2020 Decenial Census Contact Questionnaire Assistance Program

Project Name:

2017 Decennial Census




06/28/2016 – 06/14/2021

Project Size:

$13 million (supporting a $50 million operation)


Client Challenge: Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau is faced with the challenge of building all systems, facilities, workforce, and processes required to successfully execute the decennial Census from scratch.  In 2020, it is expected that this task will require 25 1,200 seat contact centers housing 38,000 staff across the country to adequately handle respondent demand.  

Because of MissionSide’s experience managing the overall operations as well as the workforce management teams for the 2010 decennial census, we were selected in 2016 to manage the overall contact center operation for the 2020 effort.  In 2017, we conducted our first test of the end-to-end CQA operational plan at two sites in support of the U.S.

Census Bureau’s 2017 Census Test, a simulated census involving 90,000 households across the United States.  Utilizing their 2010 experience, the MissionSide team oversaw the planning, deployment and execution of the 2017 Census Test.

Description of Services: MissionSide is a subcontractor to prime contractor General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) and in partnership with IBM and various small businesses on a contract with Census to develop and manage the contact centers for the 2020 Decennial Census Contact Questionnaire Assistance Program.  This past performance covers the scope of work for the 2017 Census Test.

This work involves the following major tasks:

  • MissionSide’s principle, Adam Slagowski as key personnel in the role of 2020 CQA Director of Operations with overall executive operational management responsibility the 2017 Census Test.   
  • Oversaw the development and management of the contact center capacity plan utilizing our proprietory Contact Center Operational Planning Model tool.  
  • Working with GDIT and third-party staffing agencies, successfully staffed two test sites housing 190 total staff handling contacts via eight foreign language queues and TTY.
  • Oversaw the development of training curriculum and delivery of training for all staff. 
  • Oversaw the development of operational requirements that were used to develop, configure and manage the CQA contact center technology suite.
  • Oversaw the creation of over 100 Standard Operational Procedures and plans that governed the entire breadth of operations including quality, workforce management, exception calls, performance reporting, and training.  
  • Direct the daily activities of the workforce optimization team across the two test contact center sites plus the central, operational command center to ensure attainment of contracted service levels.

SLA performance: Met all contractually required and vendor committed SLA’s:
1) 80% of all calls answered in 30 seconds
2) 100% on-time training certification for all staff
3) All customer service quality and data entry quality metrics met.  

Customer support: The 190 staff answered phone calls regarding the 2017 Census Test including general census questionnaire assistance calls as well as actual enumerations.  In the latter case, agents collected respondent census data for those callers who requested that service or could not respond due to lack of access to a computer or internet.  Agents were highly trained to accurately capture census enumeration data in order to maintain the statistical confidence of the Census survey.
Document processing: One of the main purposes of the 2017 test was to confirm the viability of the internet as the primary response mode so no paper forms were processed during this test.  However, our staff enumerated over 2,000 households over the phone during the 3 month test.  

Demographic experience:  The contact center staff were mostly comprised of bi-lingual agents trained to handle calls in eight languages (English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, and Arabic).  These non-Spanish foreign language calls were recruited utilizing non-conventional methods with extensive outreach to the local community groups, churches, and businesses that cater to these demographics.  Also we worked closely with the Census Bureau to ensure all phone scripts and knowledge articles were properly translated with the correct cultural context in mind.
Continuous improvement: Continuous improvement took the form of three key realms:
Each agent was monitored and coached every day for both call handling acumen and data capture accuracy, a monitoring rate far in excess of normal contact center normal practice.  We were contractually required to provide same day feedback and coaching to agents to ensure any bad performance habits were eliminated quickly to ensure the accuracy of the Census test. 
We supported the formal lessons learned process at the end of the test which included extensive workshops, surveys and data analysis of all contact center staff which were thoroughly documented and used as the basis for SOP, plan enhancements as well as additional telephony system technical requirements for the 2018 Census Test.  
Implemented a formal agent feedback process through the CRM system to allow agents to log issues with call scripts, knowledge articles, and foreign language translations; as well as provide recommendations for knowledge article, SOP or CRM/call handling workflow improvements.   

Results Achieved

The 2017 Census Test was successfully completed under the leadership of the MissionSide team with several key results achieved: 

1) All test goals were achieved with all SLA’s and quality scores met.  The operations team was contractually recognized by the Census Bureau for outstanding performance above and beyond the requirements of the contract in the form of five positive Individual Event Reports.

2) Experienced extremely low attrition of less than 2% during the course of the test which is unsual for such a short period of performance. This was attributed to the extensive commitment to the mission of the Census test that we instilled in the team:

  • Constant and formalized solicitation of the operations team’s opinions and feedback on the tools and processes used during the test engendered a strong since of ownership over the success of the test and their role in helping us prepare for 2020. 
  • Transparent information sharing environment where the daily status of the test was provided to the entire operations team which engendered respect and trust.

3) Extensive lessons learned captured that were then fed into the CCOPM for the 2018 Test capacity plan, hundreds of updates to the SOP’s and plans, and further refinement of contact handling variables and assumptions to further develop the 2020 capacity plan.