United Way of Houston Launches “211 OnDemand”

What is 2-1-1 OnDemand (aka Text OnDemand)? Imagine this, your 211 contact center is getting inundated with calls, texts, chats and your staff simply cannot keep up! Sound familiar? Instead of taking the hit on your dropped data, consider adding the following call to action onto your IVR – “Need help now? Get automated referrals texted straight to your mobile phone, just text 211HOUSTON to 898211!” Go ahead, try it (make sure you use a zip code from the Greater Houston region e.g. 77060). The functionality is undeniably efficient and revolutionizing. And, the most important component: OnDemand encounters look just like live encounters with a 211 Specialist, reinforcing the notion that a contact, is a contact, is a contact. With OnDemand Referrals, you’ll say goodbye to dropped calls forever. 2-1-1 contact centers across the country are launching OnDemand to fortify their response capacity, and not as a way to replace live help, but rather, as a tool to augment it.

So, how does it work? We actually built the prototype back in 2013 shortly after an AIRS conference in Portland Oregon. A longtime client asked the question, would it be possible to send automated referrals based on zip code/county? We said sure, why not? Initially, we built the service to operate independent of the CRM, however, we now support a connected version, where we host a live connection to your database and pull referrals OnDemand, it’s quite efficient. Back in 2013, APIs were still growing up, however, today, APIs are much more common and we are excited to provide this API technology and support to the field at no additional cost. For more information on our APIs, contact [email protected].

So, what exactly are the mechanics of 211 OnDemand? Here’s the gist: End user is encouraged to text the keyword (pre-selected for your OnDemand Instance) to Tier 1 US short code 898211 and then end user will automatically be queried for their 5 digit zip code and then, the system works its’ magic by sending the 3 closest referrals for the issue/zip code combination (numbers and content of the SMS flow are fully customizable). This process can occur as many times as needed and the system can handle as many concurrent requests as needed.

In the pilot, we built the system to manage just one taxonomy (social service) however, now, you can build your OnDemand to work across all your taxonomies. What’s more, they can be changed, in that you can swap out issues depending on the time of year or need. For instance, during tax season, adding an OnDemand can assist your agents with tax appointments/referrals to agencies that will help end user file their taxes. After tax season ends, of course, you’ll want to turn off that option. Now, this process is as simple as submitting a ticket to us and we’ll modify your OnDemand Triage for you in under 24 hours, so you’re never stuck with taxonomy queries that are irrelevant for the other 8-10 months out of the year.

Perhaps most importantly, now with OnDemand Integration, you only have to update your resources in one location, the location where they reside, in your CRM. With a live connection, we will pull the most current version of each referral through a fully automated and secure dip into your database. And this all happens in just a few seconds. Try it, we’re sure you’ll love it. Use OnDemand right beside your Specialists, push the most common, most repetitive queries to your OnDemand utility and enable your Specialists to focus on the more complex cases that require more than one taxonomy or those that require a compassionate person to assist. OnDemand is not meant for all types of I&R requests. There are those that simply demand human interaction. Simply put, 211 OnDemand is designed to free up your staff to focus on the more complicated encounters and be even more conscientious with them. It’s also important to note that every instance of OnDemand is deployed with the following caveat, if an end user’s needs are not met by the information they received through OnDemand, they are encouraged to call or text for live support from a Specialist. Live help is always just a text away!

211s are using OnDemand for after hours! OR switch it on for holidays and in-service. Instead of frustrating over complicated VOIP switches, turn to 211 OnDemand, and watch your numbers climb toward the good. Your staff, clients, partners, and board will all love you for it. Oh, and that pilot we did back in 2013? It’s still active today. The instance has sent thousands of automated referrals. Now that we’re able to connect to their database, we’ve cut out maintenance time associated with keeping those referrals updated. So, now it’s a little machine that is perpetually working to connect needful folks to critical food resources. All they have to do is stand by and watch as encounter after encounter after encounter accrues in their database.

Houston 211 will be adding a followup survey to each of their OnDemand requests, again, a fully automated QandA that asks questions like, “Were you able to use the resources we texted you?” “Would you use 211 OnDemand again?” “Would you recommend 211 OnDemand to friends and family?” In addition to the aggregate stats on what resources are requested most frequently, versus which taxonomies are least sought after, and all the other metrics associated with the OnDemand service, they are also able to answer questions about the service’s perceived value. In a time when quality assurance is at a premium, that kind of data is dearer and dearer. Moreover, we’re able to send all these results to their CRM so that they can manage every aspect of their OnDemand service through their CRM. With our open APIs, connecting to your favorite CRM is an increasingly simple step. Once we build your connection, we support ongoing monitoring and maintenance. As we like to say, when two systems talk, good things happen!

Want to learn more about our pilot project that started it all? Email [email protected]

Jonathan Holly
[email protected]

´╗┐´╗┐Mobile communications specialist in the fields of health and education using tier 1 SMS enterprise software

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