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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.

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Healthcare Call Centers

Look for Ways to Streamline Your Call Center Processes

Remove What’s Unnecessary and Retain What Is

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Although I’m not trained as an industrial engineer, I think I’d make a good one. I have a knack of looking at processes and streamlining them. It gives me great satisfaction to take something overly complex and reduce it to its essential elements.

It doesn’t matter what the task is, whether setting an appointment, doing a patient intake, or making a post-discharge phone call, there’s a process to assure it’s done correctly. 

Sometimes we view these steps as common sense and don’t feel a need to document them—that is until someone fails to follow common sense. Other times—be it through past failures or an overly complex process—we document the path to produce success.

Too often, however, these processes are more involved than they need to be. We need to look for ways to streamline them. Here are four considerations.

1. Remove Obsolete Elements: Any process that’s been around for a while, likely contains unnecessary steps. Though once required, they no longer are. 

One healthcare call center compiled data from every call for marketing. But marketing didn’t even know the report existed. The person who requested it had left the organization two years before.

2. Eliminate Redundant Tasks: When I started Medical Call Center News, I entered data into three spreadsheets for each issue. Some numbers went on multiple sheets. 

I reviewed the purpose I sought to accomplish and what I was doing. One section was a carryover from another publication and no longer applied. Another area contained information that was personally interesting but had no business relevance. 

By taking away what was not essential, it was easy to see how the remaining data could smartly fit on one simplified spreadsheet. Not only did I save time with each issue, but the result was easier to use information.

A corollary that applies in many large organizations is multiple departments that want the same data. Enter it in one place and allow everyone to access it there. Don’t do something twice when once will work.

3. Combine Steps: I once toured an apple farm and watched them make cider using an old-fashioned apple press. Though I admired the employee’s diligent work, the inefficiency appalled me. They could have combined five steps into two. And a simple adjustment to the press’s set up would have eliminated all five, which took about 20 percent of the time to make each batch.

4. Cull Historical Baggage: Processes that have been around for a while often include steps that are there because of one error that happened long ago. Yes, mistakes do occur, but it’s not wise to systematize preventing the possible reoccurrence of one long ago oversight.

Conclusion

Streamlining a process may seem like too much work, but once simplified your staff will save time, reduce errors, and be more efficient every time they use it. A little effort now will pay huge dividends for the long-term.

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

Solicit Feedback from Your Frontline Staff

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

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.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

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. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

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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.