Project Category: Salesforce

The Air, the Sea, and the Cloud

Seattle Skyline with Mt. Rainer

Overseeing Seattle’s seaport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA-TAC), the Port of Seattle is a government agency that sits at the intersection of travel and commerce. Described as “one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading economic engines,” the Port of Seattle has historically received over 30,000 inquiries, concerns, suggestions, compliments, and complaints that have informed Port policies, capital improvement projects, community engagement endeavors, and recreational offerings like cruises.

The Port is on a mission to solidify its place as an international powerhouse in the realms of transit, commerce, and customer satisfaction, and it relies on correspondence from locals and visitors and travelers (hereafter, “constituents”) to do so.

However, staff’s ability to collect this outreach and act upon it accordingly had become increasingly limited by outdated and disparate technology.

Ready to tackle this challenge, enter the Catalyst team of Salesforce CRM and Marketing Specialists.

Setting the Stage: The Who’s, the Why’s, and the What’s

This project encompassed approximately 50 users within – and the business processes across – three domains within the Port of Seattle that manage operations for both the maritime and aviation factions: Commission Services (CS), Airport Customer Experience (ACE), and External Relations (ER).

  • CS supports the decision-making body of the Port, which is the five elected Port of Seattle Commissioners, in managing outreach, policy, and budgeting.
  • ER acts as the communication and public relations wing of the Port, overseeing newsletter distribution, email campaigns, and in-person and virtual events.
  • ACE works to improve the traveler experience for those flying to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In years’ past, there have been, on average, 50 million flyers annually.

Catalyst began our descent onto – and set sail with – the Port of Seattle in September 2019.

The legacy state of the Port’s technical ecosystem was deeply uncentralized, using seven legacy platforms concurrently. It was time-consuming for staff to tab between these different platforms throughout the day. These applications did not communicate with each other, compromising data integrity and undermining the ability to complete duplicate checks on information. Having these different systems also made it hard to standardize information for public-facing FAQs, as well as internal reference.

Salesforce was also a part of this array of platforms but had not been maintained or updated in a way that enabled the Port to take full advantage of the platform for several years.

The Port knew change was necessary.

The Catalyst team implemented a Salesforce solution that now acts as a centralized hub for the three domains to manage correspondence from constituents and fellow Port staff. Let’s now take a closer look at how CS, ACE, and ER are using Salesforce, particularly the Service Cloud, Einstein artificial intelligence, Marketing Cloud, and Social Studio products. For added convenience, our team integrated Salesforce with Microsoft Azure Active Directory, enabling staff to access Salesforce with their Microsoft Outlook credentials, eliminating the need to remember yet another unique log-in. We also integrated Tableau with Salesforce for more advanced reporting.

A Closer Look at Commission Services (CS)

CS is leveraging Salesforce Service Cloud to manage constituents’ e-mail correspondence with the five elected Port Commissioners. Salesforce has centralized constituent correspondence and contact information on the backend, enabling staff to provide more timely responses that can consider a constituent’s entire history of outreach to the Commissioners for added context.

Using one of the branded email templates coming out of Service Cloud, CS is equipped to handle a variety of categories of constituent outreach for each Commissioner. Similarly, they can also assign “tags” to certain cases of particularly high priority or those related to a timely concern.

For example, let’s say the Seattle area is impacted by wildfire, and 700 constituents submit concerns about safe travel, water quality, and trade implications as a result. In the legacy system, CS staff had to manually sift through Outlook and individually collect the 700+ constituents’ contact information to respond. Now, with Salesforce, CS can choose to label each of these concerns with a “wildfire” tag and then send an email en masse directly from the Service Cloud user interface with updates, restrictions, and safety tips to the constituents who submitted a case assigned a wildfire tag.

In turn, Salesforce has optimized CS staff time and productivity without compromising the quality of information concerned constituents can receive.

CS is also using Tableau for its reporting to identify patterns in the locations for which complaints are submitted. For example, Tableau can illuminate if there’s an uptick in complaints concentrated around Pier 66 and flag for staff if it’s a site of high concern and priority.

A Closer Look at Airport Customer Experience (ACE) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

First and foremost, the Catalyst team updated ACE’s instance of Service Cloud, running on the outdated Salesforce Classic interface, into the more intuitive Salesforce Lightning offering more robust functionality.

On the public-facing side, constituents can now contact ACE with questions, complaints, concerns, compliments, and comments about their experience at SEA-TAC through social media, live agent web chat, email, voicemail, text (SMS/MMS), and web form.

Regardless of the channel of intake, all correspondence routes to the Salesforce Service Cloud backend as a “case.” To minimize the need to tab between platforms, ACE service agents can respond to all correspondence directly within the Service Cloud user interface,

As is the case for CS, ACE benefits from the 360-degree view of the constituent Salesforce provides. The backend houses a constituent’s entire history of outreach on their contact record.

Since go-live, across all channels of case intake for ACE, there has been a 16.24% decrease in time for case resolution for SEA-TAC travelers compared to the same time period pre-go-live in 2019.

ACE and Artificial Intelligence

Let’s revisit that concept of tagging we first discussed with CS.

From “This security line is taking forever,” to, “Nobody at this gate is wearing a mask,” there’s several categories of outreach that travelers passing through SEA-TAC can submit to ACE that warrant follow-up.

ACE alone has historically received upwards of 12,000 cases a year, so it would be time-consuming to manually vet, triage, and assign each case a category upon entering Service Cloud. This is all the more true as this number of cases is expected to rise with the new channels of intake introduced through our implementation.

Assessing the volume of cases by category is an insightful report for leadership to identify areas causing concern. To be mindful of team time and capacity without compromising the importance of categorization, the Catalyst team implemented Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence product, to train the system to categorize by way of machine learning.

Let’s call out a few things on this contact record. We can see the constituent’s email in the “Correspondence” component, as well as Knowledge Articles that may help the customer service agent address this inquiry. We also can see Einstein case categorization at play in assigning this as a “TSA Precheck” case. Also note the entire case submission history of our contact Rosa is included for additional contact about who this constituent is and what matters to her.

We trained this system to assign the correct permutation of category and sub-category using 135,000+ legacy cases. In total, there is now a standardized set of 30 categories and 100+ sub-categories.

ACE and Case Deflection

We’ve discussed what happens when a case enters Service Cloud, but also important to note are the mechanisms in place to deflect case creation and offer self-service.

Our web designers built a mobile-responsive web form, hosted on SEA-TAC’s website, through which constituents can submit inquiries, complaints, and concerns. However, the intent of this web form is to deflect cases.

For example, let’s say a traveler at SEA-TAC is trying to learn more about rideshare guidelines to coordinate a ride after their flight. This web form first appears as a “Frequently Asked Questions” search bar. Upon typing in the phrase “ride pickup” in the search, the constituent will be presented with a drop-down list with relevant articles based on the keywords inputted.

The constituent has the option to upvote articles as helpful. If they select, “No, these articles weren’t helpful,” they are presented with the true web form to submit additional details. These details will be routed into Service Cloud as a case for follow-up.

Since launch, 88% of interactions with the web form did not result in case creation, which speaks to the efficacy of the Knowledge Articles presented prior to the actual web form.

The web form first appears as an FAQ search bar but will present additional fields to submit a case if the constituent can’t fine the information they need.

A screenshot of the automated messages sent by Mobile Studio – MobileConnect upon opting in. An example of a SMS message sent would be, “Construction in Concourse D begins October 22. Arrive early to navigate detours.”

ACE and Social

Social media is a tremendous tool for customer service, and ACE is tapping into the power of Salesforce Social Studio and Social Studio Automate to support its social media management needs.

We added 26 automation rules that run across the Port’s 6 social accounts for the Seaport and SEA-TAC. Now, incoming social mentions and tags are now automatically labeled with a “New” status to support an organized post cleaning and routing process on the Social Studio front end; this status indicates to ACE staff that the post has not been addressed for service yet. Post labels, like “question about COVID-19” or “complaint about restrooms,” are also assigned to inbound content based on keywords so staff can immediately know exactly what types of matters at hand need attention.

For broader social listening capabilities, we updated and re-configured social listening “Topic Profiles” to allow the Port to see discussions about Sea-Tac airport, as well as complaints and praises for topics such as Port of Seattle cruise lines, commercial fishing in Seattle, and the Port of Seattle brand as a whole.

Social media posts in which SEA-TAC is directly tagged, as well as those identified through social listening, can be sent to Service Cloud and created as a case for service agent attention.

ACE and Mobile

The airport regularly sends SEA Text Alerts notifying travelers of happenings within the airport. In the legacy system, the SMS messages used to be delivered within 1-2 hours of pressing send, but that’s not particularly helpful during time-sensitive travel.

With Salesforce Mobile Studio MobileConnect, these SMS alerts are now delivered in real-time, immediately upon being fired off from Marketing Cloud. That way, travelers are immediately in-the-know of what’s happening in SEA-TAC, from construction updates to airport concession discounts.

Here’s one of the nearly 40 branded email templates we built for the Port to share maritime and aviation news.

A Closer Look at External Relations

ER uses Marketing Cloud to manage opt-ins for, and the creation and distribution of, 31 categories of email newsletters. Similarly, our team migrated over 100,000 subscribers from legacy communications systems into Marketing Cloud.

Synchronization between Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud has been essential. By integrating Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud, our team selected data from Service Cloud into Marketing Cloud to be filtered and segmented for various marketing campaigns and Port communications.

Likewise, in terms of event management, the Port regularly hosts events at and around SEA-TAC and the seaport itself, and our team leveraged Marketing Cloud to support the Port in reconciling invitees, RSVPs, and attendees for Port-led events. Salesforce CloudPages, available in the Web Studio module in Marketing Cloud, are used to build landing pages where external users can RSVP to various Port events. Through Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder automation tool, the Port can initiate an invitation email allowing users to RSVP to the event, sending them into a “journey” where they will receive reminders, follow-ups, event details, and post-event communications, all personalized to each individual contact based on their behavioral triggers. RSVP and attendance data are stored in both Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud.

Training and Moving Forward

At this time, well over 80 hours of training on Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud have been supplied to the Port of Seattle end users through real-time and recorded sessions. Our teams are currently undertaking Phase 2 of work for Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud.

Digital Transformation that ‘Steels’ the Show

construction crane from the base looking up

The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) confers certifications to American and international architectural and construction firms, validating that these agencies are authorized to use structural steel in their development of buildings, bridges, and other structures. Garnering these certifications boost firms’ credibility, enabling them to acquire new business.

Catalyst implemented a Salesforce case management and staff-facing portal to support the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) in keeping all data related to certifications – from firms’ initial application to audits validating they qualify for certification – centralized in one place. We also integrated the case management backend into the AISC’s website so data regarding certified firms is readily accessible to the public.

The Certification Process

The certification process begins as the interested firm submits an application and application fee to AISC. Upon receiving the application and payment, the AISC then sends an auditor to meet the applicant on-site at their office to go through a certification checklist. The auditor takes their findings back to AISC and makes a determination that will inform the “decision package” to be mailed to the applicant.

If deemed eligible, the firm will receive a certification, while those deemed ineligible will receive a breakdown of problem spots to rectify to improve their chances of certification in the future.

AISC holds the awesome responsibility of ensuring the firms it certifies construct with caution and integrity. For this reason, it typically takes between 5-6 months from the moment of submission to certification, and the firms are audited once a year for certificate renewal.

The Technology Behind the Certifications

Pain Points in the Legacy System

Catalyst began working with AISC as they planned to sunset their legacy software used to house data about certified firms. The software was outdated and did not encompass the full breadth of the certification process listed above. The legacy system only managed the status of application payments and audits; it did not create or maintain auditors’ schedules, nor did it receive the firms’ applications. As a result, AISC turned to Google Sheets, Google Forms, the Microsoft Office Suite, emails, and physical Post-It Notes to supplement the legacy system, minimizing the possibilities for internal collaboration and leaving data strewn about in disparate platforms.

New Workflows, as Facilitated by Salesforce

AISC Web form new

This web form for applicants sits on the AISC website and is fueled by Salesforce’s web-to-case functionality. All submissions will be routed into Service Cloud.

Throughout seven weeks, we worked with over 30 AISC team members, conducting interviews and facilitating discovery sessions to identify gaps in legacy processes and how Salesforce could close them. The Catalyst team implemented Salesforce Service Cloud and Community Cloud to replace the functionality of the legacy platforms, along with an on-brand and mobile responsive web form that sits on their website to accept firms’ applications and funnel them into Service Cloud. We also installed the Nintex Drawloop document generation tool so AISC could generate certifications and confirmation of payment receipts directly from Service Cloud.

The web form on AISC’s website is dynamic, enabling interested firms to apply for the Fabricator, Erector, or International certifications based on the interests they specify:

  • Erectors more broadly install, repair, and maintain steel buildings and structures.
  • Fabricators bend, cut, and mold steel to create beams and columns during builds.
  • International certifications verify the firms meet the standards needed to build with steel abroad.

This web form routes submissions into Service Cloud, creating a record on the Service Cloud backend for each interested firm.

Salesforce products do not currently manage the actual application fee process, but each applicant’s record on Service Cloud does list a unique payment number. AISC staff manually change the payment status to “Received” and use the Drawloop doc-gen tool to email the applicant a PDF’ed confirmation of receipt directly from Service Cloud.


After an application is submitted using the web form, it’s details populate in a Service Cloud record and inform AISC’s follow-up email to the interested firm.


The Auditor Portal is accessible exclusively to AISC’s auditors and enables them to check what appointments they have scheduled, submit their audit findings (to be synced into the pertinent Service Cloud record), and review past audit reports.

AISC staff also use Service Cloud to manage auditor appointments and schedule their on-site visits. When on-site, auditors use a private portal built on Community Cloud called the “Auditor Portal,” through which auditors can submit their findings.

All data inputted on this Portal syncs to the applicant’s record in Service Cloud, enabling AISC staff to make a final determination about the firm’s eligibility using one platform: Service Cloud. To further reinforce Service Cloud as the new, sole source of truth, Catalyst also migrated data for existing contacts, certified firms, and over 15,000 audit records from the legacy systems into the backend.

If deemed eligible, the firm will receive a certification in the mail generated from Drawloop and housed on their Service Cloud record, as well as information about completing yearly audits to maintain their certification. If deemed ineligible, they will be mailed information about repeating the audit and a breakdown of problem spots as recorded on the Auditor Portal.


The Auditor Portal is accessible exclusively to AISC’s auditors and enables them to check what appointments they have scheduled, submit their audit findings (to be synced into the pertinent Service Cloud record), and review past audit reports.

The Catalyst team also integrated Service Cloud with the AISC’s website for its Find A Certified Company feature, which allows the public to search for firms within a certain zip code who are certified as at least a Fabricator, Erector, or International Builder. If the firm is listed as an active, eligible certified firm on Service Cloud, it will appear as a search result on this map.


All results pulled back from this search are active certified firms, per the Service Cloud backend.

What Comes Next

The Catalyst team has just commenced Phase 2 with the AISC. We are building a firm-facing Portal through which certified firms can log in, find information specific to their firm’s profile, such as what they are certified in and when each certificate needs renewal, and access exclusive resources the AISC publishes just for members.

Digital Media in Chicago’s #EmergencyResponse Plan

Since 2017, Catalyst has supported the City of Chicago in developing, launching, maintaining, and enhancing a non-emergency 311 solution powered by Salesforce.

This 311 solution – called CHI311 – encompasses a constituent relationship management (CRM) backend built on Salesforce Service Cloud, a public-facing web-based Community Portal built on Salesforce Community Cloud, the City’s first-ever public-facing custom mobile app, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud through which City communications personnel can send email campaigns and manage City social media accounts.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicagoans looked to CHI311 for timely and reputable information about the virus, preventative health recommendations, City shelter-in-place updates, and most recently, re-opening guidelines.

In this period of uncertainty, CHI311 has equipped City staff and constituents with the tools to navigate the pandemic safely.

In sum, COVID-19 related service requests were added to the Community Portal and mobile app, along with up-to-date articles regarding public and preventative health and Chicago-specific safety guidelines. Marketing Cloud was then used to create and send City-branded emails about available housing grants and community letters from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as well as to track constituent conversations about the City’s response to the pandemic via social listening.

Quickly Accessing COVID-19 Related Services and Information

As the pandemic first began to sweep the City, the City’s 311 call center experienced a 35% increase in constituent outreach directly related to Coronavirus inquiries.

Identifying patterns in these calls and requests, the Catalyst team stood up a “COVID-19 Assistance” category on the public-facing side of CHI311 in under two days. This new category of type codes was created to meet the constituent needs that were repeatedly asked for in the call center and in the expedited timeframe that emergencies mandate. Please refer to the screenshot to see the COVID-19 type codes added to CHI311 to date.

As time is of the essence in emergencies, we note the following turnaround times for various COVID-19 service requests:

              • The City has collaborated with organizations like the Salvation Army to respond to and close emergency food requests in 2.5 days.
              • General COVID-19 inquiries submitted through CHI311 are answered within 24 hours, with a staff member at the Chicago Department of Public Health reaching out to the constituent directly.
              • Senior well-being checks requested have been completed in one day.

7,000 COVID-19 requests were received by Chicago’s non-emergency 311 within the first three weeks of the City’s shelter-in-place.

These calls were deflected from 911, easing pressure on emergency responders and enabling them to focus on pressing matters during one of the most unprecedented public health events in modern history. Similarly, because constituent self-service has always been at the crux of CHI311, a COVID-19 emergency banner resides at the top of the CHI311 mobile app and Community Portal, ushering constituents to the City’s COVID-19 microsite where they can find the latest information from their City leaders.

Communication is Key: Marketing Cloud and the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 Response

Among the channels the City of Chicago used to communicate its COVID-19 response plan were email and social media, as facilitated by Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Catalyst’s Marketing Cloud Subject Matter Experts.

The Chicago Department of Housing
To ease financial strain provoked by the pandemic, the City’s Department of Housing (DOH) established a grant program through which Chicagoans could apply for assistance to pay for their housing.

Over 83,000 residents applied for these grants, and Marketing Cloud’s Email Studio module was leveraged to send applicants information about the grant program itself on City-branded email templates. Information moves fast in a pandemic, and the Catalyst team helped the City craft and send the emails at a moment’s notice. Applicants approved for the grant were also notified with an email sent from Marketing Cloud.

Personalization always matters in public sector communications. Constituents want to feel recognized by local government, and this is all the truer amid crisis. The City of Chicago flexed this personalization muscle with the DOH grant recipients. Personalization strings, driven by AMPScript (Marketing Cloud’s proprietary scripting language for advanced personalization in emails), were placed in email templates sent to grantees to allow for varying combinations of the following to appear in one email:

  • The recipient’s name
  • A survey link specific to that grantee
  • DOH contacts specific to their housing case

AMPScript made it possible to send one email that rendered over 250 variations based on the data being pulled from the Marketing Cloud contact list to fill in these unique data points. Rather than send hundreds of separate emails, DOH could send just one email without compromising the personalization the recipient needed and deserved.

From the Office of Mayor Lori Lightfoot

The Mayor’s Office also leveraged Email Studio to send newsletters from Mayor Lightfoot to subscribers, including:

  • An explanatory email in March when the pandemic first began to escalate discussing shelter-in-place guidelines
  • A voting-oriented email leading up to Election Day to recruit election judges
  • A community update to check-in with folks and bolster morale in Summer 2020 as the City slowly began to re-open

Within Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud suite of products is Social Studio, a social media management and social listening tool. The Catalyst team set up a series of social listening tools called Topic Profiles regarding COVID-19 to track constituent conversation, questions, and concerns around topics such as the virus itself, outdoor dining, and Chicago’s reopening plan.

Insights from these Topic Profiles were shared with Mayor Lightfoot to inform her communications plan, talking points shared in press briefings, and content published on the City’s website, social media and CHI311’s public-facing elements. The City also tapped into Social Studio’s scoring algorithm, called “Sentiment Analysis,” to determine the tone with which Chicagoans talked about COVID-19 related topics, paying particular attention to topics with overwhelmingly negative sentiment to inform where Mayor Lightfoot and the Communications Team needed to quell feelings of concern and fear.

On Your Mark, Headset, Go: COVID-19 Call Centers in South Carolina

South Carolina Drone Overhead

In times of crisis, state government needs to be a reliable and responsive outlet to whom constituents can report concerns, ask questions, and receive timely and accurate information.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Catalyst supported the State of South Carolina Governor’s Office with its emergency response plan called “accelerateSC” with a solution encompassing Salesforce Service Cloud, Salesforce Social Studio, and an integration between Amazon Connect, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) product, and Service Cloud to “stand-up” a cloud-based call center.

These systems work in harmony with each other to collect and manage COVID-19 related inquiries, concerns, and requests submitted by South Carolinians via web form, email, social media, phone call, and voicemail. Among the categories of cases submitted across the public-facing channels are:

  • Requests for information about COVID-19 testing sites, essential versus non-essential business protocol, schools and daycares, and volunteer opportunities
  • Requests for emergency supplies like PPE
  • Complaints (“I can’t get a straight answer if I can re-open my restaurant or not. What gives?”) Concerns (“This saloon is packed, and nobody is following social distancing!”)
  • General inquiries

This case study provides a deep dive into accelerateSC’s call center, though a more comprehensive case study highlighting the entire solution is available upon request.

Exploring Amazon Connect

The Catalyst team implemented a Salesforce Service Cloud backend for the State of South Carolina Governor’s Office to house all COVID-19 related cases submitted by constituents. To similarly bring caller data and call and voicemail metrics into the Service Cloud backend, our Salesforce Technical Architects integrated Service Cloud with Amazon Connect. On the Amazon backend, our team mapped out the various caller experience flows that would inform the queue into which callers would be placed for customer service.

For example, if the caller has a question about re-opening guidelines, they can press 1 to be placed into Queue 1 to speak to customer service agents especially well-versed in the State’s re-opening mandates. Conversely, if the caller has a comment about COVID-19 testing more broadly, they can press 2 to be placed into Queue 2 to speak to customer service agents who are most equipped to discuss public health and preventative health measures.

accelerateSC offers five different options for callers as a “Tier 1” level of customer support. More on the internal call escalation process to “Tier 2” later to come.

These caller experience flows are constructed by dragging and dropping various actions and next steps on a “canvas” available on the Amazon Connect backend. With this declarative build, flows can be modified within minutes. This flexibility empowers system administrators with the agility to keep up with the ever-changing state of COVID-19 and the State’s response to it and quickly adjust the call center’s offerings in accordance with the State’s evolving re-opening mandates.

Why a Call Center?

You may be thinking, why a call center? What about self-service options?

We hear you, and we agree that it’s integral that government agencies provide multiple modern and convenient channels through which constituents can get in touch with government and access self-service options. However, we affirm that a cloud-based call center is a critical element of the accelerateSC emergency response because:

  1. It allows customer service agents to abide by various COVID-19 specific safety guidelines, including telework and social distancing mandates. The accelerateSC call center forces us to re-define our conception of a “call center.” Gone are the days of multiple folks congregated in one physical location, anchored down by phone cords. Instead, as a cloud-based call center, customer service agents can answer calls wherever they have their computer, their Internet browser, and connectivity. As the pandemic has ushered in a “new normal,” many accelerateSC customer service agents are working and accepting calls from home. Cloud-based call centers are also more scalable than their physical counterparts, as there is no need to carve out a physical space for a new customer service agent to sit. Rather, new hires are just assigned a license and log-in credentials.
  2. Cloud-based solutions can be stood up more quickly than a physical call center space. The integration between Service Cloud and Amazon Connect was executed in approximately one week, in keeping with the expedited timelines that emergencies like the pandemic mandate to keep up with the influx in call volume.
  3. There is comfort in hearing another voice on the other end, especially during crisis, hence why many South Carolinians have turned to calling in their COVID-19 concerns. In fact, in the case of State A, the most common channel through which constituents submit cases is indeed a phone call.

The State’s Hotline Experience

From an Agent’s Perspective

The five queues for the accelerateSC customer service hotline each have multiple agents, so there’s many hands “on deck” readily available to accept incoming calls. The Catalyst team set a rule on the Amazon Connect backend that automatically routes the next incoming caller to the agent who has had their status of “Available” (e.g. not on a call) for the longest amount of time for evenly distributed personnel productivity.

Upon being notified they have an incoming call, the agent can reject or accept the phone call. When the call is accepted, the agent’s status automatically changes to “Busy,” which tells the system to prioritize finding another agent who is available to accept the next call in that particular queue. Similarly, upon accepting, we can see the power of the Salesforce – Amazon Connect integration, which emphasizes the value of establishing Service Cloud as our data’s source of truth.

The Salesforce solution will automatically “scan” the phone number associated with the incoming call to see if the number already exists in the system. If it indeed does, the agent will see that caller’s contact “profile” pop up on their Service Cloud view, which enables them to review that caller’s personal information, like their name, as well as their history of interactions with accelerateSC. This can be a particularly valuable way to give the agent context about the call, and it can facilitate conversation smoothly by giving the agent the power to ask questions like, “Would this concern be in any way related to the case you submitted last Monday to accelerateSC?”

Should a constituent have a question that can only be resolved with subject matter expertise from a specific South Carolina department, the system facilitates an internal escalation and transfer process from agent-to-agent. By simply pressing a button on the Service Cloud backend, the agent can route the constituent’s call to the queue for a specific representative from the pertinent state department, which in turn notifies them. We emphasize the option to escalate exists only on the agent view; constituents themselves cannot “bypass” this first level of Tier 1 customer agents to get to a specific department.

After the agent ends their call, the system does not automatically change their status from “Busy” to “Available,” but rather allows the agent to have a period of “administrative time.” Tasks to be completed during administrative time include more comprehensively filling out the case record, such as specifying the case’s category, and typing out a “recap” of the call on the case’s “Notes” section.

Upon completing these administrative items, the agent can manually change their status to “Available” once again.

As referenced above, integrating to Amazon Connect allows the Catalyst and accelerateSC teams to tap into the power of Alexa voice recognition technology. All calls are recorded, and all calls and voicemails are transcribed. The transcription can be attached onto the case record.

Similarly, at any given time, system administrators like Call Center Managers can view all ongoing calls happening in that moment and listen into them to hear firsthand how agents and constituents interact.

From a Caller’s Perspective
Upon dialing in, a cheery, human voice – not an automated, robotic one – greets callers and presents them with their options upon dialing into the hotline. The Catalyst team uploaded voice notes recorded by the Governor’s Office Strategic Communications team to represent each of these different customer service queues. These are trying times, and the accelerateSC and Catalyst teams were bullish about adding as much of a human “flair” as possible into this system to reassure South Carolinians that their government is indeed listening.

After the caller selects their option, they enter the appropriate queue and wait for the customer service agent to answer. Callers can be notified of their position (e.g. “You are caller number two”) in the queue to gauge a possible wait time.

Notably, the average wait time to get in touch with an accelerateSC agent – regardless of queue – is under 2 minutes.
This has remained consistent, even though the number of cases created through the phone has exceeded over 250 calls per day. Callers can also leave a voicemail or request a callback from an agent, if desired. If the constituent asks for a callback, the solution keeps their place in the queue as a “placeholder” as if they were actually still on the line. The agent will call them back once reaching this position in the queue.

Fostering an Environment with Low Wait Times

Time is of the essence in emergency situations. Amid the pandemic, folks understandably want answers – fast. To ensure constituents can speedily get in touch with an accelerateSC agent during business hours, the Catalyst team configured a handful of rules on the system backend:
The solution automatically sends a text message to the Call Center Manager on duty that day if there are more than 15 people in a queue at any given time.
The solution automatically sends a text message to the Call Center Manager on duty that day if any caller has been in a queue for more than 15 minutes.

These notifications empower the Manager to employ an “all hands on-deck” approach and request additional agents log on during particularly busy times to most efficiently navigate the high volume of calls.

Managing Unemployment and Crisis in the State of South Carolina

Millions of Americans are out of work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to job losses throughout South Carolina, the State’s Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) sought a case management solution to manage unemployment inquiries about claims and benefits asked via email.

The Problem

Previously, DEW managed inquiries strictly through a Microsoft Outlook inbox, to which twelve employees had access. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, this inbox received over 1,000 inquiries a day, and many unfortunately went unaddressed as the inbox could not support the volume of responses. In this legacy inbox, the only way for the employees to confirm if an inquiry was addressed was through the read receipt or if they contacted their team manually via Microsoft’s internal instant messaging chat.

As more South Carolinians were out of work, DEW knew change was necessary to support its constituents.

The Solution

In response, Catalyst launched a Salesforce case management solution to support DEW staff with centralizing constituent unemployment inquiries and claims. With Salesforce serving as the source of truth for email inquiries, DEW staff can now effectively respond to all constituent concerns in a timely fashion. Among these outreach categories are: Appeals Inquiry, Checking Claim Status, Collections, Employer Inquiry, Issue on Claim, Overpayment Issue, and Reporting of Fraud.

Success with Salesforce Service Cloud

The email-to-case management solution for DEW is built on Salesforce Service Cloud, and our team created a forwarding rule from this inbox that automatically routes correspondence into Salesforce and creates a case. To ensure the case indeed lands in a customer support agent’s hands, the Salesforce system is configured with a “round robin.” That is, it will automatically assign cases to agents, ensuring they are evenly distributed so no one resource is inundated with cases.

There are a series of checks the case undergoes upon its receipt in Service Cloud, as facilitated by case escalation and automated notifications to confirm it receives the most timely and satisfactory attention.

The case undergoes a manual QA “spot-check” by its assigned agent to ensure the newly-created record warrants a response and is not a spam message.

If the case passes the QA check and is marked as warranting follow-up from its assigned agent, the Salesforce solution will automatically send a “confirmation of receipt” email to the constituent so they can rest assured knowing their concerns are heard. (Left screenshot)

The agent assigns either a “high” or “urgent” priority level depending on the request or inquiry.

If assigned “urgent,” the case’s status must be set from “new” to “in progress” within one hour of being assigned this status. Otherwise, a series of notifications are sent to internal stakeholders to ensure these matters get taken care of immediately to prevent service level agreement (SLA) breach.

Finally, upon resolving the problem, the agent can send a resolution email to the constituent and leverage one of the DEW-branded email templates our team built for them. (Right screenshot.)

With Salesforce serving as the source-of-truth, the team at DEW can pull reports and dashboards more quickly than before. Using the legacy inbox, all data was pulled manually and housed in a series of Excel spreadsheets. Salesforce now allows for the intuitive creation of reports and dashboards on all data within the system, and DEW administrators can even schedule these metrics to send every morning to stakeholders’ inboxes for an assessment of personnel performance, the types of cases coming in, and how long it takes for staff to resolve them.

Getting Off the Ground Quickly

Supporting those who have been laid off is a critical part of any holistic emergency response. We’ve been able to expedite our project delivery for DEW by leveraging the architecture of the Salesforce emergency case management solution we built for accelerateSC, the COVID-19 response plan spearheaded by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, through which constituents can submit COVID-19 related inquiries and requests for emergency support.

In all, we deployed the Agency’s solution in two weeks and leveraged an additional two weeks for ongoing enhancements post go-live.

Impact and Results

Cases are currently being closed in under two business days, providing resolution to constituents’ unemployment inquiries more quickly than in the legacy system.

Collaboration With the State of South Carolina to Respond to COVID-19

In times of crisis, state government needs to be a reliable and responsive outlet to whom constituents can report concerns, ask questions, and receive timely and accurate information.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Catalyst supported the State of South Carolina Governor’s Office with its emergency response plan called “accelerateSC” by way of a Salesforce Service Cloud and Social Studio implementation, as well as a cloud-based call center. These new systems work with each other to collect and manage COVID-19 related inquiries, concerns, and requests submitted by the residents of the State via web form, email, phone call, and social media.

This project was delivered in under 5 weeks, in keeping with the rapid timeline emergencies mandate.

The Public-Facing Channels

The COVID-19 crisis ushered in unprecedented circumstances; in response, the Catalyst and accelerateSC teams were bullish about establishing accessible and modern interfaces through which constituents are already accustomed to requesting services to get in touch with their government amid the pandemic. The channels through which constituents can now submit inquiries, concerns, and requests are email, Facebook, Twitter, a web form, and phone, as we stood up a digital call center with infrastructure supported by Amazon Web Services. A standalone case study about this call center is available upon request.

Note that, upon being submitted, these touchpoints are automatically routed into Salesforce as “cases,” at which point they can be addressed and resolved by customer service agents and departmental subject matter experts.

Deploying Salesforce Service Cloud

The Catalyst team implemented a case management system in Salesforce Service Cloud for accelerateSC in order to house all COVID-19 related cases submitted by citizens. Cases submitted across the public-facing channels include:

  • Requests for information about COVID-19 testing sites, essential versus non-essential business protocol, schools and daycares, and volunteer opportunities
  • Requests for emergency supplies like PPE
  • Complaints (“I can’t get an answer if I can re-open my restaurant or not. What gives?”)
  • Concerns (“This saloon is packed, and nobody is following social distancing!”)
  • General inquiries

A Knowledge Article in Service Cloud that was created to standardize the response to a question citizens frequently asked: should I wear a mask?

Once routed into Service Cloud, customer service staff triage the concerns among Tier 1 and Tier 2 support agents. Tier 1 agents handle more “straightforward” concerns that do not require niche departmental subject matter expertise for issue resolution. For additional guidance, Catalyst stood up a “Knowledge Base” populated with answers to frequently asked questions (see above) that agents can reference to provide the most accurate and standardized response to constituent inquiries.

To ensure closed-loop communication with constituents during this sensitive time, the Service Cloud backend can also send emails to the submitter notifying them of their case’s updates and ultimate resolution. Meanwhile, on the backend, agents engage with a “contact record” and a “case record” (shown below).

A contact record in the Service Cloud backend houses a constituent’s phone number and email, the history of the State’s interaction
with them, as well as their history of case submissions. Identifying information for the constituent and client has been removed.


A case record includes the submitter’s name and contact information, the category and details of the submission, the State
staffer(s) working to resolve the case, the status of the case, and recent activity and correspondence related to this case’s
resolution. Identifying information for the constituent and client has been removed.

Social to Case

Today, public sector agencies must leverage social media as a channel to engage with their constituency. This is all the more true in an emergency, when constituents demand quick and convenient channels like social platforms to request the information and services they need. In the same vein as email-to-case, web-to-case, and phone-to-case capabilities, South Carolina residents can submit COVID-19 related inquiries and requests via social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook. Leveraging Salesforce Social Studio’s social-to-case functionality, these posts can then be immediately routed to Service Cloud for fast resolution.

On the frontend, South Carolinians can “tag” and direct message (DM) accelerateSC on Twitter and Facebook, asking a question or requesting help. On the backend, the post and/or DM populates in Social Studio. Leveraging backend automation fueled by Salesforce’s Social Studio Automate, posts populate in columns driven by rules and conditions set by the Catalyst and accelerateSC teams. For example, all incoming Twitter mentions and Facebook posts are housed in a separate column than incoming messages and DMs, though in the same Social Studio “Engage” dashboard view. As such, the social team gets a 360-degree view of all activity on a social account and can engage in a back-and-forth with constituents in an organized fashion, as well as send the case to Service Cloud to create a case and allow for the pertinent departments to investigate and resolve the matter. But the benefits of Social Studio stretch beyond social-to-case.

An example of a constituent tweet that could be made a case.

Intersection of Salesforce Social Studio, Social Media and Public Relations

With Social Studio, accelerateSC can now monitor constituent satisfaction with its emergency response on social media channels via social listening functions. These functions provide direct insight into the constituency’s feelings (positive or negative) regarding the response and other relevant topics, allowing the Governor’s Office to adjust its messaging and strategic communications accordingly, as well as schedule regular and emergency social media posts using Social Studio Publish.

Besides technology consulting, Catalyst resources also supported accelerateSC’s public relations efforts to advise upon messaging and framing used in social media posts and DM responses to transparently and effectively respond to and quell constituent feelings of frustration, fear, and anger.

Social Listening and Social Media Management
Using Social Studio’s robust reporting and analytics offerings, accelerateSC can monitor keywords to assess what constituents are saying about a given topic, evaluate constituents’ sentiment associated with that topic, and then use that feedback to inform its ongoing COVID-19 communications plan. For example, if keywords or phrases such as “South Carolina unemployment benefits” is identifying a pull in a lot of posts with a negative tone, the Governor’s Office’s Strategic Communications Team knows it needs to publish more resources to manage expectations better and clarify who receives unemployment benefits and when.

accelerateSC is also leveraging Social Studio’s Publish functionality to regularly post on Twitter and Facebook by sharing COVID-19 related news, resources, and re-opening guidelines. The accelerateSC team builds a content calendar with scheduled posts on a week-by-week basis, but also sends one-off posts to reach a broad audience quickly with emergency information and “breaking news.”

In all, accelerateSC has built “brand recognition” through social media and has solidified its place as a reputable outlet for COVID-19 information.

Notably, reports that were previously pulled manually from social media profiles and inserted into Excel via the native social application’s “Analytics” features are now run automatically in Social Studio and sent to the pertinent stakeholders’ email inboxes every morning as a visually-appealing and comprehensible dashboard. These reports ensure they start their day with an actionable view of the previous day’s activity on socials, as well as historical data of constituent sentiment on various topics related to the pandemic.

End User Training and Post Launch Support

End user adoption is always crucial, and this was deepened with accelerateSC end users given that these systems would be used to support an emergency response. Their self-sufficiency and confidence using the new Salesforce solutions would impact their ability to provide the best customer service possible to South Carolinians during challenging times.

In sum, the Catalyst team trained over 60 users on Service Cloud and Social Studio capabilities via remote training sessions and written training documentation. At all times, we kept it front-of-mind to communicate accessibly to empower end users of all levels of technical confidence with their new systems. To date, we have provided over 80 hours of post-launch support via “war rooms” and one-on-one sessions to ensure system stability and provide a helping hand to end users who had a one-off question or needed assistance while troubleshooting.