As part of an overall strategy to limit the number of calls it receives while still providing timely and effective customer service, the department should use existing data and additional data from the new phone system to gain a better understanding of why people request to speak to an agent. Using this information, the department should further develop strategies and measurable goals related to achieving a reduction in call volumes. For example, to ensure that virtually all calls are able to gain access to the voice response portion of its new phone system, the department should monitor the volume of blocked call attempts and work with its phone system vendor if necessary to increase the system's capacity.
EDD provided examples of various types of analyses that it performed, such as tracking inbound calls and blocked calls and comparing the number of claimants using UI online for payment information and the number of callers requesting to speak to an agent.
Fully implemented based on documentation cited in agency response.
As part of an overall strategy to limit the number of calls it receives, while still providing timely and effective customer service, EDD implemented a number of action plans related to reducing call volumes and ensuring that virtually all claimants are able to gain access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) services either through the voice response portion of the new phone system or through online services. Some of these action plans, as outlined in previous responses, have included:
1. Incorporating the Alternate Base Period in the Interactive Voice Response system to increase access to information through self-service options.
2. Leveraging the power of UI OnlineSM to provide an alternative communications platform to the public.
3. Implementing the Scheduled Call-Back System in order to convert blocked calls into resolved calls.
In order to utilize these action plans to their fullest extent, EDD has used the data from the new phone system to gain a better understanding of why people request to speak to an agent. Most recently in this regard, EDD conducted the UI Self-Service Options Survey before and after the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign Project. The initial survey was completed in September 2013, and a follow-up survey was completed in April 2016. The survey provided valuable information that helped EDD strengthen its efforts to improve its service delivery systems.
As a result of these and other efforts, EDD has been able to put programs in place to offer claimants a wide variety of communication solutions, specifically targeting the majority of caller demands. This has, thereby, limited call volume without decreasing service quality; resulting in a total call volume reduction of 83.2 percent and a blocked-call reduction of 96.3 percent between Fiscal Year 2013-14 and Fiscal Year 2014-15 (see Attachment).
EDD provided an update of the table we included in our report titled "Unemployment Rate and Call Center Data by State Fiscal Year" through fiscal year 2015-16, which showed a significant reduction in total call attempts and a modest improvement in percentage of calls answered by an agent. Further, EDD provided documentation showing how it evaluates the effectiveness of its phone system, such as conducting surveys, to obtain an understanding of why people request to speak with an agent. In addition, it discussed certain services, such as UI online, that it indicated have reduced the demand to speak to a UI staff member. Although its documentation did not include many specific examples of how it has used the more robust management information available under its new phone system to further develop strategies and measurable goals related to achieving a reduction of call volumes, the actions EDD has reported it has taken through offering self services, such as UI online, and its purported reduction of total call attempts appear to have resolved many of our concerns. However, the percentage of calls answered by an agent seems to continue to be an issue. We continue to encourage EDD to maximize the enhanced management information in its phone system to ensure it is providing timely and effective customer service, such as periodically tracking key information against established benchmarks, similar to how it implemented recommendation #3.
This recommendation has been partially implemented. To explore strategies to reduce call volume, EDD is conducting UI Self-Service Options Surveys before and after implementation of the UI OnlineSM self-services phase of the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign Project. The first survey's population included people who called the UI claims' main English and Spanish telephone lines (not the automated self-service line) between June 28 and July 2, 2013. The online survey was conducted in both English and Spanish from July 26 through September 10, 2013. Results of the first survey showed that the most common reasons claimants called were to obtain claim status information (36% of respondents), file or reopen a claim (21%), certify for benefits (20%), and get EDD Debit CardSM or benefit payment information (18%).
The roll-out of the UI OnlineSM self-service options to claimants began in April and was complete in July 2015. To allow for a full year of customer experience, EDD will conduct the second survey in early 2016 to identify claimants' reasons for calling, reasons for requesting an agent instead of using the self-service options, and suggestions for improving the self-service options.
This recommendation has been partially implemented. The EDD is conducting UI Self-Service Options Surveys before and after implementation of the UI Online self-services phase of the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign Project to explore strategies to reduce call volume. The first survey's population included people who called the UI claims main English and Spanish telephone lines (not the automated self-service line) between June 28 and July 2, 2013. The online survey was conducted in both English and Spanish from July 26 through September 10, 2013. Results of the first survey showed that the most common reasons claimants called were to obtain claim status information (36% of respondents), file or reopen a claim (21%), certify for benefits (20%), and get EDD Debit CardSM or benefit payment information (18%).
UI Online has been scheduled for release in the spring of 2015. Once UI Online is implemented and all claimants have been phased into the system, EDD will conduct the second survey to identify claimants' reasons for calling, reasons for requesting an agent instead of using the self-service options, and suggestions for improving the self-service options.
The EDD will continue to periodically survey claimants in the future to obtain information about the adequacy of self-services via the telephone and UI Online in order to continue to make customer service improvements.
The EDD anticipates completion by the end of 2015.
This recommendation has been partially implemented due to chronic federal underfunding in the UI program, which has led to reduced staff, combined with the need to implement the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign project as a high priority. The EDD acknowledges the value in obtaining detailed information about why callers request to speak to an agent. To obtain information at the level of specificity that the audit recommended, the EDD is conducting UI Self-Service Options Surveys before and after implementation of the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign project to determine claimants' reasons for calling, their reasons for requesting an agent instead of exercising one of the self-service options available to them, and their suggestions for improving the self-service options. By conducting the survey before and after the project implementation, researchers may assess the extent to which the enhancements and additional self-service options impact callers' decisions to call into the system and to request an agent. The EDD will use the information from the survey to explore additional strategies to reduce call volume.
The first survey's population included people who called the UI claims main English and Spanish telephone lines (not to be confused with the automated self-service line) between June 28 and July 2, 2013. The online survey was conducted in both English and Spanish from July 26 through September 10, 2013. Individuals without computer access had the option to complete it over the phone with an EDD researcher. The EDD anticipates completing the data analysis from the first survey and reporting the results by November 2013.
Dependent on the extent of its federal underfunding, EDD anticipates completion by the end of 2014.
This recommendation has not been fully implemented; the EDD anticipates that this status will be confirmed by the BSA follow-up review report expected to be issued in November 2012. The EDD has made significant improvements in increasing the number of callers who have accessed UI phone services. Between 2009 and 2011, there was a 94.4 percent decrease in blocked calls and an increase of 77 percent in answered calls. A key factor responsible for these improvements is the implementation of the UI Modernization Call Center Network Platform and Application Upgrade project. Implementation of this project contributed significantly to improving access to EDD's call services when Primary Call Centers received the new call center infrastructure and the capacity was expanded to include Primary Adjudication Centers in February 2011 and the Anaheim Pacific Center in June 2011.
The UI Branch continues to analyze its phone system call volume data along with other non-phone workload items such as on-line inquiries (i.e., Ask EDD), eligibility determinations, appeals, adjustments, etc. to identify opportunities to improve customer service. The UI Branch regularly balances the various workload levels with available staffing levels through daily workload management activities in an attempt to meet customer service demand and federal performance measures.
The UI Branch has focused on high-priority efforts to continue to improve and expand overall access to UI services. Efforts such as the automated Telephone Claim Filing Wrap-Up and Transfer project, the Public Service Program expansion to train more staff statewide, the incorporation of the ABP information into the existing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system implementation, and the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign (CCR) project all have or will have a positive effect on public access to UI program services. The EDD has prioritized and focused resources and funding in these efforts to gain the most on its investment by increasing access to more information via self-service options on the IVR or UI on-line services.
The CCR project will significantly enhance the IVR system by adding new claimant self-service functionality. When the EDD completes the CCR project in March 2013, it will:
• Enhance the EDD TeleCertSM and the EDD WebCertSM by expanding the types of claims that can be processed by these self-service certification channels. These new services will provide a more user friendly method of certifying for UI benefits that will assist in reducing common errors made on the paper Continued Claim form that can cause benefit payment delays. Also, the CCR project will gather more eligibility information upfront from the claimant during the certification process and is anticipated to help improve determination timeliness and quality.
• Reduce the need for callers to speak to an agent or submit an on-line inquiry request by providing callers with additional information through the IVR and more self-service functionality through an on-line claimant account.
Performing an extensive analysis of call volumes and developing comprehensive strategies before the CCR project is completed would not be a productive use of EDD's limited resources for two reasons. First, the IVR code is currently frozen while the CCR project is underway. The EDD's Information Technology Branch places a code freeze or moratorium on programming code changes that can affect or jeopardize the integrity of ongoing information technology projects. The IVR code freeze will prevent code changes to be released into the CCR project and protect the integrity of that project. Therefore, no actions based on the findings of our analysis could be implemented until after the CCR project is implemented in March 2013. Second, the EDD expects the CCR project will have an impact on call volumes and when a caller needs to speak with an agent. Once the CCR project is complete, the EDD will conduct a more comprehensive analysis to determine what changes would be cost beneficial for further improving service access and delivery for EDD customers. The EDD expects to conduct this analysis in 2013.
However, the EDD recognizes the value in obtaining information about why callers request to speak to an agent before the CCR project is implemented. Accordingly, prior to implementing the CCR project, the EDD will begin surveying claimants who have phoned and requested to speak to an agent to obtain more specific reasons for the calls and requests. This data, obtained outside the phone system, will be analyzed to determine what changes could be made to EDD's service delivery systems. This information will also assist the EDD in identifying potential enhancements to the IVR when changes to the IVR are once again allowed.
Agency responses received after June 2013 are posted verbatim.