RI DHS Updates Customers on Efficiency-Focused Pilot Program that will Begin in Call Center

 RI DHS Updates Customers on Efficiency-Focused Pilot Program that will Begin in Call Center

Pilot modeled after other states is aimed to increase efficiency and improve overall customer service, while eliminating backlogs

Cranston, RI – The Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today that beginning Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, the agency will implement a pilot program at the DHS call center called Processing Wednesdays. The program is focused on increasing operational efficiency and improving customer service by refocusing call center staff on processing applications, recertifications, updating customer files, reports, and other operational tasks – these tasks are crucial to reducing the backlog of claims which cause a slowdown in overall processing. To process claims faster and thus reduce the number of calls, the call center will be closed to incoming calls every Wednesday until the end of the pilot. All public office lobbies will continue to be open according to the posted schedule, with regular services available.

 

Kimberly Merolla-Brito, Acting Director of RI DHS said, “DHS is committed to doing everything possible to ensure our customers receive the service, care, and follow-up needed as they seek to obtain important benefits. After careful analysis of staffing, productivity, and outstanding caseloads, I am confident this pilot will yield positive results that will be beneficial for all and allow DHS to better perform to a standard of excellence we all expect.”

 

The DHS call center experiences high call volume leading to long wait times for customers. With the implementation of Processing Wednesdays, all call center staff would join back-office staff to process tasks. The purpose of this operational shift is to reserve time each week where all focus is on processing applications, recertifications, interim reports, change reports, and acting on tasks and documents. It is expected that Processing Wednesdays will provide time for directed focus on case tasks/activities which we anticipate will increase staff daily task completion rates. This should ultimately reduce the need for customer follow up, leading to increased customer confidence, while expecting to see a reduction in call volume, wait times, customer traffic to the branches, and greater staff satisfaction. A similar program in neighboring Connecticut yielded improvements in all these areas.

 

Customers would continue to have access to the automated phone line with self-service options, as well as forms and drop boxes in the branch offices, and office lobby services across the state. Additionally, other self-service options such as the online customer portal (healthyrhode.ri.gov account) and the Healthy Rhode mobile app will remain available. Both of these platforms have recently been updated to offer greater ease of use, better functionality, and a wider array of services that can limit the need for calling or visiting DHS in person. Customers can also mail documents to the RI Department of Human Services, P.O. Box 8709, Cranston, RI 02920-8787. Please note scheduled phone interviews with customers will still occur on these processing days for various applications and benefit recertifications.

 

RI DHS is currently in the process of addressing numerous issues aimed at improving overall customer satisfaction, responsiveness, and timeliness. The Processing Wednesday’s pilot is just one part of an overall agency strategy that also includes increased hiring rates, online and mobile app enhancements creating greater access and customer flexibility, the use of telephone interviews, and expansion of document scanning services. RI DHS will evaluate the pilot’s effectiveness to determine next steps.

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