Key Considerations Before Outsourcing Your Healthcare Call Center

close up focus on call center headset device headset voip system with telephone answer machine technology at operation office desk for hotline telemarketing and network operator conceptAs much emphasis as there is on digital marketing – and for good reason – there is something to be said about talking with a person.

In fact, a recent study found that live voice remained customers’ preferred communication channel – and it has to be done right. Nearly two-thirds of customers will consider switching to a competitor after a bad phone experience.

In order to fully leverage this channel for growth, health systems need tools and resources that enable collaboration across the organization. However, many healthcare organizations face the reality that their call center is not integrated into their greater marketing strategy, in terms of campaign execution, insights, and ROI. But when they are, the impact is impressive.

We’ve seen clients more than double their lead-to-patient conversion rates when call center agents are prepared to take the appropriate, and proactive, action when someone calls in response to a marketing campaign. Unfortunately, many don’t have the manpower and technology to support the type of personalized and proactive customer experience they want to provide with every call center interaction.

In these cases, outsourcing your call center – either partially or in full – is a viable (and sometimes more effective) option. However, organizations need to find a true partner. After all, the person who picks up the phone is representing your health systems – and the experience the caller has reflects on your health system.

Let’s take a look at what your healthcare organization should consider before outsourcing call center responsibilities.

Consideration #1: Business Needs and Goals

As you consider whether to expand in-house call center resources or initiate a relationship with a third-party vendor, the first step is determining the business priority driving the initiative. It’s only through this step you can understand the ROI. Here are some potential objectives/goals:

  • Meet increased volume driven by marketing campaigns
  • Improve patient/customer experience
  • Optimize marketing impact

Identifying your organization’s primary reason for improving the call center helps you hone in on the best ways to accomplish it.

Consideration #2: Volume Expectations

Once you’ve defined your need, it’s time to quantify it. Is there an expectation for a consistent increase in phone calls due to ongoing marketing campaigns, or will call volume change seasonally or with an event schedule?

This is an important consideration, since adding staff – and the infrastructure and technology that will enable them to be successful – is capital and operational cost that not only takes time but also needs to show a return on investment. Alternatively, an outsourced call center already has staff and technology in place and would be able to adjust to changes in volume.

Outsourcing may also provide a security net as marketers may not know how customers will respond to campaigns. For example, one of our clients launched a digital marketing campaign that resulted in 75 percent of leads using the “click-to-call” button. An outsourced call center would be able to adjust to this unexpected volume while an in-house staff of three may struggle.

Consideration #3: Operational Readiness

Bringing healthcare call center functions in-house takes time, cross-departmental cooperation, and investment in technology, so consider if this timeframe aligns with achieving business goals.

For example, if the primary goal is to deliver a consumer-centric call center experience as soon as possible, expanding the call center in-house may not be the best option. Some organizations outsource call center functions as a way to improve patient experience in the short-term while they work through the process of creating an in-house call center.

Consideration #4: Integration and Insights

The modern healthcare call center serves multiple purposes that go far beyond simply fielding customer queries. It’s a channel that allows your organization to directly connect with customers and prospects. And, with the right technology in place, call center agents can proactively engage with customers, gather data, derive insights, and guide customers to conversion actions. Determining if an outsourced call center can accomplish these imperatives is an important consideration.

Evaluate a call center vendor’s metrics (numbers of calls coming in, wait time, average time on phone, connect rate) and be clear in your reporting requirements.

Some questions to ask:

  • Will a third-party call center vendor integrate successfully with your technology and be able to share information in a timely manner?
  • Do they have the expertise and bandwidth to reach all potential patients and consumers?
  • Are agents able to use and adapt to scripts and leverage other data, marketing collateral?

To drive results, an outsourced call center should act as an extension of your organization. Discuss with potential vendors how they support their clients in terms of technology integration and timely reporting. This will help you quantify ROI and understand what’s working (and what’s not) from a strategic perspective.

Final Thoughts

Providing a personalized and proactive customer experience through the healthcare call center is now an expectation of consumers and serves as a competitive advantage. Transforming the call center into a revenue-driver is not a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have in the hyper-competitive healthcare landscape.

Outsourcing some or all of your call center volume is a way to go-to-market faster and get this critical marketing channel working effectively. However, take the time to find a partner who understands the importance of driving results and can deliver on the customer experience your organization is looking to provide.  

Marti Van Veen

Marti Van Veen

Marti Van Veen is Vice President, Engagement Center & Practice Leader at Evariant. Previously, Marti was System Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Physicians Regional Healthcare System (CHS affiliates). Prior to her 5+ years with CHS, Marti was with HCA, serving in several roles over her 17 years with the organization.