The healthcare call center is the front door to the health system. Personalized engagement is critical to the future of healthcare, but call center agents are often not given the tools to meet consumer expectations.
Agents may be limited to a basic set of functions with minimal insights on patient journeys. It is clear that in order to succeed in today’s competitive landscape, providers must focus on proactive strategy to transform their call center into an engagement center.
Gary Druckenmiller, VP of Customer Success, recently led a webinar entitled Transcend Touchpoints from Digital to Appointment, where he unpacked the ways traditional call centers fall short today, how to integrate marketing into your call center strategy, and tips to better engage callers in order to convert them into patients, provide more proactive referrals, and ultimately improve marketing attribution and ROI.
We received an impressive response from the audience during and after the live webinar. Since there wasn’t time to cover audience questions, we caught up with Gary afterward to hear the answers in full. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What are some ways in which traditional call centers are failing?
A: Well, first, there are generally multiple entry points. Many clients come to us saying they have as many as 160-200 independent call phone numbers spread across an organization, and they have anywhere between 20-100 decentralized contact centers. That could mean they have a mix of super access centers, independent call centers at ambulatory, practice group, or physician office level. Those are all access points. It’s difficult for a consumer to know who to actually call, nevermind the suboptimal customer journey with disconnected marketing touchpoints to those consumers not ready to move forward with the next steps in their journey. These gaps are ominous, but not unfixable. This is why phase 1 of improving your call center is to integrate marketing into the strategy.
Q: What is the goal of an integrated marketing and call center strategies?
A: The call center is transformed into an engagement center by integrating marketing intelligence. Proactive outreach is often a major aspect missing from call center and healthcare systems today, which act as a response management structure than anything else. Over the next 10 years, the new norm is going to become the embodiment of health systems being proactive and having enough data to anticipate a consumer’s or patient’s need. Call centers will be part of a program with a constitution of working with you, staying ahead of you, and reaching out to you before you have a problem. The proactivity is the key.
Q: What are the benefits of outsourcing versus insourcing a healthcare call center?
A: To be successful, an optimal healthcare center needs to be integrated into your greater patient acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies. If you don’t have the necessary manpower and technology to do so, outsourcing your call center— either partially or entirely— is an option.
When outsourcing your call center, identify your needs, goals, and volume requirements so that you can find an outsource partner who can support you best. Operating a healthcare call center in-house does require time, resources, and investment in technology. However, benefits of insourcing your call center include full control, reduced confidentiality, agent brand knowledge and loyalty.
Marti Van Veen, who leads Customer Success for Contact Centers, recently wrote an excellent article on this topic. I encourage you to check out her thoughts.
Q: Can you speak about the obstacles an organization will face when integrating CRM into their contact center?
A: According our clients, one of the biggest challenges they face is around change management. You cannot underestimate the culture, people, and processes that must change and adapt going into such an integration. Success requires a link to an important business need. There needs to be a compelling reason, and ample leadership support, for a big change. When those attributes are in place, change becomes easier. We often recommend doing a “Roadshow” to the important stakeholders and those affected by the change. These roadshows are intended to get everyone excited and bought into the vision.
Q: What are the ways through which you can measure success in your contact center?
A: That’s a great question. Instead of just trying to maximize the number of calls an agent takes, today’s call center must focus on metrics that paint a clearer picture of the patient experience. 4 ways you can measure success in your call center is by focusing on call abandonment rates, average speed to answer, average handle time, and the grade of service. You can read more about these metrics here.
When making the move to an engagement center model, organizations should also consider how their surveys and satisfaction scores have changed. In one case, a client kicked off their initiative to reinvent their contact center because of the comments they were seeing in surveys (although overall scores were excellent). Just a couple months after going live with their new model, the survey comments were already changing. Additionally, lift in appointment conversions are valuable metrics as well and help demonstrate ROI to the business.
Q: How easy is it to integrate all customer data? Online, call center, clinic visits, etc? What is needed to pull that all together?
A: Well, to be honest it’s not easy. You have to be committed and willing. But at the end of the day, anything that’s worth doing is not easy and this is an important strategic work. It depends on the organization, but you have to engage several departments including IT, marketing, clinical operations, and finance. However, when the organization believes in the vision, this process becomes easier.
Q: What are good qualities to look for in your call center agents?
A: When hiring agents it is important to first look for candidates who have some call center experience and a customer service background. Often, successful agents come from clinical operational roles or have experience in retail, sales, as patient service reps, or in scheduling and registration work. Besides marketing and retail backgrounds, it’s helpful when agents have experience working at a front desk or in a clinical setting so they understand healthcare and patient needs.
Additionally, skills-based routing is one method that many call centers choose to implement — the main group of their agents come from marketing or sales, but there are also smaller groups of agents with a more specialized clinical knowledge base. Agents are separated based on clinical specialty and several unique numbers are created and utilized to streamline the transfer process, saving time and cutting down confusion for patients and agents. In these cases it’s beneficial to hire agents with a variety of knowledge specialties — besides the standard marketing and sales background — to ensure you are bringing people to agents who can help them with their specific needs.