Government organizations around the world faced a huge challenge in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the increased need to distribute financial support and guidance during the unfolding crisis. The response has been admirable in many cases, given the rapid closing of workplaces and introduction of lockdown measures early last year.
The State of Delaware, on the east coast of the United States, found itself having to deal with these demanding and terrible circumstances, with the Department of Labour facing a surge in claims against unemployment insurance pretty much overnight.
To give you an idea of the scale, across the entire year of 2019, Delaware processed a total of 35,000 similar cases. However, in the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 crisis it had to process a similar quantity.
Delaware was speaking this week at ServiceNow's annual user conference, Knowledge 2021, about how the State's Department of Labor was able to stand up an interim ServiceNow tool to deal with the initial onslaught in just a week, and then build a more comprehensive set of customer service management tools in just five weeks to manage insurance claims over the long term.
David Bennett, ServiceNow Platform Owner at the State of Delaware, said:
Delaware's Department of Labour is responsible for the employment related needs of nearly 400,000 Delaware workers and over 20,000 businesses throughout the state. With the outbreak of the global pandemic, Delaware's unemployment insurance faced very serious challenges to ensure citizens had access to local services, even when offices were closed, the number of incoming cases increased exponentially from a pre-COVID average of 452 claims a week to over 64,000 claims in the first four weeks.
But Delaware didn't have one single point of entry, we were receiving requests from multiple websites, emails, call centres and fax call centres. The team lacked visibility to metrics, such as how many cases were open at any given time or the lifespan of a case.
Access to data on the mainframe was also a challenge, to expand upon that, we needed augment staff out in Utah and some locally, and the request process to gain access to our mainframe is extremely lengthy. So, we needed a temporary solution.
A temporary solution
A common theme we've seen across public sector institutions is how when the COVID-19 crisis hit, it focused minds and proved how quickly systems can be put in place when there is political will.
For instance, in Delaware, Bennett was asked by his senior team if ServiceNow could be used to solve the Department of Labor's challenges. He decided that a temporary solution could be put in place using the ServiceNowApp Engine, calling it a custom-micro-CRM, which would capture emails. These emails would be automatically turned into claimant and transaction records, based on their content. He said:
Basically the email address from the ‘from' on the email was used to create a claimant record, and the subject line and body of the email were used to create an associated case or transaction record.
The time frame? Astonishingly, the solution was designed, built, tested and training was provided all in one week.
However, Delaware didn't stop there, and whilst the temporary solution was being built, ServiceNow Customer Service Management (CSM) was being evaluated as a more permanent solution, which would leverage the data that was already captured in the temporary tool, reducing the impact on productivity.
Delaware was already a heavy user of ServiceNow's ITSM platform - making use of incident management, a CMDB, change management, problem management, knowledge management, request management, and most of the ITBM suite of products. So adding the CSM module, with a self service portal, virtual agent and knowledge library, seemed like a natural fit. Bennett said:
The claimants can now create a case directly from the State of Delaware's public portal, it's a much simpler form - just requiring name, email address, phone number. We also added the reCAPTCHA to reduce fraudulent submissions, and that creates a case directly from that submission.
Staff had the ability to add known solutions to the virtual agent, and the customer has the ability to transfer to a live agent during work hours. Our agents add new knowledge articles based on relevant law changes, and frequently asked questions, then expose those articles to the customer via the portal, and the virtual agent.
The benefits of the self service tools soon became apparent, according to Bennett, where 475,000 interactions went through the virtual agent in the first six weeks of the pandemic. He said:
That's 475,000 interactions that didn't require a person, right? That was a phone call or email or something that didn't take an agent's time. The customer was able to resolve the issue themselves 150,000 claimant cases created through the CSM product.
Other time savers for Delaware, which form part of the ServiceNow toolkit, included mass resolution and integration with Outlook. Bennett added:
Mass resolve is awesome, as it gives staff the ability to mass resolve processing for all child-related tickets at one time.a person might send an email, make a telephone call, use the live chat, all of these would create a case associated with that claimant. Now they can resolve all of them at one time using a simple button click.
ServiceNow also has a little add-in for Outlook. So if they find a claim related email in their inbox, they just click that button and it will automatically create a case, leveraging the information that's in that email.They can provide some additional details, and it just sends it straight to ServiceNow so it takes the work out of Outlook, and puts it in the system of record in the CSM solution.
The State of Delaware's Department of Labour paid $741 million in benefits in the first five months of the pandemic, processed using the ServiceNow platform.
For more diginomica stories from Knowledge 2021 visit our Knowledge 2021 event hub. Knowledge 2021 opened on May 11th and sessions are available to view on-demand until October 2021. This is the event registration link.