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Healthcare Call Centers

Solicit Feedback from Your Frontline Staff

Verify Key Information and Don’t Assume You Know the Answer 

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

My first full-time job was repairing copy machines. One day, toward the end of my short tenure there, the new service manager shared his vision for the future of his department. The company had two product lines, each with its own technical staff. This was inefficient, as the paths of the respective service teams would often cross. His grand idea was to cross train us on both product lines so we would do less driving and be more efficient. Customers would receive quicker service, and the company would save money.

It was a clever idea, but I pointed out something he overlooked. Already jammed with copier machine parts, my service vehicle had no room left to carry additional supplies for another product line. In fact, I revealed that I had removed my spare tire to make room for the parts I needed to carry.

His once pleased smile evaporated. My revelation left him dismayed, shooting down his brilliant idea. I’m not sure if I were the first technician that he shared his plan with, but I was the first one to point out why it wouldn’t succeed.

I respected him as a leader, in part because he understood my job. In fact, he once did what I and my three dozen compatriots were doing now. But things changed over time with more models to service and more spare parts to carry. His assumption that his knowledge from years ago still applied left him vulnerable to making a miscalculation.

This error can happen in any organization, including medical call centers and answering services. Many people in management and leadership rose through the ranks, having once answered patient phone calls themselves. But things change over time, and what may have once made sense, no longer applies.

That’s why it’s important for leaders to keep in touch with what their frontline staff does each day. This doesn’t mean caring a vague comprehension, but instead possessing an in-depth understanding.

Short of periodically taking calls—which is a great idea—the solution is to talk with your telephone representatives. This will help you better understand what they do on a day-to-day basis and aid you in making informed decisions about the work they do and the policies that support them.

Don’t assume you know the answer. Ask the people who know. They’ll either confirm or correct your perspective. Either way it’s a win.

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

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.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Move from Crisis Mode to Intentional Action

Failing to Prepare Is Preparation for Failure

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Most medical call centers scrambled during the past year to adapt to ever-changing protocols. This includes adjusting to meet caller expectations, appropriately scheduling staff while ensuring their safety, and handling more calls than usual. As a result, a day-to-day survival mentality has emerged in many operations. Just handle the next phone call, get through the day unscathed, and return tomorrow to do it again.

If we’re not intentional, we could find ourselves mired in this mode for a long time. The solution is to take initiative to inform our future so that it doesn’t force us into maintaining this uncomfortable status quo. Our future starts today.

Take time to consider what happens next.

Adapt a Dual-Strategy Mentality

While we all hope to one day return to normal, many people wonder if we ever will. Although our current situation could persist into the future, we could also morph into a new normal that falls midway between what was and what is.

Since we don’t know what will happen, our strategy should account for both possibilities. Though this requires extra work, demanding time that we may not have to give to it, it’s worth the effort to plan for two scenarios: 1) how we can best move back to how things used to be, and 2) how we can best move forward into a new way of doing business. Plan today to prepare for either possibility.

Platform

How well has your call center system performed in the past twelve months? If it’s handled everything you’ve thrown at it with ease and excellence, then you have a firm foundation from which to move forward. 

If, however, a few cracks emerged in performance or capability, this is the time to plan for needed upgrades or a system replacement. Even if your call center platform performed well prior to the pandemic, you’ll expect more from it even if we’re able to return to the way things used to be. 

Do what you need to do now to make sure you have the technological infrastructure in place to move into the future, whatever that may look like.

Staffing

Though some call centers have had a distributed workforce or been virtual for years, many in the healthcare call center arena have been reluctant to send their agents home to work. Though a centrally located staff is easier to manage, it’s increasingly hard for most operations to staff.

Having the flexibility to tap into a home-based workforce—whether home-bound out of necessity or preference—may be the only solution for some call centers to fully staff their operation. If you’re not able to accommodate off-premise workers, take the needed steps to be able to move in that direction if or when needed.

Conclusion

Though it’s understandably easy to continue functioning in a crisis mode, it’s critical to take initiative today to prepare for a better tomorrow. 

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

Who Signs Your Paycheck?

Knowing Who You Work for Helps You Do a Better Job

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Do you know who signs your paycheck? Whose signature is it that authorizes payment for the work you do? This, of course, is a theoretical question because most workers today receive their compensation electronically. It shows up in their bank account each payday, without a knowledge of who authorized the transfer.

When I ask who signs your paycheck, however, I don’t mean in a literal sense but in a broader, holistic way. That is, who is responsible for the money you make? Who do you work for? Let’s consider the options:

Your Employer

First on the list is the company you work for, your employer. They hired you, trained you, and pay you for your work. Regardless of the size of the organization you work for, however, there are numerous facets to employment.

First is your boss, and the managers and supervisors she has in place to oversee your work. Larger organizations have a hierarchy. There is your bosses’ boss and maybe even their boss. There could be officers and a Board of Directors. A corporation has stockholders, who own the company. You work for them all. In effect, each one signs your paycheck.

What about your coworkers? In a well-functioning organization, everyone works together to meet a common goal: serving callers. And if you’re in a position of authority, you have people working under you. In a way, you work for them, too, by providing support, encouragement, and direction. If they succeed in their jobs, you succeed in yours.

Your Clients

If you’re employed in an outsource call center, where you handle calls for other companies, you work for them too. Serve them well to retain their business, and you will continue to have a job. Serve them poorly, and they’ll cancel service. If this happens too often, your future employment is at risk. In this way, you work for your clients as much as you work for your employer.

Your Callers

Regardless of the type of call center you’re in, you work for your callers too. Without callers, you would have nothing to do. They’re critical to your ongoing employment success as well. 

Though most people who work in call centers have an inherent desire to do their best to help callers, not everyone is so service-oriented. Do your best to take care of them, which is what your company hired you to do. Then you will continue to have a job.

You

In addition to your employer, clients, and callers, you also work for yourself. You work to earn a living. It’s in your best interest to handle calls with excellence, thereby keeping your job.

Conclusion

In practice, you don’t work for one person, but for many. They are who signs your paycheck. Though there’s an obvious priority, strive to give your best work to each one of them, including yourself.

Don’t let this thought of working for everyone overwhelm you. Instead let it motivate you to give your best to your job every day, on every call.

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

How to Setup a Quality Assurance Program f Your Call Center Operation

Work to Enhance Customer Service to Better Meet Caller Expectations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

What does your healthcare call center do to improve quality interactions with your callers and patients? While some call centers have robust programs in place, others struggle with implementation or following through, and a few keep putting it off. 

Regardless of where you stand on the quality spectrum, too many call centers lack a methodical quality assurance (QA) program that they consistently use to track and improve the quality of the interactions that their agents have with callers.

Here are some thoughts to move forward:

Start Small

Though you could begin with a grand comprehensive plan to have a dedicated QA leader or team evaluate every agent every day, this is too big of a vision for most organizations to start with. Instead think small. Aim to evaluate each employee once a month. This feels manageable.

Though evaluating one call a month may not provide statistically meaningful insights, it does communicate to every employee the importance you place on the quality of their work. It also brings a customer service focus to the forefront of their thinking.

Be Consistent

Now that you’ve evaluated one call per person in a month, repeat the process. Do it a second month and then a third. Some employees will catch the vision right away, while others will have a wait-and-see attitude. But as you consistently assess one call per agent per month, your staff will see your commitment and take the goal of quality seriously.

Celebrate Wins

Instead of evaluating calls to discover where agents fall short, seek to catch them doing something right. Focus on the positive whenever possible. Yes, you must address some errors immediately, but even in this case frame them between what they did right. 

Let them self-identify areas to improve. For example, listen to a call with them and ask, “What was good about this call?” You may need to prod a bit, provide suggestions, or offer affirmation. After they’ve identified several areas of success, then ask them, “What is one thing that could’ve gone better?” Then offer instruction, encouragement, or support as needed to help them turn this one weak area into a strength.

Grow as Needed

Once you have a system down and have consistently evaluated one call per agent per month, look to expand your program. Seek to assess two calls per month. This will also be an ideal time to train other people in your QA process so that they, too, can help appraise calls. Continue to add calls to the process until you have a statistically significant dataset for each employee each month. 

Also, be sure to allocate time for your QA manager or team so they can complete their call evaluation work. Don’t expect them to squeeze this task in among many others. If you do, something will suffer, and I suspect it will be your QA program. 

Your employees—and your callers—deserve better.

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