Idaho Child Support Services: ‘Let’s do the right thing for the family’

IDHW Innovation

The new customer experience

It seems we all know someone who has been involved with child support in one way or another – a close friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a co-worker, or even ourselves. Most of us understand all too well that being involved in a child support case is a delicate situation to navigate. However, in years past, it has been challenging for customers to call in and get the information they need in a timely manner.

On the other side of the process, it has been challenging for Child Support Services (CSS) to provide our customers with the help they need the first time, without transferring them from person to person. So, to better support our customers, CSS employees have made big changes to the way we do our work. We have created a new customer experience to better serve all of our customers, and we are now equipped to provide families with the information they need, when they need it.

The evolution of a system

For years, CSS staff have known that our focus on our customers has been compromised because we have had to manually navigate through our complex and cumbersome system to find the answers they need. Our systems and models of work were behind the times, and we knew it was a problem that needed to be addressed. So, it was time to make big changes. In 2016, the Idaho Legislature approved $24 million for a three-year project to upgrade to the CSS system and model of service. This project was designed to be a game-changer for the way staff do our daily work and interact with customers.

At the same time, we have shifted our mentality away from being “collections focused,” which means the goal was to collect as much child support money as possible, regardless of impact to the family. Now, the thought process for CSS staff begins by considering this motto: “Let’s do the right thing for the family.” This means, for example, working with parents to make sure the child support payment schedule is acceptable to all parties.

Personalized service for the families in Idaho

Three years after the Legislature approved the project, it is finally complete. The new, simplified system has considerably improved the way CSS staff work, and the project has been successful in improving the child support process and customer service experience for both CSS staff and for our customers.

With the new system, we have changed the way CSS staff are trained. Rather than training small groups of staff as specialists on specific topics, everyone is trained as a “generalist.” Now, when customers call CSS, they are not transferred around the floor from specialist to specialist. Instead, they are greeted by an employee who has the tools and training to guide the customer through the process until they achieve the customer’s goals.

The system enables the CSS employee to become familiar with the customer’s situation, and as a result, we are able to provide a more personal, considerate experience. CSS staff are able to interact more closely with each customer, to listen to the whole story of their situation, and to offer what our customers deserve – patience and empathy.

Doing the right thing

While learning many new skills and making big changes to the way we do our work, CSS staff have gone the extra mile to keep the needs of the customer in the forefront. Upgrading old systems and transforming the models of service creates a win-win situation for everyone, but especially for Idaho families. As CSS staff deliver a more personalized experience, we keep our focus on what is truly important – doing the right thing for the family.

This is part of an occasional series of stories highlighting the innovative ways Department of Health and Welfare employees approach the work they do every day to effectively and efficiently help Idahoans live their best lives.

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