The 2016 CRM Service Elite: Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency

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The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) was created by the state in 2013 to coordinate federal, state, and local veteran's programs and services, as well as to develop a customer service model to assist veterans and their families. When the agency was created, the state was last in geographic distribution of VA expenditures, and veterans seeking information, emergency assistance, or benefits ran into difficulty finding the help they needed. In response, the MVAA established the Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center (MVRSC) as a central coordinating point for all veteran services. In order to compile important resources and provide case management, the MVRSC implemented the Salesforce Service Cloud and integrated it with the Michigan 211 system.

The MVRSC is accessed through a toll-free number and is manned by live call center agents who are either veterans themselves or relatives of a veteran. By leveraging the state’s 211 system, the MVRSC has become the nation's first statewide program to offer 24/7/365 assistance to veterans. Furthermore, every conversation with an agent includes a discussion of benefits eligibility and a referral offer to a nearby accredited veteran service officer. These referrals can take into account where the veteran lives in the state, information gleaned using the 211 database.

The veterans who call into the system are often undergoing challenging circumstances—including homelessness (for which they receive immediate help) and mental health issues—and the ensuing casework can be complicated—coordinating in-patient care, taking care of immediate family and financial needs, handling referrals outside the agency. Using Salesforce's case management tools, including Milestones, agents can manage these issues while meeting service protocols and staying on task with the more complex cases. In addition, the system's tools can accommodate email and Facebook direct message queries, creating cases from them that can be tracked as well.

Since integrating with the statewide 211 system through Salesforce Service Cloud, the MVAA has connected with nearly 10 percent of Michigan's veteran population, assisted over 1,200 veterans who called after hours, completed over 6,000 discharge document requests, and placed over 3,300 follow-up calls. Salesforce's case management tools let the agency remain with a veteran's case until it is fully resolved.

"The MVRSC is integrated with [Michigan's] 211 through a shared knowledge base and a CRM platform, Salesforce, that allow agents to capture information as it is gained, craft consistent and stronger responses, and provide 24/7 wrap around care," said Suzanne Thelen, director of strategic communications and veteran engagement of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, in an email. Thelen also noted that Salesforce enables MVRSC agents to connect veterans with 211 agents in a single click, without requiring the veteran to place yet another call.

According to Thelen, the Salesforce Service Cloud has enabled the program's call volume to grow from fewer than 200 per month to more than 2,200 calls per month in one year's time. Looking ahead, the platform will allow the addition of key features such as fillable Web forms and case management through a "Web-to-case" tool.

"Salesforce allowed a very small, nontechnical team, with a limited budget for integration services, to build a fully functioning call center operation in a very short period of time. The reliability of the system ensured that our high-profile launch with the Governor of Michigan was successful and that we could scale rapidly as our call volume increased," Thelen told CRM in an email.

SINCE IMPLEMENTING SALESFORCE SERVICE CLOUD, THE MICHIGAN VETERAN AFFAIRS AGENCY HAS BEEN ABLE TO:

  • build the Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center, which took less than 16 weeks;
  • connect with 65,100 veterans in its first year—nearly 10 percent of Michigan’s veteran population; and
  • increase call volume from fewer than 200 calls per month to more than 2,200 calls per month.

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