Category Archives: Peter DeHaan’s Columns

Articles by Medical Call Center News publisher and editor Peter L DeHaan

The Impact of Video Calls on Call Center Agents and Operations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorIn the last issue of Medical Call Center News, we talked about using video in your call center. Three advantages are that video can help build caller rapport, aid triage, and elevate the professionalism of your call center.

However, before you embrace video, consider these elements and prepare accordingly:

Technology

Having the right video gear is critical to success. Don’t select the cheapest option, but pick the solution that provides great results. Just as you want your agents to have high quality headsets, you should want high-quality video as well. Your reputation as a professional communications provider is at stake.

Environment

Look at your operations room. Specifically, what will be in the background of every shot? People walking behind agents as they talk with callers will be distracting. And if a broken chair, cluttered cubicle, or overflowing wastebasket is visible to callers, that sends the wrong message. You may need to install a backdrop for some agent stations. Don’t neglect this and hope to figure it out later.

Agent Appearance

In the audio-only world of a call center, an agent’s voice is all that matters. In a video world, appearance is important, too. And while an attractive visual helps a great deal, it isn’t essential. But good grooming is. Many call centers already have a dress code in place. And if yours doesn’t, this is a good reason to have one. But beyond attire there are basic personal appearance issues which you should insist upon.

Training

Though some people are naturals, it takes practice for most of us to be comfortable in front of a camera, especially those who didn’t grow up in a video-centric world where every action could be recorded.

In agent training, we tell them to smile, because callers can hear the smile in their voice. With video, a smile is even more important because callers can see it, too.

First, get your agents use to the camera being at their station before turning it on. Teach them how to use it and what to expect. Then let them practice with coworkers. Only when they’re ready should they begin sharing their video with callers.

Implementation

It’s best to roll out a video initiative in phases. Don’t announce that on next Monday morning your call center is going 100 percent video enabled. You may suddenly find yourself short staffed. Instead phase in video.

Seek volunteers to pilot the program. Let the most eager ones go first. They can work out the bugs and help fine-tune your technology and processes. Building on this success, your agents who are sitting on the fence when it comes to video will begin to show interest. Work them into the schedule over time. Then deal with the outliers. It might be that a few agents will refuse. Know what you will do if this occurs. There may be an ongoing non-video role for them in your call center. If that’s okay, except it. Just be sure that all new hires are ready to embrace video.

Just as your callers will not all be ready for video at the same time, your agents don’t have to be ready either. But you do want to be able to direct video calls to video agents and keep audio-only calls to audio-only agents.

Though no one knows how quickly the move to call center video will occur, it could happen sooner than we expect. Now is the time to begin moving toward that future.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat.

What’s Your Call Center’s Position on Video Calls?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorLast time we talked about web chat and it’s growing use in the call center. Another interesting technology that will make inroads in the call center is video. Just as text messaging is driving demand for web chat, the use of Skype, Face Time, and other video apps will spur interest in video calls to your call center.

Here are some advantages of video calling in your call center:

Builds Rapport: Most communication happens from body language, which puts call center agents at a definite disadvantage. All we can go on are the words spoken and the tone of voice, because when we’re on the phone, we miss the visual cues so critical in face-to-face communication. But with video, we open ourselves to a fuller communication experience. This will help us communicate more effectively and build rapport with our callers and patients.

Aids Triage: In a telephone triage environment, video calls can pay off huge. No longer is the triage nurse limited to verbal interaction to decide on the best course of action. With video, healthcare practitioners can see the patient and incorporate important images and visual cues in their assessment. Not only will this make for more accurate results, but it will also get there faster.

Elevates the Call Center: For too many people, especially younger generations, the call center is low on their list of communication choices. Too many view a phone call as an option of last resort, while some dismiss it altogether. However, these same people are open to video. Providing video as an option will draw some reluctant patients back to your call center. They’ll consider it as a viable, and even preferred, option to find answers to questions and communicate with your organization.

Where do you stand on video for your call center? Perhaps you’ve already embraced it. Or maybe you’re moving in that direction, by researching, planning, and even testing.

Though possibly you’re doing nothing with video. This might be because you’re too busy with other things, worry about how your staff will react to video, or need more technology to make it happen. But doing nothing is not a solution.

Take some time to consider the role of video in your call center. And to help you with this thought process, next time we’ll talk about how video will affect your agents and impact your operation.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Will Web Chat Take Over the Healthcare Call Center?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWith the Millennial generation’s love for texting and general avoidance of placing a phone call, it’s tempting to project the demise of the call center. Although this may make for a logical conclusion, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Though tomorrow’s healthcare call center will undoubtedly have more chat transactions than it does now, the telephone will remain its primary communication device.

Why?

The reason is the simple fact that calls are superior in several key situations, and these significant advantages will not go away any time soon.

Talking is More Effective: Speaking is faster than typing. When describing complex medical situations, speaking our words is more effective than typing them. With the status of our health at stake, we want to communicate quickly and to get it right the first time. The telephone allows us to do this.

Our Tone Carries Meaning: Emotions are easier to communicate verbally and to be understood. Humor, desperation, and pain do not come across well in written form. How many times have you had a text message or email be misunderstood because your tone of voice did not come across?

Likewise, healthcare provider empathy comes across better when talking, instead of typing. It’s hard to communicate compassion through a chat box.

Yes, we do have emojis, a graphical representation of various emotional states, yet emojis are prone to misunderstandings, offering confusion almost as often as clarity.

Pick Up the Phone: In stressful situations, people of all generations, will gravitate to the phone. It provides for fast and efficient communication in time-critical, stressful situations. Often, when people reach out for medical help, the situation is both time-critical and stressful. The telephone offers a simple, no-hassle way to communicate. That’s why it’s the go-to tool for difficult situations.

Yes, texting is the newer technology that all the cool kids use, while the telephone seems stodgy and old school in comparison. Yet when critical, timely, and accurate communication is essential, the telephone wins most every time.

In the future, your healthcare call center will undoubtedly handle more chat communications. However, the telephone will continue to ring for most situations.

To prepare for the future, embrace chat technology, if you haven’t already done so. But don’t lose sight of the telephone. It will continue to be the cornerstone of your healthcare call center operation for many years to come.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The Promise of Telephone Triage and Physician Locator Services

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorTelephone triage is a great solution that meets the healthcare needs for many patients. However, though I write about telephone triage, I have no first-hand experience. Alas, there are no telephone triage services available to me—or at least none that I’m aware of. I wish there were.

It may shock you to know I don’t have a primary care physician. But it’s not for a lack of trying. Here’s the short version: Years ago I called my doctor’s office to make an appointment when I was down with a cold. The doctor wouldn’t see me because I hadn’t recently seen him when I was well. When I was better I called to schedule an annual check-up. They declined. My paper records were in storage and apparently it was too much hassle to retrieve them. I suggested they treat me as a new patient, but my doctor wasn’t accepting new patients. Apparently he had fired me. That was ten years ago. I haven’t had a primary care physician since.

Over the past five years I’ve required medical attention four times. Once was a trip to ER for stitches. The other three times were to urgent care to snag a prescription for antibiotics. On my last visit they encouraged me to find a primary care physician. I agreed. After recovering, I went online searching for a conveniently-located doctor.

I ended up at the website of a large healthcare provider. I entered my ZIP code and asked for doctors nearby. The closest match was .06 miles away. That’s 317 feet, but this doctor was actually over twenty miles away, a thirty-five-minute drive. I checked the next fifteen providers, all of whom were reported to be within five miles. None were. I gave up.

I wish I could call a physician locator service, but there aren’t any in my area, at least none that I know of.

I’m convinced healthcare call centers can fill a vital need in the provision of healthcare services, both telephone triage and doctor locator services. If only they were available in my area. Hopefully the reality of what is will soon catch up with the potential of what can be. Until then I hope I don’t get sick.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The One Sure Thing About the Future of Healthcare

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorI don’t like to write about politics, but politicians in the United States are once again messing with healthcare. Some call it repeal, and others view it as repair. Some are for it and others oppose it. No one knows for sure how things will shake out or when it will happen, if anything happens at all.

Whether you view the status quo as good or bad, the maneuverings of the politicians and the soundbites of the pundits are disruptive. This makes it hard to plan: hard for healthcare providers, hard for healthcare insurance companies, and hard for healthcare consumers.

Regardless of the outcome, however, there is one thing I’m sure of. Medical call centers will continue to play a key role in the provision of care now and a bigger role in the future. Healthcare call centers stand in the healthcare gap, improving patient care, enhancing population health, and reducing per capita healthcare costs. No group is better positioned to achieve these three goals.

Yes, the one sure thing in healthcare today is that medical call centers will play a key role in providing quality, cost-effective solutions tomorrow. The only variable is how big that role will be.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Uncertainty is the Only Thing That’s Certain in Healthcare

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorI don’t like to write about politics, but politics is once again affecting the future of healthcare. With all the bluster about repelling and replacing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), I was quite sure, that by now, we would have a new direction in place to chart our industry’s future. Alas, the bluster turned out to be no more than bluster.

It seems it’s much easier to criticize than to find workable solutions.

So, for now, Obamacare is the status quo. Whether we like it or dislike it, the Affordable Care Act is the framework in which we must work. All the while, we still hold our breath wondering if Obamacare might one day be replaced or more likely, amended. But will this make our jobs easier or harder? Uncertainty looms.

Regardless, the essential task is to ensure we keep our organizations viable so that we’re around to do our primary task of caring for people.

In this the call center will play a vital role. Of that, I am certain

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

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