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Challenge #1: Reliance on phone lines is ineffective

  • Phone lines make it hard for agencies to prioritize work in a strategic way; you have to work with whoever calls in rather than, e.g., working on the oldest applications first.
  • Any published phone number is going to get inundated with calls, even if it’s intended to serve a particular purpose, because most states’ systems don’t provide people with enough information online.
  • Phones are a very expensive way for people to get the help they need

What our partners are saying:

  • "People can’t self-cure almost anything on their application, even when they realize they’ve made a mistake, they can’t do anything about it until they talk to an agent" -- State B
  • "You can look up generalities, how to file, what to do, but once the claim is filed, someone generally wants claim specific, and the only way we can provide that is by speaking to someone, and we’re way outnumbered. The ability to get to a live agent, sure it’s a problem." -- State B
  • People who might actually need the phone (i.e., those without proficiency in or access to the digital tools) can’t access them because “we are clogging the lines with UX issues because it’s not clear or understandable to anyone.” -- State F
  • "There are escalation queues for people with disabilities, for people whose primary language isn’t English, people with significant hardships, etc. But if they advertise any of those routes, calls will come in and fill that up. Specialty phone lines don’t work." -- State F


  1. 1.
    US DOL should provide states with plain language, usability-tested content (graphics, FAQs, descriptions, social media posts, etc.) of the concepts that are the same across states, especially: how the different UI programs relate to each other, how to understand eligibility, what the impact of responding to weekly certification questions is, etc.
  2. 2.
    Agencies should implement chatbots, eligibility screeners, callback scheduling systems, and other tools to reduce the need for people to call in.
  3. 3.
    Agencies should have clear processes in place to regularly learn from its customer support mechanisms (FAQ traffic, chatbot interactions, call center topics) and leverage that to update website and chatbot content.
  4. 4.
    Agencies should conduct usability testing of the key parts of their experiences to identify opportunities for improvement so that people don’t need to call in order to understand the system or find out what’s going on with their claim.
Last modified 9mo ago