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How the East Texas Council of Governments provided vital social services during the pandemic


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This voluntary association of counties, cities, and school districts helps local governments provide social services for seniors, veterans, job seekers, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable residents in the area.

In any given year, ETCOG provides essential services to thousands of people—from job training, to childcare, to transportation, to 9-1-1 and other public safety services. But in 2020, when COVID-19 led to a tremendous spike in unemployment and other social challenges in the region, ETCOG’s services became more important than ever.

At the same time, however, the pandemic resulted in most of ETCOG’s employees to transition working from home. Vacating their workforce development centers, facilities to help seniors, and other locations could have disrupted the association’s ability to deliver vital services at the time the public needed them most.

But fortunately, ETCOG didn’t have that problem—because they had RingCentral.

An aging phone system not designed for remote work

When the full impact of the pandemic began to be felt in March of 2020, ETCOG’s IT team knew they had to act quickly to replace their aging phone system with a modern solution that would allow their staff to work anywhere. “We were facing so many communications problems all at once,” recalls Brandon, IT Systems Administrator.

“Our phone system was really a mix of several services across our sites, and none of them made it easy to set up call forwarding or manage call queues with people in different locations,” Brandon says.

Worse, just as the IT team was trying to figure out how to transition employees to remote work, the pandemic triggered a massive spike in calls from the public—for job placement, transportation, meals for seniors, and other urgent services.

Thankfully, Brandon was able to persuade the association’s leadership to fast-track purchasing a new communications solution.

“The procurement process went very quickly, at least for a government agency,” he says. “A key reason was that RingCentral was such a clear winner on each of our key issues: flexibility, ease of use, functionality, and cost.”

Continuing to serve… even from home

With RingCentral’s cloud communications solution, Brandon’s team was able to set up all employees with the ability to make and receive work calls from anywhere, using RingCentral’s desktop and mobile apps.

“RingCentral actually exceeded our goals for remote work capabilities,” he says. “Not only were we able to empower our staff to take calls right from their computers and cell phones, we were even able to give them services they never had before—like the ability to text message from their work numbers.”

Helping more people

As Brandon points out, being able to text through RingCentral helps the team connect more quickly and reliably with the residents they’re trying to help. “Before they call, they send a text telling the person who we are.

Far more of those first calls are getting answered. In fact, sometimes our employees are able to handle the entire case through text—they don’t even need to call.” And as Brandon notes, this means ETCOG can serve more people each day.

Originally published May 27, 2021, updated Jun 04, 2021

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