What it means
The eligibility, enrollment, and approval process should be transparent and clear about next steps and the implications of any actions clients have to take. Clients should also be provided with clarity around any real or perceived risks associated with applying for benefits generally, or disclosing certain pieces of information on a form.
On the administration side, decisions about eligibility systems and applications should be informed by actual, real-time user data. State leaders should understand the user experience applying for and maintaining benefits within their system, and should make decisions based on that knowledge.
Why it matters
- Case Workers
- State Leaders
“I’ve heard that if I receive benefits now, it might make me ineligible for other benefits in the future. I need help understanding what I should apply for right now, and what this means for my future eligibility for other benefits programs.”
Case workers say:
“I want to know that the recommendations I give are the right ones for the client. I want to feel up to date on the policy landscape, so that I know how to explain recent changes that clients may have heard about in the news or through word of mouth, and understand what’s really happening.”
State leaders say:
“I want to improve our state’s online application, but I don’t know what the biggest challenges of the current application are. I need access to real-time client data so that I can make the right decisions for the people we serve, and understand the impact of those decisions.”
How to do it
1. Clearly communicate needs and next steps.
Communication from benefits agencies should be easy to understand and should clearly explain the implications of client actions and the consequences of inaction.
- Notices should be on time, not redundant, and have the most up-to-date information so clients have clarity on what they have to do next.
- Experiment with new communication channels to get in touch with clients, such as phone calls or texting. These can be effective for communicating about upcoming appointments, status updates, or requirements.
- Be explicit across communication channels about which documents clients need to submit for verification of eligibility.
2. Use real time data to inform decision-making.
Make sure you have access to—and use—analytics from your application funnel.
- Track analytics for your online application. For instance: How many applicants are failing remote ID proofing? How long does it take users to make it through the whole application? Off-the-shelf solutions like Google Analytics or Mixpanel make it easy to access analytics for any online tool or application.
- Regularly look at and understanding these analytics. Make sure you’re compiling an analytics report at least on a monthly basis—this will help you identify trends.
- These trends will show you exactly where clients are struggling and dropping off in your online applications. Use this information about the user experience to drive changes in your online application.
What we measure
Fewer Calls to Caseworkers
All clients should be able to easily find out what is needed from them, including identifying the right verification documents on the first try.
Less than 20% of clients should churn off the program because of missed administrative hurdles.
Deeper Understanding of
the Client Experience
Administrators leading benefits programs should be intimately familiar with clients’ biggest pain points in the process.
Michigan: Clear, Accurate Information for Case Determination
In the Michigan Integrated Benefits Initiative partnership with Civilla, our pilot helped caseworkers send text messages to request specific verification documents needed from clients in order to make informed decisions about their case. Because caseworkers could respond immediately to incorrect documents or requests for clarification from the client, problems that would take weeks to resolve via postal mail instead were corrected within minutes.
Colorado: Report My Changes
In Colorado, we designed a new change reporting experience that allowed clients to make informed decisions about self-service options to renew their benefits, while reducing the burden for caseworkers. Clients could submit reports without having to log into an account, provide collateral contacts in lieu of verification documents, and communicate about changes in circumstance.
GetCalFresh: Leveraging Data to Improve Outcomes
In an effort to boost approval rates, the GetCalFresh team dug into data and determined that more than a third of benefits denials were due to missed interviews. Based on user research and real-time data dashboards, we were able to better understand interview completion from the client and system perspective. This allows state administrators to make informed decisions, and partner with us to identify effective ways to remove this barrier for clients.