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Healthcare Call Centers

Remember to be Thankful

In The Middle of Struggles, Turmoil, and Difficulties, Pause to Celebrate the Positive

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

The United States and a few other countries will celebrate Thanksgiving in November. Canada and some other nations do so in October.

Regardless of when you celebrate Thanksgiving—or even if it’s not a holiday where you live—take a moment to remember and give thanks for the positive elements in your life.

With all that’s happened in the past couple years it’s easy to focus on the negative, which can pull us down with discouragement and overwhelm us with despair. Yet there are positive things happening as well. We just need to acknowledge them and embrace them.

Here are some things to be thankful for.

Be Thankful for Health

I take my health for granted—until I get sick. Then I’m reminded to appreciate the rest of the time when I am healthy, which is most every day.

Even though few people have zero health concerns, with our health status existing on a continuum, let’s be thankful for the positive aspects and not wallow in the negative.

Be Thankful for Work

I doubt any job is 100 percent perfect, but having a job in the first place—when many don’t—is a huge reason to be thankful. Our jobs allow us to earn a living to support ourselves and our family.

Without them we would have to rely on the generosity of others or the support of government. The next time when your work hasn’t gone so well—and it will happen—wrap up the day by giving thanks that you have a job.

Be Thankful for Family

In the past two years, I‘ve spent more time with family then in the past and have appreciated them more fully. Though we can choose our friends, we can’t choose our family. They’re ours for life.

May we celebrate each familial relationship for the good parts of it and be able to overlook the rest.

Be Thankful for Friends

True friendships don’t occur easily for most people. We have acquaintances, coworkers, and neighbors, but that doesn’t necessarily make them friends. But celebrate the friendships we do have for how they enhance our life. We should never take them for granted.

And if you’re a bit short in the friend department, remember that to find a friend, you need to first be a friend.

Be Thankful for Opportunity 

If you find it difficult to be thankful in one of the above areas—health, work, family, or friends—because you don’t see it as part of your life or are experiencing a shortfall, be encouraged. This is because the future provides an opportunity to change your present situation. 

Starting today you can work to improve your health, make your job more meaningful or find a different one, embrace your family, and grow your friendships. But to make the most of this opportunity, you must first seize it. And that opportunity is another thing to be thankful for.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Send Your Call Center Back to School

Now Is an Ideal Time to Enhance the Skill Level of Your Telephone Staff

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

We live in interesting times, to say the least. Too often the healthcare call center industry spends much time focusing on the crisis of today that it squashes all thought about planning for tomorrow. Once we slip into crisis mode out of necessity, it’s too easy to stay there out of habit—even if there is no longer any justification for it.

We may stand at that juncture now. This means it’s time to balance our work for today with taking initiative to prepare for the future. If we don’t, we won’t make forward progress; we’ll merely survive. Though survival is necessary, we need more if we hope to find success and enjoy fulfillment. I’m talking about ourselves, our staff, and our organization.

One aspect of future preparation is education. This can be formal or informal, structured or ad hoc, and mandated or self-determined. Though the application relates to everyone in the call center from new hire to director, let’s—by way of example—consider this for your telephone representatives. I’ll leave it to you to extend this throughout all staff in your operation.

Refresher Training

When we think of our call center staff going back to school, consider refresher training for the first initiative. It never hurts to revisit the basics. Though it may feel as though our existing staff has moved beyond this elementary teaching, the basics can atrophy over time. 

Agents will forget some of this instruction. Or maybe they never fully grasped other skills to begin with, even though they seem to be doing well in their jobs overall. The problem is the specifics of what teaching to refresh varies from one person to another. Therefore, it’s good to review everything.

Yes, I already hear your staff complaining. But this refresher initiative doesn’t—and shouldn’t—take as long as the first iteration. It should go much faster. Perhaps you can condense a day’s worth of training into an hour—or even less. The important thing is to make sure these basic skills don’t slip away over time.

Application Instruction

A second option for going back to school is to look at application instruction. When new software or an app enters your call center, agents need to receive instruction to know how to use it. Too often the urgency of the moment cuts this training short; it’s sometimes even omitted. This forces your phone representatives to figure it out on the fly. Though this may seem pragmatic or feel necessary, on-the-job-training frustrates employees who want to provide excellent service, and it’s disrespectful to callers who expect to receive it.

Go back and provide complete training on new software applications, as well as for major updates. Everyone will appreciate receiving this much-needed instruction.

Skill Enhancement

After reviewing the basics and mastering call center software apps, we can go back to school to enhance our skills. Your telephone staff receives initial onboarding training when they’re hired. 

As they go about their daily work, they apply that training and build upon it to increase their skill level. But this isn’t enough to ensure excellence, let alone produce successful outcomes. Your seasoned staff is ready for more. They need more. And you can provide it for them by teaching advanced call center service techniques. 

This may relate to customer service skills, problem resolution techniques, or de-escalating angry callers. It could also cover the seldom-used but much-appreciated advanced options available on your software platforms and databases. Staff won’t use these skills often, but when the situation arises possessing the knowledge of these advanced techniques can make the difference between an unsuccessful interaction and a positive outcome.

Conclusion

As students everywhere return to the classroom this fall, do the same thing for your call center staff: send them back to school. Providing refresher training, application instruction, and skill enhancement will help them do their jobs with greater efficiency and produce higher quality outcomes. 

Don’t let another year go by without giving your staff this much-needed support. The result will be happier employees and better served customers—in addition to a more effective call center operation.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Article Library at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com

Access Two Hundred Healthcare Call Center Articles Now in One Place 

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

For the past twenty years I’ve covered various aspects of the call center industry, publishing relevant trade periodicals. This includes AnswerStat, as well as our sister publication, Medical Call Center News. During these two decades, I’ve written over five hundred pieces about various aspects of operating and optimizing call centers. 

That’s a lot of material, averaging over two new articles a month for the entire twenty-year journey. This content spans four websites. Besides AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, there are also Connections Magazine and TAS Trader.

Though you can go to each individual periodical website to read these articles, you can now access all this content in one place. (In addition, there are also posts about writing and publishing, as well as business content, accounting for 800 more pieces.) 

Conservatively, I estimate this article library totals over half a million words. That’s a lot of writing, enough for several books. I just need to find the time to edit and publish them. So, stay tuned for updates when these books release.

For readers who want to focus specifically on the medical field, you can read all two hundred healthcare call center articles from this one site.

This article library of content merges most of my industry information on one website. Plus, the handy search feature allows you to quickly access a specific topic. If you want to refresh your memory or reread something I’ve written in the past, this site is the ideal place to find it.

I begin this publishing adventure in September 2001, and I look forward to continuing it as we move into the future. And as this unfolds, watch for this article library to grow at the projected pace of two articles a month.

Something that’s become clear after the turmoil of 2020 is that the call center industry is an essential business communications vehicle that can weather any storm. More importantly, healthcare call centers have emerged as the future of the industry. 

It’s going to be exciting to watch this unfold, and I’ll be here every step of the way.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

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. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

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. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.