The Challenge

Of all potential disasters that provide the grist for late-night Netflix series, no one predicted a microscopic pathogen would stop the world in its tracks. Forty-four states reached out to our client, one of the largest consulting and financial advisory and auditing firms in the world, to help manage unemployment claim processing. In turn, our client reached out to Harte Hanks to support their customer care services, which under the circumstances appeared more like a disaster recovery undertaking.

With panic engulfing every community, the citizen fear factor exploded. People were calling in unprecedented numbers. Payments in many states were not forthcoming, misinformation abounded, the claim process was convoluted, and people were getting mixed messages. They were angry, scared, and in many cases, panicked.

Based on our history of being able to scale up and deliver quality support in record time, our client engaged Harte Hanks to take on multichannel customer support functions for multiple states. We needed to educate, facilitate, placate and advocate. On behalf of our client, we became the voice of the state.

Our Insights

It quickly became clear we were dealing with people at an incredibly stressful and emotional time. Many were hopeless. The backlog in actually getting unemployment checks into the hands of citizens had reached unparalleled levels.

In the best of times, it’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly. During the Covid crisis, the role often became literal life support.

This required a special kind of customer interaction, where customer care agents acted as counselors, educators, social workers, problem solvers mediators, and most importantly, caring friends.

In most cases we were the sole citizen’s advocate. We recognized that every call could be a desperate call for help and would require us to go deeper than simply assisting with forms. Empathetic interactions were essential to making people feel like they mattered.

Our Approach

Using a sophisticated nationwide network of hiring specialists, Harte Hanks has developed a methodology for high-velocity ramp-up during crisis situations. Similar to crisis deployment during recalls, it relies on technology solutions in tandem with an enhanced training bootcamp. This SWAT team-like protocol allows us to tap into an instant response team of pre-trained Harte Hanks agents and redeploy them against mission-critical engagements.
Like the Marines of customer care, it gives us a running start as a continual stream of reinforcements join the initiative.

We “nest” a support ecosystem around each agent, utilizing heightened supervisor support, along with ongoing chat systems and peer support groups. Our agents have the advantage of consistent mentoring along with a robust technological application designed to provide them with immediate answers to people’s questions and concerns, as well as offering step-by-step procedures to ensure flawless execution of the unemployment application process.

Our agents are trained to listen intently. They become a reconnaissance team, able to identify recurring issues, ethnographic disparities and personal emergencies, redirecting the information to appropriate channels. Their findings are aggregated and displayed on client dashboards, delivering maximum transparency and essential data needed to generate reports, experience what is actually happening, and swiftly alter or optimize
business practices.

The Results

Our client maintained a scorecard to assess all customer care partners to rate effectiveness and isolate best practices. Harte Hanks was consistently the top performer based on a set of KPIs, as well as customer feedback.

Not only were our CSAT scores higher, the speed of intake and resolution was unmatched. With the growing onslaught of calls, both quality and speed became critical factors.

Further, we led as the trusted advisor among our peers for feedback and suggestions.


Staff onboarded in less than a week

Leveraging our sophisticated network and nesting process, we onboarded 450 staff in less than a week.

I will always take Harte Hanks with me.