Photo of magnifying glass

Division of Consumer Protection SUCCESS Story

jessicalarsen Success Stories

Goal of Success System

A key role of the Division of Consumer Protection is investigating complaints consumers have about transactions with businesses. The complaints vary widely and can potentially fall under one of more than 15 different statutory schemes enforced by the division. However, all the complaints have something in common: they matter to the individual who filed the complaint. Our division’s goal is to provide outstanding service to those who file complaints and to help ensure compliance with the law.

Strategy

A few years ago, the division identified a few key issues impacting the investigative team. First, investigators had 80+ cases to work and were essentially trying to work all of those cases at one time. Second, because of the high caseloads, new cases would often not receive immediate attention from investigators. And third, cases that could be resolved quickly might wait for many months prior to resolution.

The division’s approach to addressing these issues focused on controlling work-in-progress, reducing multitasking and prioritizing work. After studying data and reflecting on the problems, the division implemented a new approach to investigations: breaking investigations into two phases – Phase I and Phase II.

Under the new approach, most new cases are initially assigned to the Phase I team. The Phase I team gives immediate attention to the cases, seeking to bring to resolution all cases that can appropriately be resolved within 90 days. If a case cannot be appropriately resolved in Phase I, or merits legal action beyond a settlement agreement, the case is transferred to Phase II.

Phase II investigators generally work cases oldest to newest. Additionally, to help limit WIP, they only work the 30 oldest cases. As cases are completed, other cases are added to the list of 30 active cases. To help guide the Phase I work and objectives and to manage the handoff, the division drafted a guide with specific, standardized work instructions.

Results

The Phase I/Phase II approach, implemented in January 2017, has had positive impacts in a variety of ways. Most importantly, consumers are being contacted by the division quickly after filing a case, and many cases are being resolved faster. While surely other changes have had significant impacts as well, in tracking the implementation of Phase I and Phase II, the data shows a substantial improvement in the number of cases closed within 90 days and especially in the number of cases closed within 30 days. Since implementing Phase I and Phase II, approximately 57 percent of all cases have closed within 90 days, a near 36 percent improvement. This new approach has also freed the investigators to attack new cases head-on, as evidenced by the fact that approximately 33 percent of all cases are now closed within 30 days, a nearly 60 percent improvement.

Furthermore, likely due in part to these changes, the division has noticed a dramatic decrease in both the average and median number of days to close their investigations. The average days to close cases have decreased from 293 to 234, an improvement of nearly 20 percent. The median days to close cases have decreased from 134 to 63, an improvement of nearly 53 pecent.

Looking Forward

The division will continue to refine the Phase I/Phase II process. Additionally, the division is evaluating additional ways to prioritize work to ensure that the most important efforts receive the most resources.