The overwhelming majority of patients (75 percent) report using a customer call center to interact with their health system. Even though the call center is responsible for handling numerous customer touchpoints, many hospitals still provide experiences that are about as appealing as calling a cable company.
Within these interactions, patients must cope with long wait times and multiple transfers, and call center agents that subsequently have no background information on them or their unique situations. This impersonal form of engagement allows health systems to handle a high volume of call center interactions, but not provide the quality patients are looking for; poor call center interactions fail to deliver any strategic value, provide cross-sell opportunities, or extend patient lifetime value.
A call center equipped with HCRM capabilities, or an Engagement Center, allows call center agents to provide convenient service that supports marketing and business development initiatives, streamlines workflow, and improves patient engagement and satisfaction. Engaging patients through a CRM-enabled call center allows health systems to take advantage of patient data, thus providing proactive and personalized interactions that keep customers happy, healthy, and in-network.
Let’s take a closer look at how a proactive engagement strategy can help improve the call center experience:
Understanding Caller Profiles and Personas
When a customer contacts the call center, agents can access their caller profile, a collection of demographic, psychographic, sentiment, and historical engagement data about that patient. Not only does this give agents visibility into patient activity right at the beginning of the call, but it also saves data added throughout the call to use for future interactions. Caller profiles allow agents to familiarize themselves with patients and anticipate their needs, all within the first few minutes of a call.
Health systems can also develop personas based on common types of patients to help call center agents effectively assess the caller’s needs and expectations.
For example, consider these two personas:
Who Do I Call?
Larry is a potential bariatric patient who is pretty tech-savvy, but prefers communicating over the phone. He feels that picking up the phone is the fastest way to get a personalized level of service.
Stop Calling Me!
Betty is a very fit patient who may eventually need to be seen for a sports injury. She likes to educate herself, with the help of the internet, and doesn’t feel like phone calls fit into her schedule.
These patients vary drastically in both their needs and expectations. With a traditional healthcare call center, Larry would have to retell his story to every agent he encounters, and may eventually get discouraged. Betty, on the other hand, may quickly get fed up with a health system if they disrupt her schedule with random calls rather than contacting her via another channel.
However, visibility into HCRM data tells health systems how they should interact with Larry and Betty in order to engage them effectively. As a result, this health system would continuously engage Larry and Betty with relevant and helpful resources, according to their engagement preferences. By practicing proactive engagement, the health system works to push Larry and Betty to manage their care and potentially avoid future injuries or complications.
Developing Programs for Proactive Engagement
Health systems can leverage their customer profiles and personas to determine the most effective patient engagement approach through the call center. Unlike traditional call centers, agents with HCRM access have visibility into interactions the caller has had with the health system across channels— like downloading a resource, opening an email, or even direct mail sent to their address. Access to this data provides agents the opportunities to further engagement.
Let’s take a look at programs you can develop to maximize the call center’s engagement potential:
Physicians practice proactive care to treat chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Health systems can support proactive health initiatives by using call center interactions to encourage patients to take medication and vitamins correctly, exercise, eat healthy, and more.
Further, marketing departments can use propensity modeling to identify people who may be at risk for certain chronic conditions and provide them with preventative methods to delay or reduce the likelihood of symptoms. Propensity modeling analyzes HCRM data such as diagnostic data, sociodemographic info, visit history, lifestyle, personal preferences, age, and interests, to find the most likely candidates for health services.
The data is analyzed using a set of indicators that is based on characteristics of past patients who have already had the related service or procedure. If callers fit into propensity model-identified groups, specialized call center software can inform agents which services are most relevant for that individual.
Traditional call centers focus on inbound calling, or receiving customer calls and reacting to them. But, outbound calls can be an excellent, proactive way to engage patients. Agents can contact patients to follow-up on post-clinical programs and provide additional support or resources. In addition, agents can contact customers to inform them of opportunities like events or webinars they would find relevant, identified through analytics and propensity models.
When hospitals engage patients proactively, they do more than just prepare them for appointments. Proactive engagement helps to achieve population health initiatives by promoting self-care and providing patients with the resources needed to prevent sickness and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Measuring Your Success
To have an effective proactive engagement strategy, health systems must monitor their call centers for relevant metrics that can help further optimize processes and prove success. In the past, health systems used call center metrics that placed a focus on answering as many calls as possible, but today they must focus on metrics that paint a clearer picture of the patient experience. Here are 4 metrics to focus on to improve call center operations:
1. Call Abandonment
When a caller ends the call before being connected to a call center agent. To calculate call abandonment, divide the number of abandoned calls by the total calls to the call center in a given period of time.
When your organization has created loyal patients due to their positive experiences while engaging your call center, caller’s will be less likely to abandon calls.
2. Average Speed to Answer
The average time a caller waits in the call center queue. The average speed to answer is calculated from when a caller starts the call and ends whenever they are connected to an agent.
Staffing enough agents is directly related to this metric. When agents have strong profiles on their callers they can be more efficient with each call allowing your organization to handle more calls with fewer agents.
3. Average Handle Time
The average duration of a transaction. The average handle time is calculated from the initiation of the call until the caller hangs up.
With caller profiles, scripting and efficient workflow, handle time will decrease while allowing your agents to handle more patient needs on each call.
4. Grade of Service
When a percentage of calls are answered before 20 seconds. Compare your grade of service to a specific percentage benchmark to measure your call center performance.
A short survey at the end of each call can give direct feedback to the experience each caller has with your call center. This information can be used to consistently optimize scripts, workflows, and operations.
Industry benchmarks set the standard of performance that hospitals should compare themselves to. This means that they should perform either above or below a predetermined performance metric.
Patients should view the healthcare call center as their hero, and not another headache. Since it is responsible for so many customer touchpoints, the call center should work as a strategic and proactive engagement engine used to improve patient experiences, reduce costs, deliver ROI, and extend patient lifetime value.
Take, for example, Scripps Health, a nonprofit health system that committed to providing high-quality proactive care through their call center. Their ultimate goal was to build lifelong relationships with patients. By integrating their call center with the HCRM, implementing outbound calling programs, and prioritizing regular call center data analysis, Scripps realized $3.1 billion in revenue. They also saw improved patient acquisition, retention, and quality of service.