Unemployment Insurance agencies have been experiencing an unprecedented and overwhelming volume of telephone calls related to unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 crisis. There are simply not enough phone operators to handle the volume of incoming calls, and callers are having poor experiences (e.g., dropped calls, long wait times).
Having a complete "suite" of customer support tools not only helps agencies control costs associated with some of the higher-touch support channels, but it also helps their constituents by meeting them where they are. Phones (and when safely possible given COVID restrictions, in-person appointments) are incredibly important for a speedier resolution to complex cases -- and for people with limited sight or reading capabilities. They also provide a mechanism for those with limited or no access to the internet to get their questions answered and cases resolved.
Keeping phone lines and in-person appointments in place are important for reducing the impact of the digital divide. But without a suite of customer support tools, everyone relies on the phone and ends up crowding out the people who need the phone to do anything at all with their claims or questions.
We have done deep dives into some of the solutions that can be complementary to existing customer support systems: