SELECTING AN EXCEPTIONAL CALL CENTER

Selecting the Exceptional Remote Healthcare Call Center Will Help Achieve Financial Goals

By Marty Grey, McKesson Business Performance Services

 

Healthcare organization financial managers know that their hospitals, health systems and multi-specialty practices are often too busy for effective handling of the high volume of calls that come in throughout the day. As a result, many have been turning to remote call centers to improve patients’ ability to connect, whether for scheduling, information or other forms of support. This can be a wise choice for those looking to lower costs, increase revenues, improve efficiency, ensure compliance, and improve patient satisfaction and loyalty.

However, not all healthcare call centers are created equal. To achieve their goals, financial managers need to select the exceptional call centers. Merely adequate call centers are those whose representatives have healthcare experience, whose metrics ensure wait times of less than 60 seconds and 99 percent routing accuracy, and whose robust infrastructure offers high availability, scalability and security. The differentiator between these and exceptional healthcare call centers are the people.

Too many healthcare call centers are little more than a set of warm bodies following scripts. Adequate representatives are experienced and trained on the phone system and can complete calls in a certain amount of time; exceptional representatives also make patients feel positively connected and more satisfied with your healthcare organization in general.

There are five elements that differentiate exceptional healthcare call centers:

  1. Empathy, compassion and other “soft skills.” Experience can be found on a resume; however, savvy healthcare organizations need to interview applicants with an eye toward identifying each one’s ability to be warm and supportive, to be calm under pressure and to connect on an emotional level.
  2. Regular, ongoing training for all representatives. Exceptional healthcare call centers are those that insist on excellence and continual improvement across all experience levels. They listen to calls and score how well representatives follow defined workflow, protocols and processes, as well as more qualitative measures. They require representatives to score their own performance, which helps motivate ownership of improvement initiatives. And they celebrate successes to encourage ongoing progress. 
  3. A sense of connection to client organizations. The most successful healthcare call centers take specific steps to inspire pride in their clients, turning “them” into “us.” Call center supervisors communicate regularly with the client organizations – including in-person visits – to better understand each practice’s demeanor and address individual preferences. Then they bring that information back to their call center team.
  4. A shared vernacular. People are more comfortable speaking with people who speak their language. Smart healthcare call centers may use translation services, but they also employ individuals fluent in languages that callers are likely to speak. It is important that representatives’ dialects feel familiar and easily understood by callers.
  5. A culture of mutual encouragement, respect and appreciation. An organization whose call center representatives feel valued and important will have less people turnover and will work harder to make callers feel that way, too.

These five components turn efficient processes into better answers to questions with more relevant information and more effective solutions to problems for patients. This, in turn, helps healthcare organizations to achieve their financial goals.

 

Marty Grey is the Executive Director, Florida, at McKesson Business Performance Services in Alpharetta, Georgia and a member of HFMA Region 5. He can be reached at marty.grey@McKesson.com.