You have a mission — to provide services to your constituents. At CommunityConnectLabs (CCL), our mission is to reach underserved communities to ensure that they get the services they are eligible for. How does the public find and utilize government services that they need in their daily lives and at important life events? When the public has a problem to solve or need information, they may follow these steps:
1. Identify what services are available that meet their needs
2. Find where the services are provided
3. Determine eligibility for services
4. Apply for services and seek approval
5. Connect with resources such as scheduling appointments or calling for referrals
CCL has a four-step methodology that has proven successful in reaching underserved communities. Each step informs the next in a continuous cycle of feedback and improvement, enabling CCL to the agency or organization to connect with their constituents. These steps include:
1. Reaching out to constituents to ensure they are aware of services that they may be eligible for
2. Answering any questions constituents may have
3. Guiding constituents through the process to ensure they take the next step
4. Assessing the success of the outreach and program adoption
We’ll start with outreach.
OUTREACH — LETTING CONSTITUENTS KNOW ABOUT YOUR PROGRAM OR SERVICE
You have funds to provide services. You’ve built programs that are available to assist your constituents. But that’s not enough. This isn’t a Field of Dreams — if you build it, people won’t necessarily come. They need to know your program exists. And that’s where outreach comes in.
Outreach is comprised of determining who the services are intended to serve, the preferred channels where your intended constituents receive information the most and whether they may need the information in multiple languages. That will vary by your service and population. Approximately 97% of the population has mobile devices, and based on our experience, most constituents like getting texts about services they need. It’s important to reach constituents where they are. For constituents with mobile devices, this could mean you need to use text messaging or direct emails. For constituents without mobile phones, particularly seniors or those in rural areas, outbound voice calls via Interactive Voice Response work best to reach those communities. Other populations are present on Facebook or WhatsApp.
When multiple languages are needed, translations help reach your populations where they are. If pressed for time, automated translations can quickly be created leveraging Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) such as Google Translate. If more time is available, then localized and culturally appropriate translations can be created for each language or dialect your constituents speak, leveraging our staff and translation and localization partners. CCL has conducted outreach in 21 languages, including using audio recordings for Somali and Hmong (which don’t have official or widespread written languages).
Advertising can also be used on social media or other channels to ensure that your constituents are aware of the benefits and services that you provide.
ENGAGEMENT — CONVERSATIONS NOT BROADCASTS
The second step is “engagement.” It’s important to have two-way conversations with your constituents. When constituents have questions that can’t be answered, it may leave them frustrated or worse, unable to take advantage of the benefit or service they are eligible for. The other alternative is that they call or email your contact center or schedule an in-person appointment – all of which are more costly (to you) and inconvenient (to them) than the self-service options.
If you send out SMS messages to your constituents alerting them of the student loan forgiveness program, that’s one-way communication only. A constituent texts back “How do I tell if I’m eligible?” and you reply “Sorry, I don’t understand your question. This system is not set up to reply to incoming texts.”
If you send out SMS messages to your constituents about the student loan forgiveness program using CCL’s platform, and a constituent texts back “How do I tell if I’m eligible?” –you are able to have an SMS conversation that screens the constituent for adjusted gross income and whether or not they have Pell Grants, and the program replies back with the constituent’s eligibility to have up to $20,000 in student loan debt forgiven, along with a link to application resources and the ability to reply back with other questions that can be answered automatically by a chatbot. CCL enables two-way communications, whether that’s SMS, voice calls, or a chatbot or screener on your website or social media. You can answer basic constituent questions and direct them to appropriate resources, increasing constituent satisfaction and reducing the burden on your staff.
FOLLOW-UP – REMINDERS ARE CRUCIAL FOR OUTCOMES
After you make people aware of the services that are available and begin engaging, it’s important to continue the conversation to ensure that the constituents can complete the transaction. Using the channels that the constituents have been engaging on, we remind constituents to take action such as applying for a benefit. Reminders increase completion rates by double digit percentages. If you’ve ever had a doctor’s appointment that you almost forgot until you got a text message reminder, you will understand the importance of nudges. CCL also surveys constituents to find out if they were able to get the help they needed and if their experience was positive or negative.
FEEDBACK, DATA & REPORTING – DID IT WORK? HOW WELL?
The final step in this cycle is soliciting constituent feedback, analyzing the data and reporting. Constituent feedback enables you to determine if your constituents received the services they needed and how they feel about the experience they had. Feedback on a state health department program involving referrals for patients to non-profit partners for mental health service gave the agency key insights into service delivery and satisfaction by partner. Prior to collecting constituent feedback, the agency did not have this information. They were able to determine a more efficient resource allocation and to help address issues non-profit partners had with service delivery, helping both partners and patients.
Whether CCL is providing a screener, a chatbot, two-way SMS messaging, or a custom solution leveraging a combination of products, all CCL reporting dashboards have date, channel, and language filters as well as detailed aggregate metrics on messages sent and received, questions asked, actions taken (such as eligibility screener completions), and then product-specific analytics like most popular and least popular and most helpful/least helpful questions/topics for chatbots or screener results for eligibility. All dashboard information can be downloaded in Excel or CSV for importation to your source system and analysis.
This information is not just used to power dashboards, but to further refine your entire CCL solution, such as adding more training data for chatbots or revising two-way SMS communications to clarify constituent questions.
The data portion of our methodology can also be used to help identify and target your constituents, particularly underserved populations. For example, if you are looking to find your populations with the most health risks, we could analyze your geographies of service and overlay Social Determinants of Health to find the highest SDOH constituents. Or if you are missing contact numbers or email addresses for your constituents, we can work with a data partner to source those data fields to then leverage in outreach, engagement, and the rest of the cycle.
Lastly, CCL can assess program success upon completion. For example, using regression analysis on state Census campaigns allowed us to measure the effect of SMS outreach and chatbots versus lookalike populations that did not get that outreach (a 21-31% lift in census completion vs. control groups).