Health and human services agencies’ cost effective approaches to good customer service

INPUT Principal Analyst Sherry Calvendra reports:

After reading the strategies published in a recent article about transforming state health and human services agencies, I thought back to a forum I attended earlier this year, and more specifically, a session on procurement and financing methods for modern technology that can transform an agency. Much like the authors of the article, the guest speakers at the conference outlined business and technology challenges and recommended approaches in the delivery of enterprise services. They demonstrated ideas that agencies may find useful in today’s fiscal outlook while focusing on 21st century customer service.

During the session, Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Ruth Johnson talked about the implementation of DCFS’ Common Access Front End (CAFÉ) for all programs. Johnson discussed realigning business processes for program and quality integrity, which parallels the article’s coverage of business process reengineering to better deliver services. A priority for Louisiana was to increase access and improve customer flow; and even while having to reduce staff, it was imperative to have current staff working efficiently. One of the ways the state increased productivity was having employees work from home. With 80-95 percent of interviews conducted over the phone, there was no need to continue paying for real estate when costs could be cut by closing offices. In fact, she suggested other governments look into using Skype at a lower cost for long-distance service. Ultimately, it was community partners that were the keys to success. Johnson said DCFS currently has more than 200 community partners such as faith based organizations and food banks. However, she was quick to point out that the agency contracts with community partners and provides no financial support.

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Darla Wells

Skype is a great idea for cost saving but not so good for being able to get back to the worker in a timely fashion. The problem is that clients with no net access or certain types of cell phones that will not let these calls go through are the rule, not the exception. Then the cases get closed and have to be reopened, inconveniencing both worker and client. I am seeing this a lot lately.