New Mexico Human Service Department Trailblazer In Contact Center & Covid Response Management

 

Transforming Lives Through Public Service

In a time where physical interaction is still limited, the New Mexico Human Services Department (NM HSD) has found a way to work within the restrictions of COVID-19 and continue meeting the needs of families statewide. With approximately 45% of New Mexicans enrolled in public assistance programs; speed and agility are of the utmost importance. “We’ve seen an increase in the need for the services and programs that we administer at the department. And with that is a real need for our customers to get access to information quickly and to get the assistance that they need to be enrolled in these programs to help them survive”, stated Sean Pearson, Chief Information Officer, NM HSD.
 

The NM Human Services Department (HSD) manages a budget of approximately $7.7 billion dollars of state and federal funds and administers services to more than 1 million  low-income New Mexicans through programs such as(*):

The department’s mission is “to transform lives -- Working with our partners, we design and deliver innovative, high quality health and human services that improve the security and promote independence for New Mexicans in their communities”.

Maintaining In The Pandemic

“Overnight, we told people, ‘Go home, and start teleworking’. Well, in order for us to be able to do that, we had to implement a portion of the solution literally overnight so that people could go home,” said Pearson. Like many government agencies, NMHSD operated in alignment within the parameters of normal business hours, 8:00 to 5:00 p.m. “If customers couldn’t reach us during those times, they may have not gotten their questions answered or needs met,” Pearson continued.  And this was only made more difficult when the team looked at customer complexity: data analysis highlighted that the majority of NM HSD customers were enrolled in more than one public assistance program, requiring people to connect with different employees separately due to each program having its own area of expertise. “For example, someone could be enrolled in Medicaid, but also have a child support case. If they had questions about both, they'd have to call the 1-800 number for Medicaid. Then, when they were done with that, they'd have to call the 1-800 number for child support,” Pearson explained.

Just before the pandemic started, NM HSD replatformed its customer service center on Service Cloud which brought multiple disparate systems into a singular call center. The team then expanded on it by enabling customers to engage via email, phone, text, and chat 24/7, 365. “One of our goals is to successfully implement technology that improves services to our customers and employees. It’s a part of a broader initiative that we call HHS 2020 or Health and Human Services 2020, which at its core is realigning public assistance programs, benefits and services around an individual or family,’ said Pearson.

 
The HHS (Health & Human Service) 2020 Vision is about a transformational, Enterprise approach to the health and human services business. Fundamentally, HHS 2020 is about moving from a program-centric structure to a Stakeholder-centric structure. This involves moving away from program and technology silos into an integrated, flexible framework that supports service provision and Stakeholder interaction across HHS programs and organizations. HHS 2020 is technology-enabled, but represents much more, including rethinking organizational design, redesigning and streamlining business processes and reducing barriers between organizations within the HHS Enterprise.
The contact center solution manages all contacts for all customers enrolled, applying for, or seeking information on the NMHSD programs. Over a million New Mexicans are enrolled in public assistance programs and receiving services today. On a monthly basis 30,000-50,000 applications are submitted. “The HHS 2020 strategy is threefold: customer engagement, customer portal, and the consolidated customer service center. The success of the contact center  was just the precipice of the broader solution to come”.

Making A Change Overnight

In partnership with Accenture, the NMHSD kicked-off the implementation to standardize employee processes on the Salesforce platform in the same way the team did for customer engagement. Pearson and team launched a consolidated contact center on the FedRAMP-authorized Salesforce Government Cloud platform. It enables employees to access information, collaborate with subject matter experts, and take action on next steps from their home office as easily as they could from the office before COVID-19. Here’s how it works:

  • The team started by leveraging Sales Cloud’s customer relationship management tools, which help to aggregate customer contact information from different areas of expertise into one comprehensive profile, creating an information hub that serves as the core of NM HSD’s system.
  • This hub is then integrated with the various transactional systems running on Service Cloud responsible for eligibility or case management programs, “or the spokes of our organization, if you will. “This way, if a customer-service agent is talking to a contact, whether it's over phone or chat; they have the most up to date information for any question at their fingertips”.
  • Shield was also added, helping NM HSD bring an additional layer of security to its system and to comply with applicable privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The system integrates with the NM HSD’s public cloud customer contact center service, which the team is leveraging to triage phone calls and record interactive voice responses. It also integrates with the team’s robotic process automation software, managing data entry through the user interface. “All the pieces work together; “We implemented the technology overnight literally for these people to be able to go home and start taking those calls. The pandemic required us to move rapidly and we've only been able to do that because all the pieces work together, out of the box,” said Pearson.

As for the customer experience there is just one user interface, the “Yes New Mexico” portal where residents can submit their application and identify the assistance needed. Real-time eligibility was implemented for the Medicaid program and will be rolled out to the other programs in the near future. “We want to implement the real-time eligibility process into our other programs as well as consolidate the status tracking, renewals, and updates processes. This will all be managed in the cloud so that we can continue to facilitate customer engagement with 360-degree view of the people that we serve. The goal for expansion is not just our agency and programs, but all health and human service related agencies in New Mexico”.

 

Best practices from the New Mexico Human Services Department

NM HSD serves as a prime example of how departments and agencies can build a responsive, integrated contact center on the cloud. Here are the best practices from the team's experience.

Broadening the Scope

The solution at the New Mexico Human Service Department is continuing to evolve. “We're knocking down those silos and creating that horizontal integration with the one-stop shop capabilities”. The consolidated contact center has since incurred a C-sat score of 4.7 on a one-to-five scale, but it is the community impact that speaks volumes to the work that has been done. The New Mexico Human Services Department has also leveraged Salesforce to help in its development of the following:

  • Covid Resource Management: Linking COVID-19 positive individuals with shelter needs to facilitate isolation; controlling the spread of the virus.
  • Hunger Prevention: The state of New Mexico has 23 nations, tribes and pueblos -- Indian nations, tribes and pueblos in the state. The consolidated contact centers help bridge the communication gap between food distributors and low income communities to provide supplies.

Additional metrics are currently being monitored such as types of communication channels used, contact metrics, and request fulfillment time in order to better serve customers. “We were already headed down the path to standardize on the cloud to meet multiple business needs when COVID-19 came to our communities,” said Pearson,“ and we were able to apply the same strategy and meet business needs that required immediate turnaround and action. Transforming our operations to the cloud enhanced our customer engagement, demonstrating to our staff that our ability to help people from home was still possible”.

 

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