Raimondo Highlights Unemployment Program’s Customer Service Turnaround

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Major customer service improvements made by the staff of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program have reduced waiting times by 63 percent during this summer’s recent peak claim period versus last summer’s peak period. These improvements highlight the benefits of the Lean Government Initiative. Governor M. Gina Raimondo today visited the Department of Labor and Training (DLT), which runs the Rhode Island UI program, to recognize the turnaround.
«The improvements at DLT show that the Lean Government Initiative can make government more responsive to the people it serves,» Raimondo said. «The staff at DLT is delivering higher quality, more timely customer service, which is essential to protecting a safety net for Rhode Islanders looking for work. In order to grow our economy, we need to stay constantly focused on making government work better for taxpayers and people who count on our services. I applaud Director Jensen and his team for making such incredible progress in such a short period of time.»

The DLT Call Center is the first point of contact for thousands of Rhode Islanders who file for UI and certify for weekly benefit payments if they’ve lost a job through no fault of their own. Call Center managers and front-line employees underwent Lean training between March and June to prepare for the one-month stretch starting in late June after schools have closed for the summer. Despite handling almost 2,000 more calls – a 28 percent increase – this year than last (8,780 calls from June 13 to July 15, 2016, versus 6,855 calls between June 15 to July 17, 2015), the UI team reduced call waiting times by 63 percent. The average waiting time in 2015 was 30 minutes and 44 seconds whereas 2016’s average was 11 minutes and 45 seconds. In addition, DLT is more timely in paying benefits than any time in the last 10 years. During June, 93 percent of new UI claimants received their first UI payment within 14 days of filing – surpassing the U.S. Department of Labor’s ‘first payment timeliness goal.’

«We called the process of getting ready for this summer’s influx of claims ‘Embracing the Peak’, and our UI staff wouldn’t have been able to embrace the peak unless they committed to Lean training, learned from it, and applied it in real time,» DLT Director Scott Jensen said. «By simplifying work processes, eliminating bottlenecks, and reducing backlogs, DLT saved more than $40,000 in overtime costs this summer versus last. To be able to quantify a costs savings is rewarding, but what’s just as rewarding is seeing morale improve and happier, more engaged employees in the workplace.»

In April 2015, Raimondo signed an Executive Order announcing her intent for all executive branch agencies to work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete Lean process reviews and initial Lean training for state employees. Raimondo’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget allocated $100,000 for OMB to support the initiative and establish a mentorship program, pairing Cabinet directors with private sector leaders experienced in Lean Process improvement. (Click here for more information.)