6 Steps to Crafting Effective Healthcare Call Center Scripts

Today’s high-tech environment has led to a significant shift in how consumers interact with businesses: It’s digital-first, from the initial search process to the customer service outreach – and it’s also omni-channel.

It was only a couple of decades ago, however, that phone-based communication was the norm.

call center agent reading scriptThink back to when your mother turned to the landline phone to dial the operator, searching for your pediatrician’s phone number after a soccer game left you with a badly sprained ankle. The operator would have transferred her to the physician’s secretary, whom she likely knew on a first-name basis. Or, her call may have been answered by the doctor himself.

Imagine the same scenario today: A young mother would have an entirely different set of expectations when contacting and engaging with a health system. The initial search would happen online, with high-speed Internet taking the place of the phone-based operator. The call is expected to be quick and convenient, but not robotic – and, while this mother likely won’t know the person on the other line, the agent must maintain a level of friendliness and personability in order to build trust and encourage engagement.

This is where call center scripts come into play. 

To remain competitive, health systems must prioritize customer experience in order to attract and retain patients. Phone calls are still the most common mode of patient communication – whether it’s an appointment request, a question for their physician, or a prescription refill request. Thus, a great deal of responsibility is placed on the call center to act as the voice of the health system, serving as brand ambassadors and, to a certain extent, salespeople.
Of course, patient-to-health system calls are complicated by default; most involve highly personal or emotional subject matter. When a healthcare organization replaces their front desk secretary with a centralized contact center without the proper tools, technology, and training, consumers may feel that the ‘personal touch’ has been lost, detracting from their perception of the health system and the associated care. The best way to remedy these concerns is by ensuring calls are consistent, professional, and personal. How? By paying close attention to your healthcare call center scripts. 

In this blog, I’ll point out some of the challenges of healthcare call scripting, how best to train contact center agents, and best practices to keep in mind during the scripting process. 

How to Craft Effective Healthcare Call Center Scripts

To write healthcare engagement center scripts that feel natural, personal, and – ideally – unscripted, follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Implement the Right Technology

Healthcare call center scripts are of little use if your agents don’t have the right technology in place to quickly access caller information, determine the type of call, and pull up the script on their screen. Better yet, scripts ought to pre-populate as soon as the caller and type of inquiry is known. Otherwise, valuable time is lost to an unstructured conversation where the agent will need to ask repeat questions or put the caller on hold to search for the appropriate script. 

A CRM-enabled Engagement Center solution prevents wasted time and streamlines the entire contact center’s day-to-day operations by merging relevant customer data into the call center workflow. The Engagement Center platform pulls information from both the HCRM and EHR databases – which means agents see immediately whether the caller is an existing patient or new prospect, whether they’ve called before, and what their history is with the health system (including past campaign responses). 

Because agents start with some basic information about the caller through CTI integration, agents can quickly verify critical information rather than spending several minutes collecting demographics like name, date of birth, etc. Additionally, scripts may be programmed into the workflow to cater to the expected inquiry type based on the patient data. 

Step 2: Involve Call Center Agents in the Scripting Process

Your agents are the ones spending the majority of their time getting familiar with customer needs, fielding questions, and learning about common pain points. Therefore, it makes sense that they be heavily involved in the scripting process. 

This can happen through brainstorming sessions, one-on-one meetings with team leads or managers, or collaborative call coaching sessions during which a call recording is played aloud and analyzed in order to refine or improve an existing script. 

Step 3: Promote Authentic Conversation

Once scripts are finalized and approved by necessary stakeholders, contact center managers should welcome feedback and encourage agents to slightly adjust their phrasing to whatever feels most natural. It’s important to train agents so that they use scripts as a rough guide rather than a text that must be read verbatim. 

Encouraging agents to use their own verbiage (as long as they do so appropriately) will help conversations feel more natural, personalized, and tailored to the individual. For example, if an agent is more comfortable using the word “doctor” as opposed to “physician” on calls, he or she should feel free to continue to do so.  

Ultimately, conversations with patients ought to be focused on building a lasting relationship, which means patients should never feel rushed, pressured, or judged by the person with whom they’re speaking. 

Step 4: Prioritize Scripts Based on Call Volume

healthcare call centerIf your health system is implementing a centralized call center and beginning the scripting process for the first time, make sure to prioritize based on call volume and potential business impact. A CRM-enabled Engagement Center solution allows agents to track and record the type of call (appointment schedule/ reschedule, new patient inquiry, clinical study inquiry, screening or event registration, etc.) and then access data on the highest-volume type of calls received per week, month, or quarter. 

Focusing on the most common types of calls first helps improve the efficiency of the contact center. In general, scripts will include both inbound and outbound calls about patient information, physician referrals, appointment scheduling, billing, and sign-ups for seminars or events. It’s also smart to establish end-of-call scripts right away: For example, confirming what was completed during the call, providing any important next steps, and asking whether the caller has additional questions before hanging up. 

Step 5: Focus on Resolution Rather Than Length

First call resolution is an important metric for healthcare contact centers – nowadays, even more important than call duration. Write scripts with this prioritization in mind, including opportunities for agents to transition to a different topic or task. For example, in your appointment scheduling script, include a prompt that reminds the agent to check whether the patient is overdue for appointments with any other physicians in the network, or eligible for certain screening tests (such as mammograms or colonoscopies). 

At the very least, tailor scripts so that a patient’s entire question or concern is addressed without requiring multiple calls or lengthy periods of time on hold. 

The best way to make sure scripts are comprehensive enough to meet this requirement? Poll your call center agents. 

Compile a list of common follow-up questions or needs that patients often have to call back for a second or third time to find out – for example, driving directions or parking instructions at the facility, a list of information the patient needs to bring to their appointment, or next steps for ongoing care. Make sure the most common “FAQs” are integrated into your scripts.

Step 6: Align with Marketing Initiatives

For the best possible results, update your healthcare call center scripts regularly and write them in conjunction with the marketing department to align with core initiatives. Scripts and prioritized call queues are a great way to arm your agents for successful outbound calls and maintain consistency in messaging. Of course, outbound calls should be just as conversational in tone and avoid language that sounds overly prescriptive or impersonal. 

With a CRM-enabled Engagement Center, healthcare contact center agents can also guide patients through a journey on inbound calls by identifying which marketing touchpoints they’ve previously engaged with and which next steps might be worth mentioning. For example: During an appointment rescheduling call, an agent sees that the consumer on the phone had previously downloaded an eBook on breast cancer prevention. That information prompts the agent to bring up a special mammogram and breast cancer screening event taking place next month and register the caller for a time slot.  

Final Thoughts

Healthcare call center scripts can make or break a health system’s patient engagement strategy. In order to provide value, they must be crafted collaboratively with contact center agents, feel natural and conversational in tone, and provide plenty of opportunities for the caller to pause, respond, and ask questions. Hiring agents with the right skills and demeanor, plus training them on how best to utilize scripts, is just as important as writing them: An agent with a rushed or robotic tone will make even the best-written script ineffective, as opposed to an agent with previous experience in other consumer contact centers, such as those in retail, hospitality, or travel.

When implemented properly (and integrated with sophisticated Engagement Center technology), healthcare call center scripts are incredibly helpful to both patients and call center agents. They increase efficiency, consistency, and overall patient satisfaction – leading to improved patient loyalty and retention for the health system as a whole. 

09 - 106

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.