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How a Texas program for women and children reached clients and kept them coming back

All content and comments included in this piece were independently gathered by a Qualtrics representative based on a virtual session presented by the Texas WIC at the National WIC Association Annual Conference in June. No additional content beyond this presentation was provided by Qualtrics or Texas WIC.

Over the last decade, the Texas Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) has witnessed a decline in program participation. But about a year and a half ago, that suddenly changed.

In February 2019, the agency, which provides nutrition and breastfeeding services to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children, used Qualtrics’ customer experience management platform to launch two campaigns that became a true turning point for the program, Texas WIC’s communications strategist Jessica Leyendecker, MPH, said during a virtual presentation at WIC’s annual conference that a Qualtrics representative attended in late June.

After tracking participation on a daily basis, the day they saw that first year-over-year growth in 10 years was an exciting day, she said.

But how did they do it?

Start Now

In this day and age, most people don’t want to make a phone call when they can do something online instead, Texas WIC’s nutrition evaluation and data analysis coordinator, Debbie Lehman, PhD, RD, explained during the virtual presentation. In fact, clients requested online registration more than almost anything else, she said.

So the agency launched Start Now: a savvy digital marketing campaign that reached out to potential new clients via digital ads and encouraged them to fill out a short online form powered by Qualtrics. The form only took participants a couple minutes to complete but would then trigger the appropriate agency staff member to take action with a phone call or text to help that person get started with the program.

The agency had launched digital campaigns before, but this one was different: it had a call to action, Leyendecker said during the annual conference. Inviting people to answer a few quick questions to get started right away was just what the program needed to reach groups they’d never been able to reach before — and see growth they hadn’t seen in a decade.

Since the launch of the campaign in February 2019, the agency (of 680,000 participants) has fielded 189,000 online application submissions, Lehman said during her June presentation. In fact, they even had to temporarily turn the campaign off in April, just so they could keep up with all the submissions they were receiving while also adjusting their processes in light of COVID-19.

Leyendecker told conference-goers she doesn’t believe it was just a huge coincidence that the agency saw such a significant turning point in its participation trend as soon as they launched the campaign with their digital media outreach. It was the first time the agency had witnessed steady growth and sustained month-to-month growth in years, she explained.

Customer feedback

But the Start Now campaign wasn’t the only boost to the program.

Texas WIC was also looking for a way to, not just attract new clients, but keep other clients returning. When Lehman found Qualtrics after 15 years in public health and research, she knew she’d found something exciting, she explained to conference-goers in June.

The software offers the agency the ability to glean feedback from its clients, then take that feedback and act on it. It’s been an invaluable tool to help the agency keep its clients coming back, Lehman said during her presentation.

The Qualtrics customer experience management platform allows all 65 of Texas’ local WIC agencies to ask their clients via text about their experiences with the program. Then the agencies can take action on what they hear, and even coordinate data across all locations.

Lehman told listeners that the data they gathered helped them realize two core aspects that most affected their clients: customer experience and wait time/paperwork issues. The Qualtrics platform provided a way for clients to communicate immediately with the agency and even receive a response back if needed, she said.

The program also includes a “ticketing” process, which means that if a client mentions an issue that requires follow up (maybe a “trouble” word, a bad rating, or an indication that the client wants a call back), the form will immediately route that to the correct staff members to take action. It also allows people like Lehman to easily analyze the data and create visualizations to see where things are going well — and where the program is falling short.

Since the start of the program in February 2019, the agency has launched over 100,000 questionnaires, and they usually get about 1,800 responses a week. About 94% of the feedback has been positive, Lehman said during the conference. But that small negative percentage can be even more helpful.

No matter how phenomenal the agency’s services are, if the person at the front desk isn’t coming out with a smile that makes the client feel warm and welcome, it can sour the whole experience, Lehman said during the presentation.

The questionnaires often ask for open-ended feedback, too, that can then be analyzed for easy readability, or provide valuable testimonials. Many times, specific staff members are called out by name, and the agency makes a point of honoring those employees, Lehman explained during the conference.

One local Texas WIC director told Lehman that, as a result of honoring those employees, other staff now work extra hard to provide good customer service in hopes of being recognized at a meeting, he said.

Other local agencies quickly saw problems, like wait times, they hadn’t addressed before, and they were able to actively improve the issue with faster services and better staff training. Now they receive little to no complaints and can continue to keep a pulse on the client experience as service delivery changes, Lehman said during the conference.

The feedback has also been advantageous during COVID-19, as quick feedback on new curbside services allows staff to promptly iron out the details of altered processes.

The platform has let the agency better meet the needs of its clients in a more timely manner, Lehman said during the presentation, and has allowed the organization to come a long way in using technology to reach a part of its population it wasn’t reaching before.

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