Building technological support for 211 agents with Twilio Flex and Twilio Autopilot
To ease the burden on the 211 frontline teams, balance the increased load across the entire 211 network, and enable them to help more people more effectively, Krausman and her team needed to enable 211s to send calls into a centralized location, and then bring on volunteers and leverage technology to answer calls.
They decided to create a test case in Ohio, where there are many 211 agencies covering different counties, and 37 counties did not have 211 service at all—a perfect scenario for improving routing and information sharing to better serve the community.
In three business days and over 16 working hours, the team built a system with Twilio Flex that enables a person in need to call into a single 1-800 number or be transferred by their local 211 to access assistance via the new platform. They are then routed through an AI-assisted interactive voice response (IVR) menu built with Twilio Autopilot, which answers commonly asked questions. The caller could then be further routed to a specialist if they still had questions or wanted to speak to someone.
Said Krausman of the routing, “We have a hybrid approach where depending on where you are and the agency in that area, you could get a live agent within Twilio Flex or even one who isn’t on Twilio Flex yet, but from a caller standpoint it’s really seamless. It meant we could get 211 up across the whole state within a matter of days, which was really cool.”
211 Manager Sawyer Baker on Krausman’s team has helped to continuously evolve the Twilio Autopilot-powered IVR bot.
“It was originally built to be for COVID-19 information from [the World Health Organization] and the [Centers for Disease Control],” she said. “But as more places started shutting down, we needed to make sure the bot had information about food and financial assistance too.” Creating the bot was an all-hands-on-deck effort, including donated developer time from United Way Worldwide friends like IBM.
“We want to make it helpful for the people who are calling in,” Baker added, echoing the increased need for human connection during times of crisis. “There are some things where the bot will give the answer, but then people still want to talk to a live agent. We needed to address that too.”