During its 25+ years serving survivors and concerned citizens all over the United States, Appriss has set itself apart as an industry leader through VINE, the nation’s first and leading victim notification service. Appriss’ mission is a commitment to provide Knowledge for good™. For VINE, this means giving victims peace of mind through timely and immediate updates about changes in their offenders’ incarceration status.
At the forefront of this mission is the CustomerFirst Center (CFC), the world-class call center for Appriss technology solutions, including VINE — based in Louisville, Kentucky, operational 24/7, and staffed by more than 80 professionals on the front lines of product support. CFC operators are called Victim Service Representatives (VSRs), and they are deeply committed to serving victims and survivors during times of crisis. Their state-of-the art services ensure that each call center response is performed quickly and managed with grace and poise.
Appriss prides itself on attracting, recruiting, and retaining highly talented and motivated individuals from all over the country and empowering them to grow. CFC operators are no different. Many of them are victims themselves and perform their duties with a passion to help those in need. The CFC team has a strong infrastructure for employee support, with a low supervisor-to-operator ratio. This ensures that each employee is supported by strong leadership so they can, in turn, best support each customer. New VSRs are trained in an interactive, customer-focused six-week program, which includes sensitivity training to ensure they can empathize with victims and walk with them during challenging situations.
The CFC culture is centered around employee engagement, which translates to a better experience for the customer. Each supervisor has an open-door management style and values feedback from team members. Most new hires are referrals from current employees who love their job and want people they know to be part of the Appriss culture. Using its detailed scorecard of employee performance metrics, the CFC incentivizes excellent work, allowing high-performing operators to work from home regularly. As of early March, the majority of the CFC staff was already coming into the office just once a month. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Louisville, the entire CFC team was well-prepared to work from home and maintain a high level of service for its customers.
Helping the community during crisis
This structure has come in handy in recent weeks. As COVID-19 has spread throughout the U.S., most organizations have had to rapidly adjust how they do business and meet the needs of their customers. In many conventional work environments that are not prepared for a remote work structure, stay-at-home orders from the government might cripple the business. Not at Appriss, and certainly not at the CFC — which hasn’t missed a beat in providing services to customers in situations of need. The transition to full-time remote work was seamless for the CFC, which was able to lean on the work-from-home culture it had already established and became fully remote within a single day.
Because of the significant disruption to daily life presented by the coronavirus pandemic, “business as usual” is not an option for anyone. As the CFC considered ways it could help its community, it has rallied support on behalf of its home state of Kentucky in its response to COVID-19. In late March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which expands states’ unemployment eligibility in response to historic unemployment rates across the nation. In Kentucky, as in many states, unemployment applications have increased beyond the state’s response capacity.
Pairing the CFC with its court research team, Appriss partnered with the state to assist with its massive increase in calls about unemployment insurance. This initiative, called Project ApprissStrong, leverages Appriss’ unique skills and resources to help Kentucky respond to the unprecedented economic and social challenges presented by COVID-19. The CFC adjusted rapidly to take advantage of this new service opportunity, training its team in new material, introducing a brand-new product line and service, and answering unemployment calls on the state’s behalf — all in a four-day period. That agility is attributable to Appriss’ employee culture, remote-friendly work environment, and the CFC’s efficient workforce management processes.
The CFC has been structured with a servant leadership mindset: leaders supporting team members, who in turn support the customer. That drives better service, more efficient systems, and a strong workplace culture that attracts a certain employee base. A crisis like COVID-19 has only brought those unique strengths to the forefront and enabled Appriss to help its home state in a special way during unprecedented times.