Communication Strategy and Operations

Communication Strategy and Operations

About the Engagement 

At the onset of the 2020 pandemic, a state-level agency received the task to distribute funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), acting as a grantee in the nationwide initiative that amassed approximately $46.5 billion. The program aimed to deliver substantial economic relief to assist households with low and moderate income who were at risk of homelessness or housing instability by offering support with rental arrears, temporary rental assistance, and utility arrears. In addition, the agency created the Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP), which provides rental assistance for landlords whose tenants are unwilling to apply for the ERAP, including where the tenant has left the rental property. 

Business Problem 

The agency had to develop internal policies and procedures to erect a grant management and administration operation within weeks. One of the business problems is that the agency required a comprehensive communication strategy and implementation plan to ensure efficient operations, to support timely grant relief disbursement.  

Challenges 

Due to the nature of the grant program to expend relief to two related but uniquely different audiences, a key challenge was ensuring adequate stakeholder management, specifically factoring in needs of both tenants and landlords. Within each stakeholder group, there were complicating factors and nuances around communication for each. Examples include: 

  • ERAP 
    • Communication approaches were needed for both tenant and landlord. 
    • Tenant communications needed to be available in different mediums (email, postal mail, and text). 
    • Text messaging, while convenient, also had limitations due to character limits. 
    • Landlord communications were focused on one medium, email; however, tenants were not required to provide an owner email address. In those cases, an alternative method, such as text (e.g., application submission) or call (e.g., automated calling) were used to provide important updates.  
    • Owner communication was provided only in English, while tenant communication was available in nine language translations, with the most common being English and Spanish.  
  • LRAP 
    • The LRAP was designed for Landlord communication primarily, with all communication notices being sent only in one medium, email, and one language, English.  
    • The one exception to this communication was payment notices; payment approval notices were sent to tenants by postal mail, in two translations: English and Spanish. 
    • Beyond payment notices, there was no defined tenant communication, because Landlords were not required to provide the tenant email address, which stifled the completeness of the data point. 

Project Impacts and Outcomes 

The engagement team worked with the ERAP and LRAP project leaders to develop the overall communications plan for tenants and landlords. The communication plan improved program communication and led to increased satisfaction from program participants. Notable implemented successes were: 

  • Communication Database: The communication database is the central repository for all matters pertaining to tenant or landlord communication.  
  • Communication Tracker: The communication tracker serves as the resource which identifies all outgoing communication, including the following data points: unique identifier, type of communication, audience/recipient, medium, number of applications impacted, due date of notice(s), status, and file path for the shared storage location.  
  • Customer Service Representative Portal: Bulk communications were managed through a central technology for transmittal in all mediums: emails, postal mail, and text. 
  • Client Review Tracker: The client review tracker captures notifications requiring the agency’s review, response, and/or approval, and includes a status/resolution of the notification. 
  • Notification Templates: Templates were created to support consistent, streamlined, and accurate stakeholder communication for tenants and landlords. 
  • Technology Oversight: The engagement team worked directly with development on application enhancements, routine maintenance, and as-needed bug fixes. 
M/WBE Customer Experience Journey Map

M/WBE Customer Experience Journey Map

About the Engagement 

The mayor’s office in one of the largest cities in the nation created a program to support minority and/or women-owned businesses (M/WBE). The program’s goal was to empower and support minority and women-owned businesses to foster economic growth, diversity, and inclusivity within the city’s business landscape.  

Business Problem  

The mayor’s office identified that there was a significant challenge within the M/WBE certification process. The engagement team’s goal was to identify and alleviate pain points that hindered efficient certification for minority and women-owned businesses. The complexity of the process often discouraged potential applicants and slowed down the growth of M/WBEs in the city. 

Challenges 

Some of the challenges that the engagement team experienced were administrative bottlenecks, unclear documentation requirements, and delays in the evaluation and approval process. In addition, the engagement team had to create and present the benefits of journey mapping. This process included identifying and defining key customers and services, identifying customer pain points, assessing strengths and areas for growth to improve customer experience and empowering critical experiences and perspectives that were underrepresented or misunderstood. 

Project Impacts and Outcomes  

The engagement team collaborated with the mayor’s office to build comprehensive journey maps, or data-driven visual representations of what customers experience (e.g., pain and love points) in their interactions with an organization. These maps covered the end-to-end lifecycle of a M/WBE’s experience working in the city, from applying for certification to bidding and winning contracts with the city. As a result of the engagement team’s efforts, the project achieved several notable outcomes: 

  • Business Participation: The simplified and user-friendly application process attracted a higher number of applicants, reflecting increased interest and engagement in the M/WBE Program. 
  • Diversity and Inclusivity: By addressing the pain points in the certification process, the M/WBE program fostered greater diversity and inclusivity within the city’s business landscape, aligning with the overarching goals of the mayor’s initiative. 
  • Stakeholder Satisfaction: Stakeholders, including M/WBE owners, program administrators, and city officials, reported satisfaction with recommendations outlined by the engagement team, communicating that this effort will drive to improved communication, transparency, and efficiency.