In times of crisis, one of a state’s most important responsibilities is to deliver accurate information efficiently to citizens. This capability is essential to allaying fears, ensuring public safety, and expediting the delivery of critical services.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and her team understood the vital importance of this function during the COVID-19 pandemic. They took swift action to modernize critical contact center operations in a matter of weeks to make sure that citizens could more efficiently access information they need.

The state turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its cloud contact center solution, Amazon Connect, to move quickly to modernize contact centers for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL).

KDHE created a COVID-19 information line to provide information to constituents on symptoms, testing, and other resources within their communities. Soon, more than 1,700 calls a day were coming into the number. Agents and infrastructure were overwhelmed, and many callers could not speak to an agent to get the information they needed. KDHE deployed Amazon Connect, and today callers can access information immediately, even if a live agent isn’t available.

At the same time, the KDOL unemployment claims department was receiving as many as 1.6 million calls a day—compared to the pre-pandemic norm of 1,700 calls daily. Call queues filled up within the first 15 minutes of the business day. For the rest of the day, callers received a busy signal.

Using another instance of Amazon Connect, KDOL created a triage contact center that overlays the legacy system, which went live in less than two days. The system automatically sorts calls coming into the unemployment center and routes them to the correct resources (live or self-service) based on the specific inquiry. When no agents are available, callers now have the option to request a return call, so they do not need to remain on hold. Residents get answers to questions faster, and highly trained agents spend more of their time helping residents to file claims, instead of providing basic information.

While residents are still experiencing wait times and delays, in part due to historically high volumes and limited numbers of specialized unemployment claims agents, the team is advancing its goal of serving more Kansans every day.

Kate Davis, legislative liaison for the governor’s office, who spearheaded both the KDHE and KDOL projects, reports the KDOL is now serving up to 300,000 minutes a day of calls. She also noted that, while the total number of calls is going down—from 1.6 million calls just prior to launch to 1.15 million calls three days after the system launched to 400,000 calls just a few days later—the number of unique phone numbers has remained stable. This indicates that callers are getting the information they need faster and do not need to call as many times due to long-hold issues.

“Our goal was to serve more Kansans every day, and we are doing that. Our agents can hear the relief in callers’ voices when they are finally able to speak to a person after they had been calling without success in previous weeks. It is highly fulfilling for them to help residents in need at this time.”

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