Answering the Call of Duty

We have just wrapped up our second week working with the United Way of Metro Atlanta’s 211 Call Center (for more information on the 211 call center, check out last week’s blog post!).  This past week has been very productive and given us more insight into the problem we’re trying to solve this summer.


After analyzing some of the sample data we gathered last week, we decided to collect more data about abandoned calls.  Looking at the data from the past few months, we noticed that there are a few numbers that have called hundreds of times a month.  We will notify the 211 director of this issue.


Our main goal for the summer is to analyze the data to make a menu that benefits both the callers and the agents.  The current menu is pictured below.  Currently, the menu is long and repetitive with some inaccurate prompts.  Some of the improvements we hope to make on the caller’s end are condensing the information, taking out the repetitive sections, and allowing repeat callers to skip information they already know.

Call tree

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to experience the other end of calls by listening to agents handle calls.  This was very beneficial, as it allowed us to see what agents do for each call and what they would like to be improved.  The biggest potential improvement involves data entry.  All of the information gathered is manually entered by the agent while they are on the phone.  Agents have to rush to input the caller’s age, zip code, insurance status, employment information, and more while trying to find the best organizations to handle the callers’ needs. A way we hope to improve this is having callers input numerical data (phone number, age, zip code, etc.) and yes/no questions (veteran status, insurance status, etc.) before the call is connected to the agent.

To Get a 1-2-1 Response, Call 2-1-1

United Way of Metro Atlanta offers serious commitment to their customers to maintain full satisfaction and ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to thrive and be part of a prospering community. The United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta was the first to introduce a 2-1-1 service in 1997. 2-1-1 is completely operated by private non-profit community-service organizations. The organization offers variety of informational services that ranges from debt counseling and financial assistance to emergency food and homeless services.

We are a committed team of GATECH students that will work closely with 211 United Way of Greater Atlanta to help them reach their optimal goal to provide the best services to the disadvantaged individuals of the community. Our team consists of Hamid Mohammadi, a master student in the program of Statistics; Richard Huckaby, a student in computer engineering, and myself, Fatheia Ahmeda; an Applied Mathematics student.

We set an appointment with Mr. Zubler, the director of the United Way 2-1-1 on the 20th of May where we met at the Atlanta main office.  Mr Zubler gave us a brief introduction to the operation of his office that included a tour of the place. He was very helpful and patient in dealing with all our inquiries and he provided us with samples data that included records of day to day activities. The second day, Thursday 21, Hamid went back to the office and spent all his afternoon with the director to explore more data.  As a first step in working and analyzing the data we have  constructed a visualization diagram that displays the distribution of call volume for the top 20 counties in Georgia .

We are planning several approaches to work with the available data to minimize wait time for callers and optimize the Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) based on the analysis of the data.  Automating the routine customer service interactions is the most realistic solution to solve the wait time issue. The automated voice menu will reduce the need for agents to handle the call manually and thus decrease the wait time by a considerable time.

Several critical pieces of data are disparate across different files which makes merging the data for analysis challenging. For example, the file that contains the duration for each call is separate from the one containing the origin/location of the call and there is no unique identifier to join the records from each file.
As a team we are excited to face the challenge and exert our best effort to finish our tasks.