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211s Triple Threat: Leveraging People, Process and Technology for a Modern 211 

In my favorite movie/musical, the lead performer, Jack Kelly, is considered a triple threat - he can sing, dance and act.  In football, a triple threat athlete can run, kick and pass. 211s are also poised to be a triple threat in our service delivery eco-system as they leverage people, process and technology. Being a triple threat 211 with our people, our processes and our technology requires balanced timing that performers and athletes have similarly mastered.   

People – Without question, our trained and dedicated team makes 211 professional, empathetic and differentiates us from all of the other online databases or cold contact centers often found in corporate America.  

Process – Whether managing intakes and applications or using an inclusion/exclusion policy to drive our database, having established processes, procedures and policies ensures our programs are compliant with regulations and standards while serving the needs of our callers.  

Technology – IVRs, CRMs, databases, websites, texting and even our headsets are just a few ways 211s use technology to be efficient, scale services and enhance our accessibility. Scarce resources often limit our technological advances – but our ingenuity to do a lot with very little can make up for it. 

Here are a few tips to ensure we deploy all of our strengths at the right time to make our 211 a triple threat. 

People 

  • Train your team in I&R as well as a customer service. Think of the most customer friendly business in your community and invite them to train your team on customer interaction.  Prioritize your investment in people – this includes both our internal team and those we serve.   
  • Don’t use your highly trained staff to manage routine calls like scheduling appointments. Having a social worker triage times for a free tax appointment with callers missuses your talented team. Use online scheduling, interns or volunteers to manage these routine activities.  

Pro-Tip:  The professional human interaction your team provides to callers is like the life-saving service a doctor provides to a patient – and your organization should compensate your team fairly. Allocating funds from grants to fairly compensate your team should not be considered admin expenses but rather program expenses.  

Process 

  • Ensure the processes you have in place as well as those services you refer to are both non-discriminatory and inclusive. This includes having a database inclusion policy that reflects organizations that are friendly to people with intellectual disabilities, safe for people that identify as LGBTQ, or are accessible to non-English speakers and/or minority groups.  Just because a service provider says they don’t discriminate does not mean they are safe or inclusive. Anti-discrimination and inclusivity are not the same thing.   

Pro-Tip: Look for ways to streamline the overall service delivery process and consider enhancing a caller’s experience by providing direct service during the call like dispatching a Lyft ride or completing an online public benefits application with the caller. 

Technology 

  • Use your IVR and texting platform to manage heavy call volume and proactively share information about new or unknown services. But be sure to provide easy access to your trained team when managing crisis calls.   
  • Simplify your online search features to reflect something more like Google and less like the AOL homepage of 2003.  

Pro-Tip: Even if your 211 is not playing active role in vaccine scheduling – you can still help with myth-busting vaccine hesitant concerns by proactively sharing facts on your IVR, proactively sending text messages, and having banners on your website.