NYSDOL reaches midpoint of 4-year technology implementation plan; aimed at handling 100% of customer inquiries
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the New York State Department of Labor is halfway through its four-year strategic modernization plan, an ongoing effort her team said will “reduce call volume, enhance customer experience, and swiftly connect New Yorkers to unemployment insurance benefits.
“NYSDOL is currently collaborating with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services to develop and implement technological solutions that will improve the UI benefit application process, check on the status of claims, and address claim issues with unprecedented efficiency, with the goal of handling 100% of customer inquiries. The plan is part of an ongoing DOL effort to enhance the overall customer experience and reduce fraud.”
Hochul said, "The struggles that New York's workforce experienced during the pandemic showed us how crucial it is to be able to connect job searchers with employers. As we rebuild from the economic effects of the pandemic, we must continue to improve the systems that allow us to get money back into New Yorkers' hands. I commend the Department of Labor for their swift work throughout the pandemic to help New Yorkers facing hardship, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as we address gaps in our infrastructure."
Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "The Department of Labor was already working to improve the unemployment system, but the pandemic put that on the fast track in order to swiftly deliver $105 billion in assistance to nearly 5 million New Yorkers. Since then, the department has embraced innovative solutions, and we continue to evolve to better serve New Yorkers. Our ability to adapt is why so many states continue to look to us for leadership throughout this global health crisis."
Hochul’s team said that, over the next 24 months, NYSDOL, in partnership with ITS, will:
√ Develop and implement a new omnichannel contact center that will utilize bot-driven technology designed to answer specific questions about a customer's claim.
√ Unveil an upgraded forms management system that will work with the current system to enable customers to submit proper forms for rapid processing.
√ Establish a new intranet system to improve NYSDOL internal training and assist call center staff in streamlining the claims process for greater efficiency.
√ Advance the department's UI system modernization project, which will replace the antiquated legacy mainframe with a state-of-the-art, real-time system.
√ Create a new operating model that will deliver operational efficiencies, improve and increase agent and customer engagement.
NYS Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said, "Under Gov. Kathy Hochul's leadership, New York state has moved with urgency on its strategic modernization plan in order to efficiently connect workers to unemployment insurance benefits. I'd like to thank the leaders at ITS who were able to step up, develop and implement technological solutions that will improve the UI benefit application process for all New Yorkers.”
NYSDOL's unemployment insurance division is funded by USDOL. Budgeting is determined by federal standards for processing UI claims based on workload and production. Current call volume has dramatically decreased compared to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and declined again with the expiration of extended federal benefits.
Hochul’s team said, “When the COVID-19 pandemic initially hit New York state, NYSDOL received an unprecedented surge in UI claims. During the first week that claims were impacted by the pandemic, NYSDOL received over 1,734,100 total calls, inundating the system. NYSDOL quickly adapted and extended call center availability, dedicated additional staff to answer calls, hired additional staff, streamlined the claims process, and added servers to increase bandwidth.”
NYSDOL also implemented the following technological measures throughout this timeframe of the pandemic:
√ Phone System Upgrades: NYSDOL rolled out a newly updated and streamlined automated phone system that better connects unemployed New Yorkers with the help they need.
√ ‘Perkins’: The department utilized new bot technology to improve user experience. NYSDOL launched “Perkins,” a chatbot on the NYSDOL website named after Frances Perkins, which can answer many of New Yorkers' frequently asked questions about how to apply for and receive benefits. While Perkins cannot answer questions about individual claims, it uses artificial intelligence to identify new questions. Perkins continues to evolve and can communicate in a dozen languages, which is imperative in a state as diverse as New York.
√ New Google Application: NYSDOL partnered with Google Cloud to create a cloud-based application that can automatically scale to the number of incoming claims at any time.
√ Customer Relationship Management Tool: Under continuous development, this tool helps track and manage workloads, provides agents with the correct information to relay to callers, and assists agents in resolving customer issues. The CRM also provides customers with access to more self-serving options, which reduces call volume.
√ DocuSign: NYSDOL launched a streamlined process using DocuSign for submitting previous weeks' certifications, also known as backdated certifications, allowing New Yorkers to get paid easier and faster. Customers no longer have to call to back certify. Previously, backdated certifications could only be done over the phone with a live representative. The new system allows certifications to be completed online faster. Since implementing DocuSign into its operations, NYSDOL has expanded its use to assist customers efficiently and securely.
√ Improved Communications: NYSDOL rolled out a process to directly text and email applicants the status of their claim as it moves through the approval process. This system has sent over 100 million emails and text messages, including status updates, to customers throughout the pandemic. The department also regularly posts on its social media platforms to connect New Yorkers to evolving information about changes that would impact them, as well as promoting job search tools, career-building assistance, and access to thousands of available job opportunities statewide.
√ Website: NYSDOL reorganized its website to make it easier for New Yorkers to find critical UI benefit information and job resources. This included factsheets, videos, virtual workshops, and other regularly updated content.
Hochul’s team said, “NYSDOL continues to evaluate processes and adjust as necessary while safeguarding this critical support system for New Yorkers. As New York state continues to navigate the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, NYSDOL remains committed to exploring opportunities to modernize systems.”