and tools tailored to their specific needs. To understand the needs of taxpayers, contact center leaders are standardizing the approach by using the human-centered design (HDC) technique. To best serve the taxpayers and create that emotional connection immediately, government leaders must understand the needs of the taxpayers by hearing about the good and bad experiences occurring with every single touch point occurring.

Human-centered design thinkers use a tool called a design artifact (physical model) to aid in communicating, exploring, and defining solutions. Government leaders have created a unique design artifact, the customer journey map, to allow leadership and employees to gain a deeper perspective of what the taxpayer is experiencing and feeling at each stage of their life journey. The results of honing in on the needs of the taxpayers will provide seamless, emotionally connected interactions to events that have been identified (by using HCD), as “moments that matter.” The “moments that matter” are moments that can have a significant impact on the taxpayer’s experience that directly connects to government’s contact centers. Creating that immediate emotional connection with the caller is essential in ensuring the experience is a not only positive but meets the needs of the taxpayer.

Government contact centers have historically struggled with gaining positive taxpayer’s satisfaction due to long wait times, inability to get connected, and inaccurate information all contributing to the lack of trust in government’s ability to care for them. To build confidence, make a connection, and provide accurate information, government leaders must understand thoroughly what makes a taxpayers tick and ensure the communication is clear in the minds of the taxpayers and the service rendered yields a positive experience. When looking through the lens of the human-centered design approach, government leaders can gain insight through direct observation or surveys of what the taxpayer likes or dislikes, what was confusing or what was clear, and figure out how to develop an internal process that can meet their needs. Improving the process, also known as lean management, is a critical output to the problems defined when taking the perspective of taxpayers into consideration.

Why You Should Celebrate 2016 National Customer Service Week Oct 3rd – 9th!

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In the words of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin, “Well done is better than well said.” The idea of customer service is often reserved to describe interaction with stores, restaurants, and other organizations in the private sector. Rarely do we hear people say “Wow, I had a great experience dealing with the staff at any government agency!” Fortunately, those outside of government might be surprised at how seriously excellence in service delivery is taken in the public sector.

Let’s take a look at national Customer Service Week which was created by 1992 by the President of the United States, citing the value of service excellence in a free market economy.

The President’s proclamation said:

A business will do a better job of providing high-quality goods and services by listening to its employees and by empowering them with opportunities to make a difference. Customer service professionals work in the front lines where a firm meets its customers; where supply meets demand. With responsive policies and procedures and with simple courtesy, customer service professionals can go a long way toward ensuring customer satisfaction and eliciting the next round of orders and purchases. The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 166, has designated the week of October 4 through October 10, 1992, as “National Customer Service Week” and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week of October 4 through October 10, 1992, and the first week of October in subsequent years, as National Customer Service Week. I invite all Americans to observe this week with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.

George H. Bush

Across the country, including the federal government agencies, there is a movement to improve the delivery of information and service to those in need.

During the first week of October 2016, they are making Benjamin Franklin proud by not just talking about customer service but actually doing something (many things actually) to make sure our customers are properly “served.”

Using Lean Management & Human-centered Design to Improve Government Customer Experience

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Lean Management is a customer-centric methodology used to improve the current business process by using the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) technique. Following the DMAIC blueprint will provide organizations insight into what the actual root cause problem is by measuring and analyzing various data sets, and developing process flow maps to understand the “as is” state.

• Define: Understanding the problem through the outputs of the human-centered design research

• Measure: Measure data pulled from the contact centers

• Analyze: Analyze and determine the cause(s) of the defects (understanding the waste).

• Improve: Improve the process by eliminating defects (unnecessary steps, decreased wait times, and shorter scripts)

• Control: Control future process performance (governance through new policies and procedures)

The lean approach focuses on increasing taxpayer value by improving the processes associated with delivering high customer value. Using the problems defined through the human center design research will point government in the right direction to which processes it needs to begin to hone it on. The problems government thinks are pertinent, may not be relevant in the eyes of the taxpayer. The contact center, being one of the first touch points for a taxpayer, can be reengineered to run more effectively and efficiently by making the internal workflow of calls leaner. The “as is” process map is the starting point to improving services because it visualizes the current process allowing for a clear picture of evident breakdowns in the process.

Defining the problem with the contact center and understanding the process is one piece to the puzzle, the ability to measure, analyze and improve based on the data collected is a critical component to developing sustainable, scalable solutions. Analyzing the various data sets will allow designers to identify areas of waste in the process, ultimately improving the experience of the taxpayer while simultaneously decreasing internal costs for government. Often than not, the government will tack on more employees and additional resources to a problem that can be easily solved by redesigning the process to work more efficiently. The desired outcome is to develop a solution that will be sustainable for government and taxpayers in the future and not a stop-gap solution for today.

Improving how calls are routed, improving the verbiage in the scripts, shortening wait times, and upgrading data collection platforms are all interlocked in improving the taxpayer’s experience when interacting with the contact centers. The one common denominator for all this to be successful is data. Data will allow leadership to understand the pain points in the process and begin to take a proactive approach in improving the taxpayer’s experience. Lean methodologies break down each component of the process to ensure the internal value stream is being utilized effectively to increase customer satisfaction. Human center design thinking is instrumental in providing lean management with accurate taxpayer problems to lay the framework for business process improvements across all facets of the contact center.