IBM- Pandemic Assistance
  • 1.3 million calls processed, averaging 6,500 per day.
  • First Call Resolution >90%. Industry average: 53.7%

“My claimant just said she wishes she could walk into my “office” and give me a hug and tell my higher ups about the information and help I gave her to understand what was going on with her claim, today. She said I made her feel like she had her own personal agent.”

Project Summary

The Department of Labor engaged VSO through a sub-contract with IBM to support and process Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a Federal COVID relief program to extend Unemployment Insurance to contractors, freelancers and the self-employed. VSO’s professional services includes a monthly average of 450 Business Analysts to process applications, assist claimants by phone and email, and adjudicate claims.

In March 2020, the nation was scrambling to respond to a pandemic, including a near-total shutdown of our economy. By May, more than 1 in 4 Americans were out of work. In the Department of Labor saw a 430% increase in claims for the CARES-funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and turned to IBM to provide infrastructure and support. IBM was facing a tsunami of PUA claims from anxious state residents needing immediate assistance: hang-up rates by claimants had soared to 93%. So IBM turned to VSO, with its pool—and extensive network—of young professionals and veterans, to help clear the backlog of claims and assist with adjudication.

The State needed:

  • High volumes of trained staff
  • Onshore, HIPAA-compliant personnel
  • Project staffing elasticity
  • Recruiting and training programs to ensure:
    • Rapid onboarding
    • High-EQ (i.e., Emotional Quotient) delivery
    • Technical fluency with multiple platforms, including SharePoint/Office 365, VMware, Paylocity, Slack, Obie AI/ML, and navigation of legacy mainframe screens.

VSO Solution

VSO leaped into action recruiting and onboarding high-quality personnel in days. Beginning with its own staff of professionals, VSO built an army of virtue-led agents by tapping a select group of liberal arts colleges, veterans, active military spouses, and a large word-of-mouth network. In short, VSO recruited smart people who care about others.

VSO developed a staffing approach that focuses on hiring veterans and providing them with an environment of training, automation, and mentorship. Leveraging that culture of right-sized accountability, VSO structured “Virtual SQODs,” composed of ten full-time equivalent personnel and managed by an L1 Supervisor. Ten SQODs form a Unit and each Unit is managed by four L2 Supervisors. Between four to six L2s report to an L3 Supervisor/Program Manager. VSO’s tightly knit organization of personnel was conducive to rapidly training with team leaders serving as shadow masters and L1s closely supporting each agent. SharePoint, Slack channels and VSO’s agile-learning framework facilitate intense and relentless collaboration among agents and supervisors, flattening learning curves and promoting cohesiveness, focus, and pride in work.

All Contact Center personnel are dedicated to a single client; in the case of the DOL, this ensured rapid mastery of 73 documented scenarios, and constant improvement in resolution efficiency.

Project Outcome and Success Metrics

After 12 months of delivery on this project VSO achieved the following outcomes:

  • 1.3 million calls processed, averaging 6,500 per day.
  • Average productivity (time available vs. time unavailable) of 70%. IBM’s other supplier on this project averages 50%. Since VSO takes half the calls, the overall productivity of IBM’s service to DOL is 60%, meeting the SLA.
  • An average transfer rate between 6% and 8%
  • Bad Transfers (erroneous or unnecessary) below 2%
  • First Call Resolution >90%. Industry average: 53.7%
  • Of the hundreds of threat calls received (threatening harm to self or others) VSO has maintained a perfect record of zero negative outcomes.

To convey a sense of CX achieved on this project, below are a few examples, among thousands, of customer feedback reported by VSO Agents on VSO’s Slack channel:

Sitting w/ claimant for 20 minutes uploading some OOC docs then he accidentally dc’d [disconnected]. When I called him back, he was so grateful, and choked up a bit. Please keep him in your thoughts, lots of struggles due to Covid-19. Really feel for him. “There’s not a lot of people like you…I’m so grateful to have reached you”

Last call of the day, was right at 4:28, but I’m so glad I got her. Spanish-speaking claimant. For 4 months her claim was being passed around with no hope, and she faxed IDs that were too dark to read. She mentioned that she doesn’t know how to use the computer (but it didn’t matter!). After I got ahold of her youngest (and more tech savvy) son, we got to work uploading IDs in TM. Within 10 minutes we finished what should have been done 4 months ago. She was soooooo thankful & wanted to express her joy to all my team members in my office. She said “this is what customer service should be like!”