I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I say family is one of the most important things in the world. And, when your family needs help – a sick child, getting financial assistance – time is of the essence. Unfortunately, many government organizations dedicated to helping families are overwhelmed with a high case volume, inefficient processes or lack of adequate technology. That was certainly the case for the Michigan Office of Child Support (OCS).
Part of the Michigan Department of Human Services, the OCS works with parents and guardians to ensure children and families receive court-ordered financial and medical assistance. The organization is dedicated to enhancing the permanent well-being and self-sufficiency of Michigan families. To do this, the Michigan OCS employs more than 100 child support specialists to assist citizens and partners with the goal of providing eligible families with uninterrupted access to assistance benefits so children can thrive and reach their full potential.
However, with only 100 child support specialists facing a backlog of cases and nonstop incoming calls, uninterrupted access was quickly becoming a pipe dream as many families waited days or weeks for a response. Prior to 2014, citizens would receive a letter of non-cooperation in the mail with instructions to call a designated child support specialist. Too often, however, they were unable to reach their specialist in a timely manner.
The reality was that more than half of the calls would go to voicemail, and in some cases, citizens were unable to leave messages because specialists’ mailboxes were full. Citizens would have to call back repeatedly over the course of days or weeks before connecting with their specialist. Frustrated with delays and desperate for help, citizens frequently escalated cases to OCS managers in an effort to achieve faster resolution. OCS specialists were processing only 55 percent of the incoming cases on average; the rest became backlogged and many fell into noncompliance. As a result, many families were denied benefits through no fault of their own.
To change this – and give Michigan families the timely, uninterrupted help they needed, the Michigan OCS committed to making organizational and infrastructure changes, including case intake process improvements and implementation of a new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone system, in order to deliver more responsive service to citizens.
For the OCS, it was important to find a new IVR system that enabled easy, stress-free interactions and maximized first-call resolution. The organization wanted to make it as effortless as possible to connect with someone who can help them. The new IVR system, which leverages Nuance Natural Language Understanding (NLU) call steering technology, enables citizens to interact with the IVR in a conversational manner, letting them describe their request in their own words and respond to prompts for personal and case information so that child support specialists can help them during that first call.
The Michigan Office of Child Support is a perfect example of the positive impact that intelligent, self-service solutions can have on customer experience, and ultimately, business success. In this case, reduced call volume is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, since the IVR automatically determines what the caller needs and accurately routes citizens and partners to the right specialist, the average inquiry response time has decreased from two weeks to just five minutes on average. With the decrease in incoming call volume, specialists are also able to spend more time on core priorities instead of just chipping away at a backlog of cases. This has helped not only improve citizen satisfaction – but also boosted employee morale as specialists are able to help more families than before. Please be sure to check out the full case study to see how conversational IVR technology can make a true difference.