Go Beyond the Call
Seek Ways to Solve Caller’s Pain Points
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
As a medical call center your job is to answer healthcare-related calls and respond to each one efficiently. Yet what if this isn’t what the patient needs? To paraphrase and old saying, sometimes we can win the battle but lose the war.
Being efficient sometimes gets in the way of truly winning. Call centers have a lot of metrics to track. These help us quantify results, but they may not measure outcomes. We need to find a balance between efficiency and patient-centric results.
Here are some ideas:
Offer Empathy: Sometimes callers need to know you heard them just as much as they need their issue addressed. This requires listening and offering empathy. Correcting a caller’s issue but doing so abruptly or without listening to them leaves the caller more frustrated than satisfied.
To you, they are one more call in a busy day. But to them you may be the most important call they’ll make all day.
Pursue Resolution: Other times what a patient asks for isn’t what they need—not really. Yet a passive-aggressive response results in answering the question, while not resolving the problem.
For example, a patient might ask for the web address of your online portal so they can check the results of a recent test. You give them the address because that’s what they asked for. Yet you know the results they want won’t be available for at least another day. Do you tell them that, even though it’s not what they asked? Can you suggest a different method for them to get the results quicker?
Anticipate Problems: Let’s say a patient calls to verify the location of where they need to go for an appointment with a specialist. You give them the address.
They didn’t ask about parking, but you know that’s an issue that frustrates many people. So, you can go the extra mile and let them know where they should park and how much time to allow themselves so they can arrive at the specialist’s office without being frazzled or out of breath.
Stay on the Line: Back to our caller who asked for the web address. You can give it to them and get off the call. Or you can give it to them and stay on the line to see if they have any more questions. Maybe they wrote it down wrong. If you’re still connected, you can clarify it, instead of making them call back a second time.
Or you can help them navigate the site, offering a quick tip that will save several minutes of frustration on their part. The point is, don’t end the call prematurely. If you think they’ll need help, the best approach may be to stick around.
Putting These Tips into Practice: You may acknowledge that while these are insightful ideas, they’re not practical for your busy call center and that you can’t afford to implement them. But recall the concept of winning the battle and losing the war.
That means the better perspective is that perhaps you can’t afford not to.
Think about it.
Best Practices for Hiring Quality Remote Staff
By Anne-Marie Stayton
As the Great Recession rolls on, companies continue to evaluate their options for acquiring and retaining quality staff. Not surprisingly, one of the most effective means of finding talent is higher wages. A report from the Atlanta Fed wage tracker shows higher wages as a primary driver for employees leaving their current employer for a new one. However, better pay is not the only proven incentive.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the highest level of turnover from industries where employees are required to remain in proximity to the general public, such as hospitality and healthcare. Safety is a considerable, legitimate concern for roles requiring more frequent potential for exposure to contagious viruses and infections.
Conversely, industries with the lowest level of turnover were those which allowed a more flexible schedule and remote working opportunities. This trend seems to be a prevailing one, according to IBM CEO Arvind Krishna. Continued technological advances and the incentive of lower overhead costs perpetuate this approach with employers, and even with the potential for a market correction to wage increase inflation, flexibility, and safety concerns will remain an incentive for employees.
So, how does a company pivot with the market to hire and retain quality talent? Does hiring someone with remote work experience guarantee success?
First, remote work is not for every role or even every company. Some organizations don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate remote work. Some roles would simply be impractical remotely. Additionally, there are legitimate security and privacy concerns to consider. A recent report from the FBI indicated significant fraud in interviewing remote employees, potentially exposing companies and consumers to damaging information security breaches.
The medical call center industry is well-positioned to capitalize on remote working opportunities. Assuming your organization has evaluated both the necessity and practicality of remote positions, there are some key points to consider.
While the incentive of a flexible remote schedule may seem attractive to an employee, transitioning from a structured, in-person role to a home-based role can be challenging. When reviewing an employees’ experience, consideration of prior success in a remote environment may provide insight into whether they may be a good fit. However, remote experience alone does not guarantee success. Consider asking a candidate slightly more probing questions about prior remote work in your interview process:
- What did you like the most about working remotely in your previous role?
- What were the challenges you faced in the remote space that weren’t present in the office?
- Were any of these unexpected?
- What steps did you take to overcome these challenges?
- Was any training for remote work provided to you in your prior role?
- If so, what information did you find the most helpful when making the transition?
- What do you wish someone would have told you about remote work before you began?
Understanding the potential employees’ ability to self-manage is key to evaluating their potential for success in your role. On the other hand, an employees’ lack of prior remote experience should not, on its own, negate their consideration.
Employers often miss quality talent by hyper-focusing on a specific qualification without considering the possibility of related skillsets or qualities that prove a potential candidate’s ability to quickly learn or adapt to an unfamiliar environment. When considering a candidate with no prior remote experience, consider evaluating their resume and asking questions in their interview that show:
- Problem-solving ability: For example, “Tell me about a time when you were given a task to complete with little direction or prior experience.”
- Effective communication (written and verbal): “Describe how you completed [insert prior task from resume].” Pick a task that is unfamiliar to you personally and evaluate the candidate’s ability to communicate the task in a way that is understandable to you, an unfamiliar audience.
- Personal accountability: “How would you communicate with your superior in a circumstance where you were not going to meet an expected standard of service.”
- Organizational capability: “Explain how you ensured you met all your expected deadlines and tasks in your previous role.”
Conveniently, many of the industries that reported to be losing staff at the highest rate have extensive experience in these areas, easily convertible to a healthcare call center or customer service environment.
Additionally, consider remote work as an incentive for rewarding the productivity of internal candidates. Be sure to set clear performance standards that must be maintained when an employee converts from in-office to remote, and proactively detail the consequences of falling short of these standards.
The future of remote work is an exciting one. When approached responsibly, it can reward both employer and employee. Using these simple methods for hiring in a remote environment will ensure a positive working relationship and a seamless customer experience.
Anne-Marie Stayton is a contributor to Medical Call Center News with over fifteen years of customer service experience, in multiple industries, at both the individual contributor and management levels. She is a passionate advocate for scalable process improvement, employee development, and quality customer service.
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Send us your healthcare call center articles and news for the next issue of Medical Call Center News.
Peter DeHaan Releases Healthcare Call Center Book: Healthcare Call Center Essentials
Peter Lyle DeHaan, founder and publisher of Medical Call Center News, announced the publication of his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials on June 6, 2022.
“In a very real sense, this book has been two decades in the making,” said DeHaan, “It started when I launched AnswerStat magazine in 2003, which spawned Medical Call Center News a few years later. I’ve taken what I’ve learned about healthcare contact centers since then and combined it with a lifetime of call center experience to produce this book.”
In addition to writing and publishing magazines and books about the call center industry, DeHaan’s lifetime of experience includes managing a multi-location call center, employment with a call center vendor, and consultant for healthcare call centers, medical answering services, and telephone answering providers.
The result is the book Healthcare Call Center Essentials. It’s designed for those who want to manage a more effective medical contact center. From daily operations to long-term success, this essential guide will help readers create a thriving contact center that meets the urgent needs of both patients and the medical community.
In it, you can discover how to better manage your team and support achievable strategies to meet goals and support patients and healthcare centers. By implementing the strategies and tips in Healthcare Call Center Essentials, you can improve your daily systems and perfect your contact center operation.
Healthcare Call Center Essentials is available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A Thought for Today
“Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.” -William James