With unemployment at 11.2% in November 2009, one state had more than a million residents out of work due to the great recession. The agency responsible for processing unemployment claims was experiencing call volumes far beyond its capacity to respond.
Faneuil, in the first engagement of its kind in support of state government unemployment initiatives, was retained to help manage rapidly escalating call volumes. To process what was anticipated to be no more than10,000 calls per day, we designed and established a dedicated overflow call center. Within 90 days of contract execution the new site was fully operational and staffed and was subsequently quickly ramped up to support volumes as high as 20,000 calls a day—double the forecast volume.
During the build-out of the overflow facility, Faneuil also established an interim call center to meet urgent needs for delivery of information about the federal extended benefits program. The center—fully operational within 21 days of contract execution— required leasing, equipping, and furnishing additional space; establishing system design and connectivity; and recruiting, onboarding (including drug testing and background and reference checks), and training.
Despite the compressed lead time, quality assurance measures consistently exceeded 95 on a 100-point scale. Faneuil’s Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) processed more than 2.4 million contacts each year for the extended benefits program, 40 percent of which were for enrollments in six different extension programs that provided benefits to unemployed residents after expiration of their initial 26 weeks of eligibility. The process demanded absolute adherence to security standards, which required verification of the identity of callers by at least four of six data points (Social Security Number, date of birth, address, most recent employer, last payment received, etc.) before the enrollment could proceed. Upon every contact, information on file was verified, inquiry was made as to whether clients had been able to secure employment, and if those receiving benefits were fulfilling their obligations to look for work by supplying contact information for two prospective employers per week.
Faneuil’s more than 400 customer service representatives were also responsible for following up on accounts within a few days of enrollment to make sure that claims were proceeding on schedule through State channels.
Operation of the program required the use of more than 30 forms, each having different federal requirements and deadlines. Working around the limitations of the State’s 38-year-old database—ill equipped for any real-time applications—Faneuil significantly improved document management by creating electronic versions of forms previously completed and distributed in hard-copy format. As a result, enrollment processing and verification were greatly expedited.
In December 2010, the agency awarded Faneuil an additional contract to provide call center and administrative staffing to support its primary contact center and four administrative offices across the State. Faneuil’s responsibilities included transitioning 300 employees from an incumbent vendor; recruiting and training new employees; providing staffing, scheduling, co-management and support for all employees; and providing exemplary customer service to the agency’s customers.
Soon thereafter, another state needed help managing rapidly escalating call volumes brought on by widespread unemployment. Existing staff was able to process only 1,500 to 1,800 calls per day, leaving a large group of overwhelmingly frustrated claimants. The agency turned to Faneuil. In a temporary space, initial training and operations were conducted to provide immediate support to the agency’s internal call centers. Within two months of implementation, an average of 3,000 calls per day were being processed by Faneuil CSRs, doubling the agency’s previous capacity.
In the midst of federal and state authorities moving quickly to control job losses and ease financial pressures on millions of Americans, Faneuil’s rapid deployment, project management and operational expertise were helped expedite benefits to unemployed residents.