Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

MIXING FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME CALL CENTER STAFF

Discover the Right Balance in Agent Scheduling for Your Healthcare Contact Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Some healthcare call centers only employ full-time staff. Others do the opposite and only hire part-timers. The ideal solution might be to balance a combination of both full-time and part-time agents.

Full-Time Call Center Agents

A key benefit of staffing your call center with full-time employees is greater stability and predictability. A full-time employee with benefits, especially healthcare benefits, is more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to seek a new job.

This commitment results in having an accomplished workforce that possesses the knowledge accumulated only through longevity. The typical result is more accurate communication with callers and the potential for better outcomes. With these as the benefits of having a full-time staff, why wouldn’t every call center want to hire only full timers?

Call centers with only full-time staff face a couple limitations. The key one is that call traffic seldom fits the nice 9-to-5 work schedule of full-time employees. Instead, callers arrive in predictable surges throughout the day. When attempting to address these traffic peaks with full-time staff working eight-hour shifts, the result is they will need to work like crazy some of the time and still not be able to keep up. At other times they won’t have enough to do.

Another limitation is a lack of flexibility. If a full timer’s shift is over, having worked there eight hours, but you need them to stay late to take more calls, you’re looking at an overtime situation. On the other hand, if you have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs, you can’t send a full-time employee home early because they won’t get there forty hours of work that you promised them and that they expect.

Part-Time Call Center Agents

As a reaction of this, other call centers hire only part-time staff. This gives them maximum scheduling flexibility. They’re able to have employees work exactly when they need them, no more and no less. If things get especially busy and you need someone to stay later, many are happy to pick up extra hours. Conversely, if it is slower than expected and you want to send staff home, there is usually someone anxious to accommodate.

Yet this maximum flexibility comes at a price. Part-time staff are less committed to you, your call center, and your callers. They’re more likely to look for other jobs that pay more, have better benefits, or offer more appealing schedules. They may desire full-time work and only accepted your offer because the hours you offered them were better than no hours.

This means that a call center of part-time employees has higher turnover, along with all the problems that the constant churn of employees can present.

Hybrid Staffing

The solution is to strategically hire full-time and part-time employees. This provides the best solution to achieve both a degree of stability along with much-needed flexibility. Though the ideal ratio of full-time to part-time workers varies from one call center to the next, a general initial goal is 50-50. That is to have a foundation of full-time employees filling half of your typical schedule, using part-time staffers for the remaining half.

In your actual operation, however, you may find it works better to have fewer full-time agents or have more, but you won’t know what the ideal ratio is and will have to home in on it over time.

Call center staffing is part art and part science, balancing your organization’s fiscal responsibility with your caller’s healthcare needs. A hybrid staff comprised of both full-time and part-time agents may be the best way to get there.

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

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Update Your Employee Handbook or Department Manual

Make Sure Your Policies and Procedures Accurately Reflect Remote Work

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In the past year, many healthcare call centers scrambled to adjust to ever-changing expectations and requirements to keep employees safe while continuing to work. Some call centers already had viable work-at-home protocols in place and a few were already 100 percent remote. Most phone centers, however, needed to accomplish a quick pivot to make working from home a viable reality.

By now, call centers have worked the technological and logistical bugs out of remotely answering phone calls from the security of a home office. Now is an ideal time to make sure your documentation matches reality and fully addresses the ramifications of people taking medical calls from home. Make sure your employee handbook, department manual, or written policies and procedures fully address staff who work remotely.

Though some managers have already brought employees back to the call center and others look toward doing it soon, this doesn’t mean they’re exempt from updating these critical documents. Why is that? 

We may again find ourselves in a situation to repeat working from home. In addition, even if working from a centralized location reemerges as a standard call center operating procedure, some employees will request to continue answering calls remotely. Make sure you have everything in place to allow them to remain in their home office. If you’re unwilling to accommodate their request, you could find them leaving your organization to join one that will.

Notably, having now experienced it, some call centers have embraced remote work as a preferable operational model. They’ve sent their employees home for good. Now they only need to make sure their internal documentation aligns with this new reality.

If you’ve experienced staff working from home, you already know what you must cover in your documentation. This will get you started. Next, check with an attorney to address legal concerns. Also consider contacting a consultant who is familiar with off-site employees working out of home-based offices.

With these documents in place, you’ll find yourself ready to deal with whatever happens next.

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
Telephone Answering Service

The TAS Industry Helps People Communicate

Move beyond a Mindset of Answering Calls to Facilitating Interactions

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

This year has been a challenging one no matter how we look at it. Our status quo as an industry—to whatever degree we ever had a status quo—has been shaken. Everything seems to have changed. Our response has been as it always has been, to adapt, to adjust, and to accelerate into a new tomorrow.

To do this, we re-examined our staffing, from hiring to training, from scheduling to supervising. We’ve sent people home to work, whether for the short-term or for the conceivable future. And we fine-tuned our sales and marketing efforts to redefine success in an unfamiliar environment where all the rules have changed. Coupled with this, of course, is morphing how we must manage our answering service and our staff in a way that’s consistent with these new ways of doing business.

It’s also an appropriate time to look at the why of telephone answering service.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as being in business to answer telephone calls for our clients. Though true, it’s also a limited perspective. A more insightful view is to think of ourselves as being in business to help people communicate. This may use the telephone, or it may tap other communication channels. Don’t lose sight of this. 

People today communicate through email, text messaging, and social media. They also increasingly visit websites to solve problems, place orders, and safely and securely connect. None of these involve the telephone, which is an essential and predominant channel in our industry and much of what we do.

Yet when we reimagine ourselves as facilitating interaction instead of just answering calls, we open a door to new possibilities. We then become a telephone answering service that processes emails, handles text messaging, and monitors social media for our clients. We’re connected to their websites for text chat and assisted browsing opportunities. And, yes, we also answer the telephone.

This is our future, and our future is here.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

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.