AWS Public Sector Blog

Chatbots and call centers: Connecting with citizens during critical times

headphones and laptop

Chatbots and modern call centers provide governments with an efficient way to connect with citizens during critical times. Governments, health systems, and educational institutions are responsible for communicating and maintaining information portals regarding public safety, health and human services, emergency services, social services, and more.

Now more than ever, communities are turning to their public sector organizations for up-to-date information. As community members are trying to stay informed and make decisions in response to COVID-19, website visits and call volumes have grown exponentially. Organizations’ infrastructure have been put to the test to scale with the increase in demand.

These public sector organizations have had to quickly develop new ways to share information or improve on their existing systems so people can get the information they need, when they need it. Whether it is states connecting with their constituents, health systems helping their patients, or schools answering requests from students and parents, many have turned to call centers and chatbots.

Read on to learn from organizations across industries and how they have scaled their services to meet increased demand:

Easing stress on infrastructure and Rhode Islanders

In early March, Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training (DLT) website experienced 10 times the typical volume of unemployment insurance (UI) applications, putting stress on its 30-year-old system. The state also faced an increased volume of weekly continuing claim certifications, straining their outdated interactive voice response (IVR) and interactive web response (IWR) systems, leaving many UI beneficiaries frustrated by busy signals and poor response.

DLT engaged Amazon Web Services (AWS) Professional Services (ProServe) to implement Amazon Connect to replace the legacy IVR/IWR, expanding their capacity to take simultaneous calls. In nine days, the teams collaborated to design, configure, and implement Amazon Connect as a solution. Previously, there was only capacity for 74 concurrent calls. On April 19, its first full day of operation, the system was taking up to 1,000 concurrent calls per minute. Amazon Connect allowed 75,000 Rhode Islanders, which is one out of every fourteen citizens, to file continuing claims successfully.

Rhode Island transitioned from overwhelmed systems to high-functioning UI processing in less than two weeks. DLT is better able to manage the high call and application volume due to the enhancements of the IVR and IWR with added capability of real-time reporting. Now, Rhode Islanders have a mechanism that makes filing for benefits and getting paid faster. Register to attend the AWS Public Sector Summit Online to hear more.

Handling high call volumes of health helplines

Similarly, University of North Carolina (UNC) Health was experiencing unprecedented call volumes to their COVID-19 HelpLine. Patients had many questions about whether they should be evaluated for testing and about what to do if they or their loved ones were exposed to someone with the virus. Doctor Arlene Chung is the associate director of the program on health and clinical informatics at the UNC School of Medicine and lead informatics physician for patient engagement at UNC Health. Using previous experience building with Amazon Lex and designing chatbot user experiences, Dr. Chung and her informatics team were able to quickly build out chats for the UNC Health Coronavirus Self-Assessment and Resource Tool chatbot to be customized to their health system’s policies and guidance.

“The ability to use custom markup messages helped us to better define the user experience and timing for rendering each message. The built-in integration with Amazon CloudWatch has also been helpful in tracking what our patients need based on their responses and for us to evaluate where additional content could be provided,” said Dr. Chung.

Answering questions when transitioning students to remote learning

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest K12 school district in the US. In response to a request from the school district to transition 700,000 students to remote learning, AWS helped establish a call center to field IT questions, provide remote support, and enable staff to answer calls. This month, they also opened an additional phone hotline students and families can call for help to manage fear, anxiety, and other challenges related to COVID-19.

Learn how to build a chatbot for a school in less than an hour, and read about another success story at Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC).



In uncertain times, and any time, AWS is here to help our government, education, nonprofits, and health organizations achieve their missions. Learn more about Amazon Connect in the public sector, chatbots for education, and call centers. And learn how to optimize your call center to improve citizen services, and how AWS is supporting health and human services and K12 organizations. If you have any questions, contact us.

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