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Healthcare Call Centers

Key Tips to Successfully Work from Home



Discover How to Effectively Work in a Home Office, Whether Long-Term or Short-Term

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I recently celebrated twenty years of working from home. For the first year I divided my time between my home office and a traditional office. I followed that with a couple more years that included travel. But for the last sixteen years I’ve worked exclusively from home. It’s an ideal arrangement, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I doubt I could ever return to a job that required me to go into an office to work each day.

Here are some of the key considerations to make a work-at-home scenario a success.

Workspace

A key element to effectively work from home is to have a dedicated workspace you can call your own. For me, an unused bedroom became my office. When I’m in my home office, I work. When I leave, I stop.

But not everyone has a spare room they can take over. If that’s the case, can you carve out a corner in another room? Can you make a room multifunctional, where it works as an office during office hours and serves as family space the rest of the time? Regardless, the goal is training yourself so that when you go to your office—whatever it may look like—you’re conditioned to work and not do anything else.

Distraction Free

Having a workspace without distractions is ideal, but it’s not always feasible. In that case, the goal is to reduce distractions is much as possible. Remove everything from your home office that you don’t need for work. This includes televisions, radios, and books. Delete games from your computer, as well as other programs that don’t facilitate work.

Many home workers buy a white noise machine, turn on a fan, or listen to instrumental music so they can tune out household activities that may occur as they’re trying to work. If you have an office door, close it. Post office hours in your work area. Then enforce them.

Expectations

Establish expectations with family and friends. When I began working at home, I told our young children that until 5 p.m. they were not to interrupt me for any reason unless they were sick or bleeding. That did the trick. Other family members were a bit harder to train, but the point is to insist that your family and friends respect your time in your home office as sacred and not assume you’re available for nonwork activities. This also means not answering your home phone or taking personal calls while you’re working.

Routine

Just as when you work in an office location and have a series of steps you do before work and after work, do the same for your home office. Though it’s quite feasible to do so, don’t work in your pajamas. It conditions you to not take work seriously or put forth your best effort.

Also, don’t eat meals or snacks in your office. Eat breakfast before you arrive, enjoy supper afterward, and leave your office for lunch. Doing so promotes focus, priority, and professionalism.

Tools

An effective office requires tools. First up is a fast and stable internet connection. I can’t think of a job you can do from home for long without internet access. Get the best that you can afford, and don’t let online access hinder your success when you work from home.

A slow or buggy computer is another detriment. Every second of delay or frustration at your computer provides time you’re not being productive. The seconds add up to minutes and minutes add up to hours. Again, get the best computer you can afford. Install all the same programs on your home computer as you have at the office. Don’t skimp.

Also look for tools that you may not use in your workplace office, such as Skype or Zoom so that you can connect with your coworkers as needed.

Schedule

If you’re work-at-home situation is direct contact center work, then your scheduler will tell you when to work. Easy-peasy.

For everyone else, establish your own schedule, just as you would in a workplace setting. You start at a specific time, end at a specific time, and take time out for lunch and breaks. The rest of the time you should be in your office working.

The converse of this is outside of your work schedule you should not be in your office working. This takes us to the final consideration.

Balance

We often talk about work-life balance. Though always a critical consideration, balance looms as an even bigger concern when you work and live in the same place. This means segregating your work from the rest of your life, even though both happen at the same location. Some people prefer the word compartmentalize: to place work in one mental compartment and your home life in another.

Action Steps

If you suddenly find yourself working at home, put these tips into practice as soon as possible. Then you will experience a successful, enjoyable, and effective situation. 

If you’re planning to one day work at home, put these steps into place before you start. It will make all the difference.

When done right, working at home can increase productivity, decrease stress, and improve your enjoyment of your work. Though you might now be working at home as a temporary solution to a problem outside your control, you might find the results so beneficial that you want to turn working at home into a permanent scenario.

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

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Healthcare Call Centers

Use a Quality Assurance Program to Improve Your Call Center

Use a Quality Assurance Program to Improve Your Call Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In the last issue, we talked about improving your call center by providing ongoing skills training. Now we’ll continue the discussion by addressing a quality assurance (QA) program.

In the call center industry, everyone’s talking about providing quality transactions. Quality call center work helps bring about quality healthcare outcomes, which starts with quality agent communication.

One essential step to keep the focus on quality is to have a quality assurance process. Most leading call centers have a QA program in place. Others plan to add one. And some had one but, in a rush to deal with the urgent, they put the practice on hold, which they later pushed aside.

Last are those call centers that don’t have a QA program, never did, and aren’t planning to. It’s time for this to change. Every call center that cares about its callers needs to put quality at the forefront of all they do, and a QA program is the surest way to accomplish that.

A QA program is a methodical system that regularly evaluates calls from each agent. These calls can be live or recorded. Regardless of the format, a trained quality professional evaluates each call according to established criteria. They then share the results with each agent, providing encouragement whenever possible, and offering constructive criticism when appropriate. The goal of a QA program stands to reinforce the positive and offer corrections to improve the not so great.

Successful QA programs have an established process they follow without fail. And most programs have dedicated a trained quality professional to administer the program. Conducting QA evaluations and providing immediate feedback are generally this person’s sole responsibility.

To start a QA program or restart one on hold, think small. This might be performing one call evaluation per agent per month. As the process becomes fine-tuned and the practice becomes routine, increase the frequency to twice a month and then weekly. Some established robust QA programs evaluate their agents much more frequently.

In addition to dedicating a person to do QA evaluations, another key is to secure agent buy-in from the onset. This starts before launching the program and continues as a QA professional provides feedback to each agent. The goal of each feedback session is to celebrate what the agent did well. Make it a positive experience that they can anticipate. Then add one area to work on. Eventually, some calls won’t warrant any suggestions for improvement at all. And that’s the goal of a QA program.

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

What Kind of Healthcare Coverage Do You Provide to Your Staff?

Take Steps to Meet the Healthcare Needs of Your Healthcare Call Center Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I enjoy going to the zoo with family. We go several times each year. A special bonus are those opportunities to interact with the zookeepers and learn more about the animals under their care. During a recent visit we had the privilege of an extended discussion with one of the caretakers after she tended to the zoo’s three lions.

She shared insider information about their feeding, their training, and their healthcare. After covering the extensive medical care these three amazing creatures receive—the testing, monitoring, medication, and access to specialists—she grew momentarily somber. “They receive much better healthcare than I do.” We sadly nodded that we understood. Then she perked up and resumed telling us about these animals that she so clearly loves.

I wonder if a similar thing happens in our healthcare call centers. Do employees hang up from a phone call and shake their heads in dismay, muttering “That caller receives far better healthcare than I do.”? I hope not, but I fear it’s true far more often than it’s not.

It may be understandable for this to happen occasionally, but it’s inexcusable if it happens often. This needs to change. Take steps to better meet the healthcare needs of healthcare call center staff.

To expect workers in healthcare call centers to serve patients and callers with excellence, they must first have a good perspective for them to work from. This includes providing healthcare workers with adequate healthcare coverage and services.

Falling short of doing so handicaps them from performing their jobs with distinction and serving callers with appropriate empathy. It would be like making restaurant staff work on an empty stomach but expecting it to not impact their patrons’ experience.

Call centers invest money on ongoing agent training, coaching, and quality assurance programs. Make sure to also invest in call center staff’s healthcare. This will help ensure that they better connect with the people they talk to on the phone, without negativity and resentment showing through.

A key aspect of enabling call-center staff to best meet the healthcare needs of callers is to start by making sure you best meet the healthcare needs of your staff. If you find yourself needing to make changes, you may not be able to fix everything all at one time. But you can move in that direction. Start today.

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

Improve Your Call Center by Providing Ongoing Skills Training

Improve Your Call Center by Providing Ongoing Skills Training

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

This year we’ll embark on a series of articles about how to move your healthcare call center forward to better meet the needs and expectations of your callers and patients. We’ll start by talking about providing your frontline staff with ongoing skills training.

For your call center, you begin by hiring the best staff, providing them with the detailed training they need to do their jobs well, and then scheduling them to handle calls. It’s a great start, but it’s just the beginning. 

Over time their skills will drift away from what you expect and migrate toward what is expedient. Even more of a concern, they will learn from their coworkers sitting next to them. Though they may acquire some good skills this way, they’re more apt to pick up less-than-ideal habits. It’s a given that what you don’t want to occur in your call center will much more readily permeate your entire staff then the best practices you desire them to emulate.

That’s why it’s essential to provide periodic training to your staff. Through this, you can reinforce the best skills in call handling, customer service, and patient satisfaction that you want them to consistently provide. And then you can teach them new, enhanced skills too. 

Just as vision is leaky, so too are call handling skills. Both require regular reminders. Therefore, you need to teach and reinforce the skills that you want your staff to use in your call center. Do this on a regular basis. You need to provide this to every frontline employee. 

Though you may want to start with the under-performing staff first, this is backwards. If you start with them, they’ll view your training as punitive, which will detract from your objective of enhancing their skills.

Instead, you might want to start with your best-performing staff. They are apt to view the advanced training as a reward, making them much more likely to retain and implement the customer service techniques you teach them. Then roll the training out to the rest of your staff. They’ll receive your instruction more positively.

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

Be Sure to Thank Your Staff

Let Your Call Center Employees Know You Appreciate Their Work

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We just celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States, which is a time where we typically reflect on what we’re thankful for—when we’re not scarfing down a holiday feast. 

Do you let your staff know you appreciate them? I’m sure you’ll say yes, but what will they say? I’m not being critical, but I am seeking to prompt some deep consideration into how you thank your staff. 

I suspect you’re already making a list:

  • You provide employment, a paycheck, and a decent compensation package
  • You send a Thanksgiving card, note, or even a small bonus
  • You give them a frozen turkey or gift card
  • You serve a Thanksgiving meal for those who work on Thanksgiving
  • You pay a bonus for those who work over the holiday weekend

These things are great, but your staff has grown to expect them. These efforts at indicating gratitude, while appreciated, don’t convey that you’re truly thankful for your staff and the work they do throughout the year. If they are to realize that you appreciate them, you need to find a better way to say thank you.

I once had a boss who personally gave me my paycheck every week. Though a man of few words, he would hand me my check, look me in the eye, and say “thank you.” He did this for all twenty to thirty people in his department, without fail, every pay period. 

That was thirty years ago, but I still remember it as if it just happened. Though he was a hard man to figure out and often frustrating to work for, I had no doubt that he appreciated my efforts. His periodic, heartfelt thank you kept me motivated, even though his management style sometimes grated on my soul.

If your efforts to thank your staff fail to communicate your appreciation, it’s time for a different approach. Why not try handing each employee their paycheck, looking them in the eye, and saying “thank you.” And if your operation is too big or your staff schedule is too varied for you to do this, do it for your direct reports and encourage them to do it for theirs.

Though thanking your staff on Thanksgiving is a great start, personally thanking them every pay period will make an impression that lasts.

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