Quality Voice & Data Attains Authorized SHAKEN Service Provider Status

Quality Voice & Data, Inc. (QVD), a national telecom carrier licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has been authorized as a SHAKEN Service Provider by iConective, the STIR/SHAKEN administrator. QVD has met the rigorous requirements necessary to provide call attestation at the highest level for their customers.

To address the avalanche of complaints related to illegal scam robocalls in the U.S., Federal and State agencies and the telecom industry worked together to evolve the way callers are identified, including a way to trace back any call to its originator. On January 6, 2020 the Traced Act was signed into law and states: “The FCC must require voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework on all IP networks and to take reasonable measures to implement an effective call authentication framework on all non-IP networks.” 

Today 95 percent of all US-based wireless carriers have already adopted the SHAKEN framework on their networks. Over the next year and half as full adoption by the wireline carriers is realized, order will be restored to the telecom infrastructure, and cell phone users will once again answer calls in confidence.

The guiding principle behind this new framework requires authorized SHAKEN service providers (telephone companies) to digitally sign their customers’ calls and most importantly, know who their customers are. Regulators will have easy access to identify the origin of any call because the SHAKEN digital signature will supply the required information. Any carrier, who fails to identify who their customer is, would be subject to losing their ability to sign future calls.

QVD’s Trusted Call Completion™ services help businesses maximize answer rates while protecting their telephone reputation. 

“We are thrilled to be part of bringing trust back to the telecom ecosystem—and more importantly ensuring the telephone numbers used by our customers have a good reputation” stated Dean Garfinkel, Quality Voice & Data CEO.

Founded in 2010, Quality Voice & Data, Inc. offers secure and reliable cloud-based telecom switching and VoIP services for customers nationally. Contact Kelsey@qualityvoicedata.com for more details.

May/June 2020 Issue of Connections Magazine

The May/June 2020 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

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CM May 2020 Issue

Work from Home Success



By Phil Kenter

One of our family friends told us that she disliked working in New York City as an investment broker/manager and was considering another career despite her financial success. She decided to try working from home and found it worked fine. She since has become more successful than before without the stress of commuting to the city every day. 

Now 100 percent of our staff work remotely. This has resolved all our staffing problems. Click To Tweet

In another case, the daughter of one of our clients was an equipment trainer, which required her to travel extensively throughout the country to hospitals and healthcare facilities. She convinced her employer that she could accomplish the training remotely from her home with the use of video conferencing. 

That prompted an idea for us to consider. We changed our Help Wanted ad to read “Work from Home After Training. Details: www.rccjobs.com.” The site describes the job and includes a twelve-minute video of an operator processing a call. 

We began to receive inquiries and requests for interviews. Applicants must train in our office for four to six weeks, four hours a day, five days a week. We usually know within the first week or two if they have what it takes. 

Once fully trained, we assist them in setting up their home office. We provide a headset, electronic access equipment, and detailed instructions. They provide their own computer, per our specs, that we set up and program for them to use exclusively for us. They’re also responsible for the telephone circuit and the internet connection. In under six months, we have hired four operators, all of whom enjoy working remotely. 

Because of that success, our remaining staff requested remote status too. Now 100 percent of our staff work remotely. This has resolved all our staffing problems. The midnight operators enjoy working from home in their pajamas rather than driving to the office in the middle of the night. 

If we need an operator to cover for someone else, one or more of them are readily available and enjoy doing it. The same applies for weekends and holidays. If we have a major snowstorm—when no one can come in—now they all are available to log in. In the winter when we become inundated with heat calls for oil deliveries, we always have operators available. The same occurs in the summer months during a heatwave when we’re inundated with air conditioning outage calls. 

When one of our lead operators moved to Florida with her family and informed us of minimal employment opportunities near where she lived, we sent her equipment. Now she continues to work for us forty hours a-week from her home in Florida.

Phil Kenter is with Relay Communications Center in Long Island, New York.

Vendor Profile on Amtelco



For forty-four years Amtelco has focused on providing call center solutions that meet or exceed customer expectations, backed by top-notch service and support. Amtelco systems and software process millions of telephone calls every day by operations in all fifty US states and more than twenty other countries. 

Amtelco president Tom Curtin states: “We truly believe that our customers and employees are extended family, and that culture is what fuels our business success. Each employee clearly sees how their work contributes to our business objectives, which ensures that all employees feel connected to one another and to our mission.” Amtelco has always been family-owned and managed through multiple generations who care for and understand their customers’ business.

By working closely with customers, Amtelco continues to develop innovative features and products to provide the best communications solutions. Click To Tweet

This dedication is evident in the average length of service of Amtelco employees. Of the more than 130 employees, 37 percent have more than fifteen years of experience, and 17 percent have more than twenty years of experience at Amtelco. In nine of Amtelco’s eleven departments, the average length of service is eleven or more years, and three departments have an average length of service of almost twenty. Amtelco recently received a Top Workplaces 2020 honor and a special award for work/life flexibility by the Wisconsin State Journal

By working closely with customers, Amtelco continues to develop innovative features and products to provide the best communications solutions.

Effective and Versatile Application

The Genesis Intelligent Series and Genesis Spectrum is an entirely software-based solution that provides a seamless integration of social media, websites, mobile communications, reporting, voicemail, and secure messaging. 

The key to the Genesis Series is the simplified administration and management of all call center applications within the Intelligent Series Supervisor. This reduces errors, administration, new client activation time, and maintenance overhead. Users can increase revenue through reduced labor and faster client activation. 

The Genesis Intelligent Series enables deployment in a virtual machine environment. This provides simplification of server utilization and maintenance to improve reliability and reduce overhead costs. The Genesis Series is perfectly suited for cloud applications. This enables deployment of the solution in cloud environments. Cloud implementation reduces premise-based equipment and overhead and provides flexibility and reliability by capitalizing on the cloud provider infrastructure.

Productive Remote Agent Solution

Communications software and virtual operator applications, such as Amtelco’s Genesis web agent, make working from home easy. The web agent application makes any personal computer a professional telephone agent station. 

Genesis Web Agent enables agents to process multichannel calls through desktop computers, laptops, and tablets from a web browser. The application uses WebRTC to provide agent audio in a secure, multimedia environment. All agent functions are available for remote agent connections, which allows for a smooth transition. For callers, the fact that the agents are remote is transparent.

Secure and Efficient Messaging

Businesses and healthcare enterprises use miSecureMessages to keep their communications secure. They trust miSecureMessages for communications security. The secure messaging app sends encrypted text, photo, audio, and video content.

MiSecureMessages has benefits for anyone using call centers for receptionist and messaging services to save time, increase efficiency, and improve security. It offers easy and encrypted messaging that’s perfect for small, medium, and large organizations. MiSecureMessages is an integral part of a complete secure messaging system. 

Version 6.7 of miSecureMessages includes the following enhancements: 

  • Android and Apple users can select different sounds for high-priority notifications versus normal-priority alerts. This allows users to know the priority of an incoming message.
  • When miSecureMessages users turn off their notifications, they have the option to enter their own away message or choose a preprogrammed message. The away message sends automatically to contacts who send them a message and appears on the contacts screen to other users in the same group. Away messages can be set in advance for a specific start and end date and time.
  • Messages can be sent with three different reply modes: allow replies to all recipients in the thread, only allow replies to the sender, or not allow any replies.
  • MiSecureMessages users can create their own personal quick phrases for use in composing and replying to messages. Each user’s personal quick phrases display in that user’s quick phrases menu, along with the group and system level quick phrases, if enabled.

Enhancing Quality Assurance and Productivity

The Genesis IS agent assessment feature is a customizable survey and scoring tool for assessing agent performance on individual calls. Supervisors can easily create new assessments, add, edit, and remove questions, customize the weight of questions, specify which assessments apply for which clients, and set a default assessment if a client doesn’t have one assigned. 

Data about recent assessment scores include the name of the agent assessed, who evaluated the agent, the client name and number, the score the agent received, the date of the call, and the call length. 

The call tracker analytics feature of the IS Supervisor dashboard displays charts of call event data. Displayed data includes total calls, calls per agent, calls per station type, calls per call type, calls per client, and service-level performance. The data can automatically refresh at configurable time intervals. 

The service-level charting widget provides a visual representation of activities related to specific target goals. Data grouping can cover the year, month, week, day, hour, or quarter hour. A variety of displayable data includes the average answer time, service-level answer time, agent and system abandons, total calls, calls per agent, and calls per call type. Users can configure target levels for the service level answer time, agent abandons, and system abandons, with the option to display the target levels. 

Amtelco

For more information, visit www.amtelco.com.

Preparing Your Contact Center for a Pandemic



By Donna Fluss

As the coronavirus pandemic fills the news headlines, contact centers are striving to continue to deliver service to their customers. Many companies have disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plans to address the ability to operate if a disaster—such as a hurricane, earthquake, or fire—were to occur. Some companies may even have plans to cope with the impact of a major flu outbreak, but few contact centers have a BC plan to handle a pandemic where employees are at risk if they sit closer than six feet from each other, which is the situation in most service organizations.

Business Continuity for Pandemics

Planning for business continuity in case of a pandemic is different from preparing for a natural disaster scenario. In the case of weather-related disasters, the main consideration is often employees’ safety when driving to and from the workplace. For a pandemic, however, the main issue may be people’s reluctance to leave home at all. Keep in mind that it’s not fair for companies to require their contact center staff and other service employees to report to work under these circumstances when other departments may be advised that it’s unsafe to come to the office.

Companies should prioritize keeping their employees safe and healthy so they can be there to assist their customers. Click To Tweet

Allow Contact Center Staff to Work from Home

Companies should make it as easy as possible for their contact center staff to work from home. Provide employees with PCs, headsets, and secure access to operating systems so they can perform their job in the safety of their home. This reinforces the benefit of investing in cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions that are accessible from most locations, including employees’ homes.

Supervisors should also be set up to work from their homes. To mitigate the risk of leaving contact center agents unsupported during a widespread health crisis, it’s a best practice to establish a structure where managers and supervisors share responsibilities, and it can be especially helpful to have them in different geographies. All systems should be capable of being managed from remote locations.

Communication Is Key

It’s important for businesses to have a documented DR/BC plan that addresses healthcare emergency scenarios. A communications plan is the most essential element during any crisis situation. The plan should inform staff members how to stay in touch with the business, and to let them know what is expected of them. It’s advisable for a company to have two ways of reaching each employee, such as email and SMS, to ensure that they receive each communication on a timely basis. 

Another essential element of the communication plan is a process for interacting with customers to let them know that your company is there for them and the most effective methods for receiving assistance. The customer communication should also set expectations for customers. If service response times are slower due to an increase in volumes or decrease in staff, advise them of this.

Enhance Self-Service Solutions

To decrease the volume of interactions that require live agents, companies should enhance their voice and web-based self-service solutions by adding options that don’t require human assistance. Companies can either enhance an existing interactive voice response (IVR) system or use a next-generation intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) that can be set up to manage multiple channels, including voice, websites, SMS, and more.

Final Recommendation

Social distancing has proven to be the most effective method to date for limiting the rapid spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. Companies should prioritize keeping their employees safe and healthy so they can be there to assist their customers. For contact center employees, this means allowing them to work from their homes.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

Interaction Recording Using Microsoft Teams: Ten Factors for Success



By Michael Levy

According to Gartner, one in four contact center seats is now communicating using Microsoft Teams. Therefore, you likely have agents handling customer inquiries and complaints using this platform across one or more of your contact centers. That means expanding the value of your Microsoft Teams solution to turn recorded interactions into valuable business assets.

To ensure quality of service and protect your business, it’s time to start capturing those interactions to monitor agent performance, maintain compliance (GDPR, PCI, HIPAA, and so forth), and protect your organization in cases of he-said/she-said disputes. With limited built-in recording capabilities for Microsoft Teams, consider an add-on recorder. Here are ten key factors to consider when making your selection:

1. Record All Interaction Types

Your recorder must be able to handle your interactions (voice, video chat, and screens) regardless of their type. This includes:

  • internal
  • federated
  • remote
  • mobile
  • conference
  • PSTN
Look for dashboards you can tailor to each user, enabling authorized staff to view the specific metrics and information that helps them perform their tasks more successfully. Click To Tweet

2. Support Multiple Integration Points

Your recorder needs to support multiple integration points, including:

  • direct routing via SBC
  • compliance recording APIs

3. Offer Omni-Channel Recording Capabilities

What’s more, your recording solution must be able to capture voice, video, chat, and screen so you can have full interaction recordings to replay when necessary to prove compliance, resolve a dispute, and gain valuable insights. 

Integrated playback in a single window also enables your managers, supervisors, and team leaders to precisely assess agent performance based on live interactions as they occur. Most recorders do not offer omni-channel playback.

4. Provide Versatility

Your Teams recorder ought to be able to offer various regional storage, data sovereignty, and geo-zone storage options to support your unique requirements. 

5. Uphold Regulatory Compliance

Record on demand, pause or resume, and sensitive-information masking are critical features that allow your agents to comply with relevant industry and governmental regulations such as GDPR, PCI, HIPAA, TCPA, and MiFID II. Your recorder must be able to support these capabilities to enable agents with the tools they require to comply. It’s also important to deploy a recorder that can accommodate regional storage and recording to support local privacy and data transfer laws.

6. Present Accessible Storage Options

You need secure access to your recordings. Therefore, you also require versatility in where your interactions are stored. You need a Microsoft Teams recorder that enables you to keep your recordings safely stored in various cloud locations, such as AWS and Azure.

7. Control and Restrict Access

Recorded interactions can contain sensitive information, such as patient details, credit card information, passwords, and PINs. Therefore, you must be able to restrict access to your stored interactions. Unauthorized access can leave your company and your customers vulnerable to misuse, compliance violations, and potential lawsuits. You need the ability to control playback permission levels by restricting access to authorized agents, team leaders, and managers. Also look for the ability to restrict and allow access to third parties without the need for exporting unencrypted audio files.

8. Allow Customization of KPIs and Intelligence Data

The performance data from your customer interactions can provide value to the members of your contact center team: managers, team leaders, agents, quality assurance supervisors, and analysts. Therefore, you want each person to be able to customize the KPIs and intelligence they see. 

Look for dashboards you can tailor to each user, enabling authorized staff to view the specific metrics and information that helps them perform their tasks more successfully. You also want the ability to integrate with and access other reporting solutions, such as Microsoft PowerBI.

9. Function in Hybrid Environments

Some organizations, especially those that have undergone a merger or acquisition, have hybrid contact centers featuring multiple communications and PBX platforms. These complex environments can cause problems for many recording solutions. You need a recorder that can support hybrid environments with the same recorder. 

For instance, look for a solution that can capture and store interactions across both a Cisco VoIP PBX and Microsoft Teams using the same recorder. This eliminates integration and playback compatibility concerns. The recorder should also support multiple integrations and hybrid environments to reduce risks and enable smooth technology migrations.

10. Work with a Variety of Communication Devices

You likely have a mix of mobile and office-based devices. You need a recorder that can capture interactions from these devices simultaneously.

Conclusion

Some interaction recorders only capture certain types of communications, while others lack flexibility for the types of deployments and storage options required. When selecting an interaction recording solution to support your Microsoft Teams interactions, consider these ten factors so you can select a recorder that supports your business requirements.

Michael Levy is the president, CEO, and co-founder of Numonix, an innovator in the development of interaction recording and quality management solutions.

Increasing Sales Through Self-Generated Leads



By Donna West

The real work of a salesperson—the work that truly increases your sales, and thus your income—happens outside of inquiry calls.

Inquiry calls can come in at any time, and you are there to respond to the leads that your company pays to generate. But sales are more than reacting to inquiries. Put that waiting time to effective use: set up accounts, complete paperwork, or do research for areas in which you want to sell. This is interruptible work that allows you to be ready to jump on an inquiry call the moment it comes in.

People buy from those they trust. Click To Tweet

Increase Your Sales

You must do warm calling, cold calling, and call-backs. Don’t forget the “How are we doing for you? Who else do you know that might need our services?” calls that will feather your commissions’ nest. If you aren’t calling the people who have inquired about your services, you’re abandoning them. 

It can take more than seven touches (some say many more) before a prospect becomes your client. It’s important to consistently make those touches. Create a list and be sure you’ve made at least seven touches. Note what they were. Tracking them will show what works best for you.

  • Personal notes—handwritten, using snail mail, the old-fashioned way—still work, but few people send them anymore. When was the last time you wrote one? When did you last receive one? They get attention.
  • Send bulky packages containing swag. Few people can resist a padded envelope with a surprise lump inside.
  • Forward an email about something that pertains to a prospect’s business, something you find on the internet. Sending it to them creates a touch. It says you listened when you were chatting with them.
  • Revisit their website to discover something you might comment on or ask about the next time you talk with them.
  • Call back the day after your conversation or visit to share something you’ve thought about that might benefit their business.
  • Send a copy of your newsletter, preferably a recent one that talks about a feature your potential client asked about or that you think might fit their business needs. 
  • Create a newsletter article that speaks to a feature that might interest multiple potential clients. Then share it with those prospects.

These are all important things to do after you speak with a potential client. It shows that yours is the kind of company that nurtures and cares about their business partners.

Self-Generated Leads

A good portion of your sales should come from self-generated leads—if you are putting effort into them. This is vitally important, and your commissions hinge on it. If you aren’t making the amount of money you’d like to, put more effort into generating your own leads.

Be creative. There are more ways to find people who need your services than contacting names on a purchased list of businesses. The yellow pages were once an excellent source of business leads, but there are many modern-day equivalents, including the yellow pages online.

  • Simply go to your browser and type in plumbers, for example, and your location. You will find a whole list of ads. If they’re looking for business, they probably need your services.
  • Check local advertiser newspapers (such as the Penny Saver), which often has advertisements for local small businesses. They need their phones answered, and many use an answering machine or voicemail. 
  • After hours, call businesses that use answering services and see how their phones are handled. Make a list of those calls that don’t sound professional. Then reach out to those companies.
  • As you’re driving, notice businesses that may need your services. Pull over and snap a photo or leave yourself a message on your phone.
  • Ask friends and relatives who they use for various service needs.
  • Call your local chamber of commerce and ask for lists. Or check with Home Advisors or Angie’s List.
  • Join your local chamber of commerce and attend their meetings.
  • Scope out various service clubs (such as Rotary or Lions), attend hobby clubs (knitting clubs, book clubs, even the sportsman’s club—whatever interests you). Join the PTA, a church, or a trade association and work on a committee.
  • Get acquainted with businesses that serve the tradespeople in the types of businesses you want to bring on board. For instance, if you are seeking plumbers as new clients, target plumbing and electrical supply stores, local hardware stores, and big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Don’t ever join a club, church, or organization for what you might get out of it. Be sure you’re genuinely interested in the group. Invest yourself in their goals and become a real part of their activities. Make this something you do for your own enjoyment; any leads that come from it are a bonus. Socially active salespeople have a greater income than those who are not. Some salespeople merely take orders as they come in, and their paychecks reflect that. Successful salespeople do far more, and their paychecks reflect the extra effort.

Always Be Seen

The rules for sales are different than for hourly workers. You can increase your income independently. Once you fulfill your agreement with your employer, you can make contacts at any time and any place.

It’s important to realize that people buy from those they trust. When you are out, you will become acquainted with more people. Eventually that facilitates sales. The sales slogan “Always be closing” is changing to “Always be seen.” You can’t make as much money if you stay home and only make calls during business hours.

A recent conversation with a top selling realtor netted the following great quote: “I’m never not selling. No matter where I go, I’m aware of sales possibilities. My livelihood depends on that.” That’s what makes a good salesperson. They recognize that they don’t know where that next lead will come from. 

When you’re in sales, you are working for your employer, but also for yourself. Be aware—but not aggressive. There is a difference between making your goal and making great money. That difference comes from the effort and imagination you’re willing to invest. Invest in yourself.

Donna West is the founder and president of Focus Telecommunications and relies on her super salespeople to build her company and their own income. Come to the Sales Symposium (rescheduled for 2021) for the telephone answering industry to learn more about the great game of sales and how you can win that game.

Healthcare Call Centers Help Bring Care to the Medically Underserved



By Nicole Limpert

A person who is medically underserved is someone who does not have health insurance. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Health Interview Survey cite that in 2017, 29.3 million, or 9.1 percent of the population were uninsured.

Vulnerable Populations: Multiple studies have found that vulnerable populations in the United States, including the elderly, low-income, ethnic minorities, migrants, and people who received limited education, are also medically underserved.

People with various life experiences may interpret symptoms differently, such as thinking a seizure is a spiritual issue rather than a medical complaint or expressing concerns about depression as anger rather than sadness.

Medical call centers play a critical role in helping to serve the medically underserved. Click To Tweet

Poor Access to Healthcare: Living in a rural location and having inadequate transportation present challenges when trying to access healthcare. Rural areas are sparsely populated, resulting in a lack of available services. Rural communities comprise roughly 20 percent of the United States, yet less than 10 percent of doctors practice in these communities.

People in rural areas rely on their own transportation to and from health services. A report released in December 2018 from Pew Research Center found that the average travel time by car to the nearest hospital for rural Americans is about seventeen minutes compared to ten minutes in urban areas. 

However, even people in urban areas have difficulty visiting their doctor’s office. Transportation can be a challenge for people with disabilities, those with chronic illnesses, the elderly, and people who are considered low-income. Approximately 3.6 million Americans, from both rural and urban areas, experience missed or delayed medical appointments due to transportation issues.

Support from Healthcare Call Centers

Technology enables medical call centers to effectively become an extension of a hospital or clinic’s operations. The communication software used by medical call centers can securely access a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR), update EMRs with notes, and record calls needed for insurance claims and workmen’s compensation. Because everything is documented, detailed reports can be generated for reporting purposes.

Medical call centers can provide or facilitate healthcare-related services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They play a critical role in helping the medically underserved by addressing two of the biggest barriers to healthcare: language and transportation.

Language: Healthcare staff work with an enormously diverse patient population. Understanding a person’s language leads to better healthcare. Multilingual call centers hire operators to assist non-English-speaking patients or use confidential over-the-phone interpreting (OPI) services for access to hundreds of different languages.

Transportation: Patients with mobility challenges or those who live in rural areas don’t have to leave home for some services. Operators can coordinate care, make follow-up calls, schedule visits, contact on-call medical staff, and manage referrals.

Some call centers staff nurses or multidisciplinary teams (such as a resident, pharmacist, and social worker) who are qualified to make health assessments, give medical advice, and escalate critical concerns. These call centers can offer nurse call helplines, emergency mental health counseling, and other critical support.

Helping Hospitals that Help the Underserved

Reduce Penalties: A recent study done by Harvard University suggests that hospitals located in low-income areas are more likely to receive penalties due to Medicare and Medicaid’s survey-based reimbursement programs. Patients are asked to provide information about their healthcare experience via the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. Unacceptable survey outcomes can result in hospitals losing some reimbursements.

The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics reports that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can currently withhold 1 percent of Medicare payments—30 percent of which are tied to HCAHPS scores. When Medicare and Medicaid account for more than 60 percent of all care provided by hospitals, the possible amount of dollars lost due to poor patient experience is a significant number. In 2017 alone, approximately 1.7 billion dollars in reimbursements were withheld from hospitals.

Healthcare call centers play a critical role in patient satisfaction surveys because they function as a virtual lobby for a hospital and are often the first point of contact with a patient. The patient’s experience with coordinating their care via call center agents can positively affect their feedback on the survey.

Reduce Readmissions: The CMS reports that nearly one in five Medicare patients are readmitted to a hospital within thirty days of discharge, yet a recent study from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that 27 percent of all thirty-days hospital readmissions are preventable.

Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) lowers payments to Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) hospitals who report too many readmissions. According to the CMS, 2,573 hospitals received penalties in 2018 and had around 564 million dollars in payments withheld.

Studies indicate that a post-discharge call program can help hospitals reduce their readmission rate. IPC Healthcare (IPC) tested the effect of post-discharge calls on readmission rates from October 2010 through September 2011. The IPC call center contacted 350,000 discharged patients to check symptoms, review medications and treatment plans, and remind patients of follow-up appointments. Successful contacts occurred with 30 percent of patients, with an estimated 1,782 avoidable readmissions prevented over that year.

Amtelco

Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. 1Call develops software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.

[This article first appeared on AnswerStat.]

Enhancing the Customer Experience with Expanded Services and Automation



By Nancy Lee and April Forer

Call centers exist in an ever-changing marketplace. New channels and technologies are constantly emerging. Using a multichannel, all-in-one system makes it easier to support customers’ needs and earn their loyalty. A true omni-channel system eliminates many performance challenges call centers face today. Agents need to be able to assist customers without having to access multiple systems.

Remote agents are increasingly in demand to maximize the availability of resources. Software and virtual operator applications make working from home easier. To be effective, these tools should be scalable and capable of offering fully functioning call handling.

Automation adds value by accurately handling everyday, tedious tasks, which allows agents to focus on providing a higher level of customer satisfaction. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be employed to improve call taking and reduce errors. Digital channels have become popular tools to enhance the customer experience. Users can use analytics to improve customer retention rates and enrich the caller experience.

These tools can translate popular social media posts, messages, and notifications on the client accounts into tasks for agents to manage. Click To Tweet

Transitioning to Virtual Call Centers

Faced with limited space, some call centers are using a unique solution by having their agents work remotely from home. One of the benefits of running a call center in a virtual server environment, or in the cloud, is the ability to use home-based operators.

Communications software and virtual operator applications make working from home easy. These applications are scalable and offer fully functioning call handling to transform any personal computer into a professional telephone agent station, accessible through the internet or local intranet. All agent functions are still available for remote agent connections, including call log recordings and retrieval, which allows for a smooth transition. For callers, the fact that the agents are remote is transparent.

A cloud-based messaging system is omni-channel and offers flexibility and efficiency. Establish a VPN connection for remote operators to ensure that their connection is secure. Set up the data link via direct connection, remote desktop, or thin client and an audio connection via integrated audio or external audio.

It is helpful to have a remote system that performs directory searches, scripted messaging, and dispatching, and also provides access to call log recordings, web content, and on-call schedules. Custom call center scripting guides remote operators through each call with the exact information they need to provide. The ability to easily edit scripting protocols means that frontline operators, working from any location, will have the most up-to-date information to provide the best caller experience and reduce errors or misinformation.

Benefits of Utilizing AI

AI can reduce customer effort and help resolve customer needs on the first contact. First-contact resolution is a leading sign of a great customer experience. Meeting this goal includes making call taking easier for agents, speeding up the call process for the caller, and reducing the possibility of errors.

AI can enhance skill-based call routing to determine the best agent to receive a call. By using a call’s automatic number identification (ANI), the artificial intelligence ACD feature can determine the best agent to receive that call based on which agent previously worked with the caller, started a dispatch for the caller, and is the most qualified to handle the call. 

Expanding Digital Channels

By offering additional digital channels such as chat, mobile, and social media, users can engage customers with meaningful support. These channels are becoming increasingly popular as customers feel more comfortable with them.

These tools can translate popular social media posts, messages, and notifications on the client accounts into tasks for agents to manage. Check Facebook accounts for keywords, inbound messages, posts, comments about posts, shares of posts, and reactions to posts such as likes and other emoticon-based comments. Monitor Twitter accounts for keywords, inbound direct messages, replies to account tweets, and for likes, hashtags, retweets, mentions, and reactions to posts by the customer. Track Instagram accounts for likes and comments regarding a client’s posts.

Utilizing Analytic Tools

Tapping new analytic software is important to improve customer retention rates. Speech analytics allow supervisors a deeper analysis of call logs, such as providing a transcript of the call and describing the overall tone of the caller. Speech analytics can also look for keywords in the call recordings and alert supervisors about those keywords. Then supervisors can analyze the data through charts, reports, and transcripts.

Evolving Technology

As technology continues to evolve, using a multichannel, all-in-one system will provide agents and customers with a more efficient call handling solution. Using automation and enhanced services allows call centers to provide a higher level of customer satisfaction while reducing frustration for both the agent and customer.

Amtelco

Nancy Lee and April Forer are marketing specialists at Amtelco. Founded in 1976 to provide communication solutions to the answering service and medical messaging industry, Amtelco has a strong history in the telemessaging industry. Amtelco focuses on providing call center solutions that meet or exceed customer expectations, backed by top notch service and support. For more information contact them at info@amtelco.com or 800-356-9148.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part Three



By Kathy Sisk

In the five steps to select an outsource call center agency, we’ve already covered the first three: 1) design an RFP; 2) review the responses; and 3) conduct a phone interview. Now it is time to move to steps four and five.

Step 4: Visit the agency and monitor their agents.

Once you’ve narrowed your list to two or three candidates, visit their facility to assess their operation. Speak with their IT department, project managers, and quality control supervisors to evaluate their ability and willingness to handle your calls effectively and efficiently.

 Ask to monitor as many agents and calls as possible to help determine the skill level of the agency’s staff. Some agencies may tell you they have a privacy clause with their clients and cannot allow you to monitor calls. If this occurs, ask the agency to request special permission for you to conduct your call evaluations. If the agency has a good relationship with its client, and your company is not a competitive threat, they will usually grant permission. Eliminate any agency that either refuses to let you monitor or ask their clients for permission. They may have something to hide.

Step 5: Select an agency and negotiate the contract.

Using this information, choose the right agency for your company based on affordability, performance, and cultural compatibility. 

 Carefully negotiate your contract, ensuring that the agency’s rates, setup fees, and terms are consistent with your RFP. See if you can get a better price. If the agency really wants your business and believes it will be a long-term venture, you will have more negotiating power. 

 Put your performance requirements in writing and include a clause that permits you to terminate the contract without stipulations if the agency doesn’t perform up to your standards. Most agencies don’t want such a clause and prefer a thirty- to ninety-day notice. If the agency is not willing to budge on these terms and you do not have an alternative, try to negotiate a lower fee during the ramp-up time. 

If these negotiations fail, you may want to start over.

For more information about setting up, reengineering, outsourcing, and project managing your call center operations, Kathy Sisk Enterprises can help you. They have over forty years’ experience with satisfied clients and centers across the globe.

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