New Hanover County provides the ultimate customer experience from the cloud

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“We have always prioritized meeting our customers where they are, in a way that works best for them and prioritizes their preferences because a great customer experience looks different for everyone,” said Leslie Chaney, Chief Information Officer at New Hanover County. “Everything we do in New Hanover County helps us to provide a more personable experience, where customers know they are more than just a number being called out over a PA system.”

The team in New Hanover County is tasked with ensuring a sustainable future and prosperous community for the residents living coast side. They are committed to providing equitable opportunities and exceptional public services to ensure a safe, healthy, secure and thriving community for all. In other words, New Hanover County is dedicated to bringing superior economic development, education, workforce, public health and safety net support to their residents each day. However, “in New Hanover County, we have more than just a mission statement,” Chaney said. “We have a strategy as an organization that acts as the foundation for our every decision.” The team lives out the model of good governance, recognizing that all of their customers deserve high quality services, and this commitment plan plays an influential role in decision making. “Our good governance plan is intended to provide continuous focus on the customer experience regardless of which department services they are accessing-- our residents deserve to be served with quality regardless of the types of benefits they are receiving. We ensure effective county management and strong financial performance through several tenets of goals,” added Chaney.
 

The cloud came ready for us to innovate, giving us the foundation to elevate our processes and workflows to bring residents the services they needed, in a way they wanted to receive them.”

Leslie Chaney, Chief Information Officer, New Hanover County
 
 

Serving the mission.

Health and Human Services agencies today are constantly faced with new and approaching challenges as the government attempts to navigate the unprecedented times upon us. For the team in New Hanover County, that meant the ability to provide services to customers without the need to physically come into the building, without sacrificing the personal touch of a quality customer service experience. “We wanted to provide more options for our customers. We needed to consider things like remote customer access and drop-boxes so that each service experience did not involve the residents coming inside the building,” said Tufanna Bradley, Assistant County Manager of Health and Human Services at New Hanover County. While the national pandemic heightened these conversations, this was something the team had focused on previously, “even before COVID-19 we saw lines stacking up, wait times increasing, and customers being passed to several agency workers before their inquiry was solved.”

New Hanover County set out for a solution that would be user intuitive, adaptable, and allow the customer to be seen in a holistic way, while optimizing work processes for internal employees. They thought about customer experiences they had in the retail industry and thought about how to adopt those models into their own operations. “We wanted to streamline operations so that customers only needed to tell their story once,” said Tomashia Robinson, Project Coordinator of Information Technology at New Hanover County. “More times than not, residents seeking our services are in a vulnerable situation or crisis mode, and the ability to be heard the first time goes a long way. If a customer is needing support across several human services departments, we are able to address their needs in one case, both efficiently and effectively.”

Introducing a platform that could be built upon, was reliable, and provided the capacity to improve customer service capabilities was key to the team. With limited employee resources, New Hanover County did not want to spend their capital keeping the lights on and running the systems, but rather turned to the cloud for the heavy lift behind the scenes. “The cloud came ready for us to innovate, giving us the foundation to elevate our processes and workflows to bring residents the services they needed, in a way they wanted to receive them,” added Robinson. “We are focused on providing the ultimate customer experience and the system has empowered us to get resources out to those walking in our doors, in a timely and stable manner.”

Tools to deliver the customer experience anywhere, anytime.

The team launched a complete customer contact solution with case management capabilities on the cloud in just eight weeks. By implementing an intuitive customer portal, New Hanover County was able to optimize workflows and quickly bring new functionality to their operations. “Our contact solution was built out to provide maximum support to both our internal teams and those seeking our services with a holistic view of resources that are available or currently being received,” said Esther Watson-Hall, Administrative Supervisor of Health and Human Services at New Hanover County. “We have built out components of the system to allow for updates and adaptations as we listen to customer feedback and alter accordingly to provide a level of customer experience that is both practical and pleasurable.”

With processes being brought to the cloud,the team is able to provide an omni-channel customer experience in a fast and efficient way by empowering operations internally. The team deployed several critical initiatives to get the job done:

  • Starting with stability

The system is built on the FedRAMP-authorized Salesforce Government Cloud Plus. Here, all workflows, data, systems, and teams live within a unified space so the team can collaborate in a secure and productive manner. New Hanover County has been able to automate programs and boost IT operations by introducing a modern, digital solution to their Public Sector work.

  • Warming the welcome

The customer experience starts for the residents in New Hanover County with a complete greeter process built out via Service Cloud. When the customer walks into the building they are greeted by a team member and asked the reason for their visit today, while the greeter makes them an appointment to be served-- this ensures that customers are not waiting in long lines to simply share the reason for their visit, before continuing to wait longer just to be served. The customer will be entered into the queue and directed by the greeter to the service department they are seeking assistance from. The receptionist will gather any additional needed demographic or general information regarding the customer and their visit before notifying the case worker that their customer has arrived through the platform.

New Hanover County is utilizing a round-robin type format for their Economic Services department, as the platform notifies case workers when their customers have arrived and where they are waiting to be served. This has resulted in minimal wait times, more efficient service being provided, and an overall better experience for both customers and employees empowering the mission. With transparency and care enforced every step of the way, customers are comfortable and assured each time they are receiving service from the team.

  • Ensuring confidence in each case

Once a customer's appointment has been confirmed, they are entered into the system, and a case is opened. Caseworkers inside New Hanover County are able to manage the queue from the same platform and accept customers, assign task items, and automate workflows to provide the highest quality of assistance possible. “When our team finishes a case with a customer, they are able to assist that same resident with additional help in other programs, without the customer needing to get back into the queue,” said Watson-Hall. “There is a warm handoff process our residents receive as they go about navigating the different resources we have to provide them here.”

Staff can assign tasks, tag subject matter experts on key questions, share current status, and collaborate as they work to confirm the application and distribute the desired resources, while keeping the customer in lockstep along the way.

  • Integrating to expand capabilities

To improve efficiency of development and simplify processes during the application lifecycle, the use of Lightning and Scheduler provided a centralized source control system as a way to define a single source of truth. Chatbot capabilities brought to life on Experience Cloud were used for ARP and ERAP applications to serve customers in a means they choose, whether that be text, email, chat, or in-person, so New Hanover could deliver service anytime, anywhere. The team was able to separate the programs provided so that application and case volume could be managed virtually based on customer profiles and solved / approved efficiently. Integration with SeamlessDocs even allowed residents to sign documents online, keeping the entire assistance process remote if preferred by the customer.

Digital engagement capabilities helped the team collaborate and share sources internally with unified data while self-service options for customers were allowing for faster case resolution time. Additionally, this empowered customers with an alternative voice when seeking assistance programs and resources from New Hanover County. Automation and AI features were embedded into service workflows to free up agents and bring speed to processes.

  • Uncovering visibility

Tableau provides New Hanover County leadership, management, and specific resource teams with the ability to assess program performance, spot patterns,, and surface the kind of data driven insights that lead to smarter decision making and faster service delivery.

Superior case management with a holistic view.

The cloud allowed New Hanover County to quickly respond and distribute funding through their Emergency Rental Assistance program-- $7.1 million has been awarded here since the team accepted the funding to administer the program in March, 2021. “We were able to distribute every dollar from our Emergency Rental Assistance Program to residents at risk of losing housing and/or needing assistance with things like rent, utilities, or other housing-related costs,” said Robinson. “We quickly served our customers and got them the relief and support they needed through programs that were administered locally and funds that were ready to award."

In moving to the cloud, the team at New Hanover County has created a more efficient, professional atmosphere for both their customers and the employees. “We are empowering our workforce with the platform to feel confident in how they are serving residents, knowing they have the tools they need to provide the ultimate customer service experience,” said Chaney. “Everything we do is towards generating a more personable experience, one where customers enjoy interacting with us, and although we are a small agency, we are mighty. We have redefined operations and processes because of our people and the cloud, allowing us to be better service providers.” 

 

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