Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Finish Strong and Don’t Coast into the New Year

How We Conclude This Year Will Prepare Us for What Happens Next Year

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

This year continues to be a challenging one, more so than most others—perhaps any other. As we look forward to a new year in our healthcare call center, we turn the calendar with expectations of a better future, along with a wondering about how much things will change. Whether we find ourselves forced into a new normal or can return to an old normal looms as a huge question. But what we do know for sure is that what we do today in the remaining months of this year will influence what we encounter in the next.

Here are some things to consider.

Make Flexible Plans 

As you look forward to the new year, develop a strategy with contingencies. Do it now. Factor in options. This means developing a plan A and a plan B and even a plan C. It means considering tactics in how to do things in person and remotely. Look to implement technology that can adapt to accommodate expectations as needed, regardless of what path the future takes. Assume that what you’re doing today in your call center will change as you move throughout the year.

Don’t Coast

The understandable temptation, after an especially grueling year, is to relax. It might be you’re worn out and want a break. Another thought is that you’ve worked hard and deserve to take it easy. Though resting has its merits, that’s not justification to check out and coast through this year’s remaining days. 

Resist the temptation to tell yourself that you’ll make up for taking a break now by promising to hit the ground running on January 2. By then inertia will have set in, and it will take too long to get back up to speed. Breezing through work for a few weeks may seem like an attractive option, but the big-picture perspective is that you run the risk of not being able to embrace a new year.

Be Intentional

Instead, be deliberate in how you wind down the final days of December. This doesn’t mean accelerating at full speed, but don’t hit the brakes either. Look to wrap up projects so that you don’t have to carry them into a new year. Pursue small initiatives now to form a foundation you can build on to produce success faster when you return to work after the holidays.

Make Time for Family and Friends

Speaking of holidays, this year your celebrations may look different than in the past. Even so, seek safe ways to connect with family and friends. Don’t take unnecessary risks, but don’t be a hermit either. We need each other, we crave connection—whatever that looks like today, and we require interaction if we are to stay mentally fit and emotionally healthy.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Let Your Call Center Staff Know How Much You Appreciate Their Work

Now More Than Ever, Take Time to Say “Thank You”

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I’ve seldom been in a call center that wasn’t busy. Even the ones that weren’t quite as busy as others still had calls come in at a steady pace. And this was during normal times. What about the not normal times when things really get extra busy? Really busy? When call traffic spikes, agents committed to the work before them elevate their game to the next level. They shift into overdrive and handle more calls than they would do on a regularly busy day. 

But what happens when this spike of traffic isn’t so much of a spike but more of a sustained onslaught of incoming calls, such as what might occur in a medical call center during a pandemic? This isn’t a short-term situation, which will be better in a couple hours . . . or tomorrow . . . or next week. This is a new normal that pushes us and our staff to the breaking point and sometimes beyond.

Although there’s not much we can do to hold back the flood of calls coming in, we can let our staff know how much we appreciate their work. We can celebrate customer service distinction. We can recognize team members who serve patients with finesse. Take time to acknowledge their work and their dedication.

These simple gestures show telephone agents that their work is noticed and appreciated, providing benefits that don’t come from compensation alone. Unfortunately, when we’re in the middle of a crisis, we easily forget to take the time to honor our staff for the exceptional work they do. 

This need not take a lot of time nor require much preparation. Just catch your staff doing something right and praise them—publicly, if possible. This will motivate them and encourage others. When you do this be genuine. Make eye contact, state your appreciation, and thank them for their work. Then move on. Don’t belabor it. 

How long will this take? It might only require five seconds of your time. But the impact will last much longer.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Serve Your Stakeholders

Understand Your Purpose in Working at a Healthcare Call Center

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

You work in a healthcare call center. Why? The most basic answer is to receive a paycheck so that you can pay your bills. Though this is an essential motivation, earning a living will only take you so far in your call center work—and your career. To find fulfillment, you must move beyond a paycheck to embrace the purpose of the call center. Why are you there? To serve your stakeholders—all of them.

Callers

The most obvious on the list of stakeholders are the people who call you. They have a need, and they hope you can meet that need. When you do, you end up making their life a little bit better. They end the call glad to have talked with you and appreciative of what you did for them. But when you fall short of helping them achieve their goal, you cause consternation. They hang up frustrated.

Although you won’t win with every call, you can strive to succeed as often as possible. Meeting the needs of callers and patients is the first way to serve your stakeholders. Be an asset to your organization and serve your stakeholders—all of them—with excellence.

Coworkers

As you serve callers, you do so within a team environment. Are you a team player? Do your coworkers view your presence as an asset or a liability? Make sure your colleagues can count on you to do your part and not cause more work for them. In fact, do more than what’s expected whenever possible to help make your associates’ jobs easier. 

Your coworkers are also stakeholders, albeit an often-overlooked cadre. Don’t be the person who blasts through the day without regard to the people who work around you. Instead aim to be the person everyone wants to sit next to.

Boss

Whatever position you fill in your healthcare call center, you have a boss—often more than one. Your bosses are also stakeholders. By serving callers with excellence and getting along well with your colleagues, you’ve taken the first two steps in being the employee every manager wants to have. Now look for ways you can do more to make their job easier or lighten the load they carry in your call center.

Community

A fourth stakeholder to consider is your local environment. By doing your job well, you play a part in making society better. As you address the healthcare needs of your callers, you elevate the overall health of the area you live in. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the work you do benefits your neighbors and community.

Organization

Whether a corporation or nonprofit, the organization you work for is an essential stakeholder. It provides the infrastructure for you to work in and the means to pay you and provide benefits. As your organization succeeds, you will be the better for it. But if your organization struggles—especially if you could have helped realize a different outcome—you’ll experience the same fate. 

Though no organization is perfect in all it does, do what you can to help yours become the best it can. This not only occurs on every phone call you take but also in the space between them.

Conclusion

Don’t be an employee who just shows up to collect a paycheck. Be an asset to your organization and serve your stakeholders—all of them—with excellence. This includes your callers, your coworkers, your boss, your community, and your organization.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Provide Ongoing Instruction to Your Medical Call Center Staff

Training New Hires to Answer Calls Is Just the Beginning

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Every new employee needs some training before they are ready to process calls at your call center. The length of training varies from one operation to the next, but the inescapable fact is that training does occur. But in too many cases once this initial training is over, all intentional instruction stops. Too many call centers fail to provide ongoing educational support for their staff. 

Here are some areas to consider.

Follow-Up Training

Telling someone how to do something once isn’t enough. They won’t retain much of it for the long-term. The longer they work at your call center, the more bad habits they’ll pickup—either from themselves or from their coworkers. They’ll discover shortcuts that may appear to make their work easier but will end up circumventing the proper way you want them to do things.

That’s why existing employees need to receive periodic reminders of how you want them to do their work. Without it, they’re bound to veer from the path you put them on when you first trained them as a new hire.

Advanced Skills Education

After employees have learned the basics of processing phone calls and had some time to put their skills into practice in a real-world environment, now it’s time to add to their skill set. Teach them advanced customer service techniques that they can apply to their work. And even if you touched on these during their initial training, they lacked the framework to fully comprehend what you wanted them to learn. 

Now that they have experience taking calls, they’re ready to receive and implement more robust call-handling techniques. Once they experience firsthand a need for these advanced skills, they’ll be more likely to listen to your instruction and apply it to their work.

Technology Update Instruction

The final area for ongoing staff instruction relates to new and updated applications, software, and procedures. Don’t implement an upgrade or process and expect your staff to figure it out on their own. This wastes their time and increases their frustration level. Instead, offer relevant instruction to them before they encounter any change. 

Make Ongoing Education a Mindset

Too many call centers view training as a once-and-done necessity. They can’t figure out why experienced agents make basic mistakes, develop bad attitudes, or quit in frustration. In many cases being intentional about providing advanced training would have made the difference.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Tap Outsource Call Centers to Lighten the Load

Consider Outsourcing to Better Manage Call Traffic and Increase Availability

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

As your healthcare call center grapples to deal with more calls than perhaps ever before, you seek ways to maintain the service level you provide to callers. Ideas include using automation, increasing employee schedules, and hiring more staff.

A fourth option is to outsource calls to another call center—an outsource call center—that specializes in taking calls for other healthcare organizations. Before you dismiss this as a bad idea, consider four common types of outsourcing scenarios.

Outsource Certain Call Types

Analyze the types of calls you answer and the appropriateness of your existing staff to take them. As an example, assume you handle triage calls, appointment schedules, call transfers, and medical answering service. Note the number of calls and the amount of time you spend in each category. Now document how many agents can take each of these call types and the number of hours they work each week. See how well your staffing aligns with your call types.

Next identify the biggest gaps. By way of example, let’s assume you discover triage nurses taking routine messages for doctors. This is a huge mismatch. What if you send routine calls to your outsourcing partner, thereby freeing your nurses to do what they do best and what’s most important?

Of course, the opposite scenario is too many triage calls and not enough nurses. You can outsource those too, but it might be to a different outsourcing partner, one that specializes in telephone nurse triage.

Outsource Overflow

Another scenario that’s ideal for outsourcing is at unexpected times when call traffic exceeds the schedule you carefully devised to meet the projected call volume. Instead of having calls pileup in queue, reroute them to your outsourcing call center partner.

Outsource Specific Times

Third, look for daily or weekly patterns to see how well staffing matches up with traffic. You may discover—or confirm—that your third shift staff doesn’t have enough work to keep comfortably busy. Outsource those third shift calls to your outsource partner. Then move your third shift employees to second.

Of course, depending on the type of work your operation handles, you could have the opposite scenario where not much happens during regular business hours, with all the action happening evenings and weekends. Then outsource first shift weekdays and reallocate those personnel to evenings.

Outsource Specific Days

Assume you have difficulty scheduling enough agents to handle your Sunday traffic. You can save yourself the hassle by sending those calls to your outsourcing call center partner and shut down your call center on Sundays. Then you can reschedule your few Sunday employees to other days of the week.

Conclusion

Many call center managers summarily dismiss outsourcing, either because they see it as a loss of control or because they perceive a lack of quality. Yet today’s leading healthcare call center outsourcers provide a high quality of service, often matching or even exceeding their client companies. Just vet them with care and make your decision based on outcomes, not price.

When you consider the benefits of being able to reallocate your staff to where they’re most needed and to better serve your patients and callers, outsourcing is a viable option that warrants careful consideration.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.