Tag Archives: Call Center Management Articles

MiSecureMessages Secure Messaging App 4.2.0 for iOS/Apple Devices

Amtelco released version 4.2.0 of the miSecureMessages secure messaging app, which businesses and healthcare enterprises use for secure communications. Version 4.2.0 features enhanced functionality with Apple Watch. Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 users with Watch OS 5 or later can read and reply to secure messages. A new Apple Watch menu displays which accounts contain new messages.

Amtelco’s President Tom Curtin stated, “We are very excited to release this highly anticipated app update and would like to thank our customers who enthusiastically volunteered their time to test the update to ensure it would meet the needs of all of our customers. This new version will greatly improve communications with their clients.”

Customers may update the app from their iPhone’s App Store account. New documentation is available on Amtelco’s TechHelper website.

The miSecureMessages Apple app provides secure messaging and paging services for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It receives notifications of secure messages sent from the miSecureMessages Web Service via the Apple Push Notification Service. Users can view, respond to, and initiate messages to other miSecureMessages users within their organization.

Amtelco

For more information contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148, info@misecuremessages.com, or visit www.misecuremessages.com.

Is Your Call Center Ready for Anything?



How to Survive When Receiving Twice the Calls or Having Half the Staff—or Both

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Running a call center is hard, at least doing it right. Even under normal conditions, managers struggle to balance traffic and staffing levels while maintaining high quality and minimizing complaints.

But what happens when conditions aren’t normal? If you’re slammed with calls for an extended period, how will you fare? What happens if several agents can’t make it into work? What if the remote access portion of your system goes down, leaving your local staff to deal with everything?

One solution is to ignore the risk and hope nothing abnormal happens. But eventually, something abnormal will occur. It might be a weather event, a natural disaster, or a manmade crisis. Use your imagination—it’s easy to see that any number of things that could cause call traffic to spike or your staffing levels to drop. In fact, these both could happen at the same time. How well could your call center manage trying to handle twice the number of calls with half the staff?

Preparation today will help achieve success for tomorrow. Click To Tweet

Here are some ideas:

Multilocation

call center

If the source of the problem that moves you from normal to not normal is local, having a multilocation call center is one easy solution—provided that the other call centers are far enough away to not have the same scenario affect them. Of course, this strains the other call centers in the network, but more locations and more agents to share the load reduces the negative impact.

Remote Workforce

Many call centers use some work-at-home agents, whereas others prefer all staff to work from one centralized location to allow for better management. Regardless, allowing staff to work from a remote location during a crisis is a key way to minimize the impact. This could provide options for staff unable to make it into the office, as well as make it easier for staff not scheduled to login and help.

Strategic Partners

Having multiple locations and allowing staff to work remotely are key solutions to deal with abnormal call center scenarios. However, these tactics only go so far. To supplement these two approaches, form strategic partnerships with other call centers that can help during an emergency. But select a call center partner geographically distant from you. If you’re on the coast, work with one who is inland. If you’re in the north part of the country, find one in the south. If you’re east, go west.

Vendor Solutions

Check with your vendor to see what disaster mitigation solutions they offer. They may be able to help you better handle a not-normal call center situation. They could also recommend strategic partners for you to work with.

Outsourcing

If you’re a corporate call center, you may want to arrange with an outsourcing call center to help during a crisis. And if you’re an outsourcing call center, you know how this functions, so work with another outsourcing call center to help you.

Automate

Regardless of your paradigm to provide people to help people, sometimes automating portions of your call response will serve callers better than by not answering their phone calls at all or making them wait in queue a long time for the next available agent.

Plan Now

The key to make any of this work is planning. When things are going along normally for you and your call center, it’s the ideal time to come up with solutions for when normal goes away. Don’t wait for a crisis to hit and then scramble for answers.

Preparation today will help achieve success for tomorrow, even under less-than-ideal situations. When disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you have a plan to deal with it.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Cloud-Based ACDs and Dialers Come of Age



By Donna Fluss

Cloud-based contact center infrastructure (CBCCI) vendors have spent most of the last twenty years playing functional catch-up to the leading on-premise vendors. But this is no longer the case. DMG just completed our annual research on the CBCCI sector, and we are impressed and excited about the enhancements and changes to these solutions. The value proposition is no longer to buy a CBCCI solution just because of the many benefits of using a cloud-based solution. Beyond the proven advantages of the cloud, these solutions are compelling because the vendors deliver outstanding and differentiated capabilities, either natively or by integrating with best-of-breed providers.

Freeing agents to spend their time on customers’ issues will change the entire sales, service, and collections experience by enabling them to do what should be a fun and interesting job. Click To Tweet

It’s undeniable that contact center platform vendors are having a highly positive disruptive impact on the pace of innovation in the CBCCI sector. The “platform as a service” paradigm, which leverages application programming interfaces (APIs) to roll out functional capabilities, makes it easier to build your own solution (BYOS). And the fact that these customized contact center solutions can be developed quickly using standard development languages is a significant change. Some of the vendors who have traditionally been “solution providers” are now starting to position their offerings as both a product and a platform.

An inbound contact center solution (often referred to as an automated call distributor or ACD) is valuable for enterprises of all sizes, and many organizations will benefit from outbound calling functionality. This has been the case for the past forty years, but now the vendors are adding analytics, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotic process automation (RPA) to help companies work smarter instead of harder.

In the recent past, ACD vendors specialized in bringing in or sending out interactions, and it was considered a differentiator if the solution offered omni-channel capabilities. Today, omni-channel functionality is a “must have” (although there are still some CBCCI solutions that do not offer this capability), and the differentiation is coming from the more effective ways that enterprises can route or issue the interactions. In some cases, CBCCI solutions can evaluate an incoming interaction in any channel and, based on information previously collected about the individual, get it to the agent or advisor who is ideally suited to handle the transaction.

This means higher sales rates, larger collections, and much improved customer service. This is and always has been the top goal for organizations and is a perfect (and real) example of working smarter, not harder. But there is so much more going on today.

Imagine an inbound contact center where agents receive appropriate guidance and recommendations along with each interaction, instead of having to spend minutes researching the background and context. These solutions are also HIPAA- and GDPR-compliant, addressing essential regulatory issues. Moreover, they empower the agent and are effective in helping customers the way they desire during their journey. These innovations are game changers for companies and the industry in general.

RPA is also finding its way into the contact center world. To date, so much of the work performed by agents is to comply with two-factor authentication and to meet the needs of the company. Of course, customers care about the security of their information, but they aren’t thrilled with the burden of meeting authentication requirements, and they surely don’t care about the processes agents/advisors have to follow to get a high quality-assurance score. For example, a customer doesn’t want to wait while an agent types up their notes or copies and pastes data in multiple systems. Freeing agents to spend their time on customers’ issues (instead of enterprise requirements) will change the entire sales, service, and collections experience by enabling them to do what should be a fun and interesting job.

The worlds of interaction management and customer relationship management (CRM) are coming together. Instead of fighting to “own” the customer, CBCCI vendors are either offering their own CRM functionality or making it easy to cleanly integrate to a third-party solution, such as Salesforce. Once this happens, enterprises and small companies alike will be able to take advantage of the full functionality and intelligence that comes along with the CRM system. It’s not just vendor promise or hearsay, but a real opportunity.

These are just a few of the very practical and high-value capabilities that are making their way into the current and next generation of CBCCI solutions, and there is a great deal more already available in the market. For companies that haven’t looked at their ACD or dialer in the past five years, DMG recommends reviewing some of the leading CBCCI offerings on the market and considering replacement of their existing solutions with ones that position them to do what their customers expect—delivering an outstanding experience throughout the journey.

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.

The Ultimate Call Center Service for Contractors



Leveraging Third-Party App Technology

By Darlene Campbell

Technological advances continue to amaze me as I have watched the definition of service evolve over the past decades. Whether you compare a world of pagers to a world of texting or customers now controlling their own on-call schedules with direct access to their call centers systems, it has been astonishing.

In recent years our call center, ICG, embarked on a partnership to support a specialized industry: concrete repair specialists. As part of this process, my call center was introduced to a unique SaaS App software service called Estimate Rocket offered by Logical Engine Inc. Estimate Rocket is an app that automates the estimating process for contractors. It’s highly robust and has a built in CRM as well as an e-marketing platform. Integrated with Google maps and Quick Books, it can be described as a dream for that industry.

The vision we presented was the ability to interface with the contractor’s Estimate Rocket program. Then we could:

  • Allow any call center agent to accept calls or emails in response to the contractor’s promotion or advertising
  • Load the data directly into the contractor’s CRM
  • Provide information about the service by automatically activating a drip campaign of email to the contractor’s prospect
  • Schedule the estimate for the contractor

The poster child for this service is Affordable Mudjacking in the greater Kansas City area. Owner and entrepreneur Zach Poland saw the vision and the opportunity, so he ran with it for maximum efficiency of his operation. We now handle most Affordable Mudjacking’s inbound prospect communication, provide their prospects with basic information about the service, in some cases vet the viability of the prospect and schedule their estimators. In effect we have migrated from a call center to become Mr. Poland’s front office operation, and we are indispensable to his business.

WIIFM

Every business marketing and sales course suggests you answer the question “what’s in it for me” for all parties in a business relationship. Let’s review the benefits for both the contractor and the call center.

Contractor Benefits

  • A consistent, professional, 24/7 prospect experience that exceeds expectations
  • A consistent estimating process that allows for ease of training and instant fulfillment, as estimates (including photos) are emailed to prospects while an estimator is on site—with a mere click to accept the work and lock in a contract
  • Elimination of all costs associated with prospect inbound management and estimator scheduling
  • Better quality consistently delivered with efficiency, which increases capacity, scalability, imaging, closing ratios, and profitability

Call Center Benefits

  • Increased functionality and capacity to handle more types of client calls
  • Longer call duration
  • Development of a partner versus vendor relationship
  • Relationship longevity
  • Improved profitability

The Potential

Estimate Rocket has modules for concrete repair specialists, spray foam specialists, painters, and more. Its generic version can be used by any business doing estimates, with free-form data entry capability. In the case of Affordable Mudjacking, we have been instrumental in allowing this firm to schedule estimates when prospects aren’t home. This fact has changed the business and reduced their cost per sale.

We’ve learned to look beyond our own systems and seek ways to embrace tech used by our clients to grow our business. Click To Tweet

Estimate Rocket is only one example of the power of app technology and the acceleration of technical influence on business delivery. These tools need not be in competition with a call center environment. Through this we’ve learned to look beyond our own systems and seek ways to embrace tech used by our clients to grow our business.

Darlene Campbell is the president of Information Communications Group, a 24/7 multilingual call center based in Leawood, Kansas.

Hiring and Training CSRs for Digital Contact Center Work



By Doug Taylor

In today’s world, customers have become accustomed to serving themselves. This phenomenon may have started with fuel. With the notable exception of New Jersey, customers have been pumping their own gas for decades. Self-service quickly spread across other industries. ATMs have all but replaced drive-through services at banks. Self-service checkout lanes are proliferating in grocery stores. Even post offices have kiosks where customers can weigh items, buy postage, and send items, all without the assistance of a customer service representative (CSR).

Why the proliferation of self-service options? It’s all about time and efficiency. People believe they can do things faster themselves, and most often they can. They also want to be able to complete transactions—whether at the bank or grocery store or hundreds of online locations—when they want to.

Emotional intelligence is about being socially aware, self-aware, and able to recognize the effect of emotions on behavior. Click To Tweet

Self Service and the Contact Center

This trend toward self-service has moved into the contact center industry as well. Modern contact centers are offering digital channels, such as interactive voice response (IVR) menus, websites, chatbots, SMS, and even social media sites, to give customers as many options as possible to find information and complete transactions in the ways they prefer.

Digital channels offer customers an avenue for completing simple tasks online. But when those tasks are more complex, customers need to talk to a CSR. Customers can certainly pay car insurance bills online without assistance, but if they want to change the amount of coverage they have on a vehicle, add additional vehicles, or report an accident, that often involves speaking to a person. That means the CSRs taking those calls must be trained and ready to handle these complex questions. They also need the soft skills to handle the emotions that come with a higher level of question.

The New Breed of CSR

CSRs are now expected to answer and assist with increasingly complex questions. They are also speaking with customers who have looked for answers online and come up short.

These CSRs need better training than their peers of just a few years ago to help the digital-first customers who are contacting them. They can’t simply read answers from a script, as customers have already found that online. CSRs must be able to think critically and act quickly. In addition, CSRs with high emotional intelligence (EQ) can sense what a customer feels and how to respond appropriately.

Just as CSRs need new skills, contact center managers need to adapt the processes they use to hire and train new CSRs. Hiring for more complex skill sets means looking for different attributes in individuals. It also means using distinct training methods to ensure that new CSRs can help customers with complex tasks.

How to Hire New CSRs for Digital Contact Centers

In general, it is easier to teach and prepare people in areas in which they are already strong. This holds true with contact center recruiting. Hiring managers should seek individuals who have a natural inclination to help others. This service mind-set cannot be taught.

For digital contact centers, CSRs need to have excellent critical thinking skills and a high degree of emotional intelligence. While people can be taught ways to improve critical thinking and problem solving and can learn strategies to improve their ability to read emotions in situations, it’s easier for trainers and managers to start with recruits who already have some ability in these areas.

Scenario-based questions help assess potential hires for critical thinking, EQ, and problem-solving skills. To assess, a hiring manager might give a potential hire the following situation: A customer calls into the contact center because his card is declined at a point of sale. When looking at the system, there appears to be no reason for the card to be declined.

What step would the potential hire take? In assessing critical thinking, hiring managers aren’t looking for a correct answer. It would be nearly impossible for a potential hire to know the correct steps to take for that specific contact center. They are looking for potential hires who go beyond the response: “Sorry, I can’t help you with that.” Managers should look for potential hires who state that they would ask customers and themselves questions to get to the root of the problem. Managers look for that way of thinking.

Additionally, emotional intelligence is about being socially aware, self-aware, and able to recognize the effect of emotions on behavior. Hiring managers screen potential hires for EQ by observation and through behavior-based questions.

To help determine EQ, a hiring manager can ask, “What are your two biggest strengths?” A person with a high EQ is self-aware and gives an answer that matches everything else the interviewer has observed. If she says, “I’m very outgoing, and I like to meet new people,” yet spends the entire interview sitting on her hands and whispering answers, she may not be very self-aware. Although it’s ideal to hire someone with a high degree of self-awareness, if she has a service mentality and excellent critical thinking skills, a few lessons in reading emotions will help bring her up to speed.

How to Train New CSRs for Digital Contact Center Work

For digital contact center work, trainers begin with defining the desired mind-set. They explain that CSRs must use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to be successful. Prior to self-service, contact center work involved reading scripts and learning workflows to assist customers. Since customers are taking care of simple issues themselves, a CSR’s priority is now unpacking a given situation before figuring out which solution to apply.

Situation-based training works best when preparing CSRs for digital contact center employment. Trainers can give new hires a scenario and then talk them through the process of solving the problem, pointing out tools they use along the way. As they progress, new hires practice with calls coming in from a trainer in another room. CSRs then move to a nested environment, where they take live calls with a seasoned CSR nearby to provide support and take over if needed.

To assist new hires in learning to read customers’ emotions, trainers play ten-second recorded clips of the beginning of calls. Trainees identify each caller’s state of mind and determine the best approach to take when communicating with that caller.

Since different callers require different approaches, CSRs must be prepared to change the way they interact with customers based on what they hear. Take the declined credit card at the point of sale, for example. If the customer calls in when being declined at a business lunch, he may be demanding and frustrated. A CSR would approach this caller differently than a person who calls in from a family reunion and wants to chat for thirty seconds about seeing relatives for the first time ten years.

In the first scenario, CSRs would use an “all business” approach to quickly reinforce that they understand the problem and get to work by asking questions to diagnose the situation. If CSRs use that approach with the second caller, they risk offending someone who has just shared a personal story and seeks acknowledgment.

A third caller may be hesitant and doubt he even has an issue. This caller needs reassurance that the problem is real, and the CSR can solve it. Acknowledging customers’ emotions helps diffuse the situation, since people ultimately just want to be heard.

To Sum Up

Scenario-based training is the most effective method to train new contact center agents and prepare them to serve customers. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills can be taught. While EQ is a level of intelligence, CSRs can work on developing skills to improve the way they read and serve callers.

Hiring managers can also use situation-based questions to determine which potential hires have a high EQ and a natural aptitude for critical thinking. They can also use an interview to assess whether an individual is self-aware and has a service mentality.

Combined, these attributes help hiring managers make the most intelligent decisions in staffing digital contact centers.

Doug Taylor is vice president of operations at HighPoint Global, which helps government agencies elevate citizen experiences, whether calling, online, or in person.

What Does an Optimal Customer Experience with a Call Center Look Like?



By Daymon Smith

As the healthcare landscape shifts toward a value-based care model, consumers and patients are taking more responsibility for their individual health. The combination of higher premiums, copays, and deductibles mean consumers hold the care they receive to a higher standard. They research competitive pricing, treatment quality, and customer service to make informed decisions.

This shift in focus within the healthcare sector has increased the importance of offering consumers and patients value that goes beyond quality care and treatment options. More specifically, healthcare marketers prioritize personalized engagement on an individual level. They match consumers with the resources, providers, and treatment options that offer the best overall health outcomes and highest customer experience.

In this effort, hospitals and organizations have started to optimize the role call centers play, adopting a variety of capabilities to merge disparate points of contact into one centralized, proactive call center. Also known as an engagement center, these modernized call centers, which work in conjunction with healthcare risk management (HCRM), enable healthcare providers to deliver the level of customer experience and personalization consumers expect.

The ideal customer experience a consumer should receive when engaging with a call center is key. Healthcare providers should strive to deliver this level of customer service through technology and training.

Customer Service Expectations in Healthcare

Today’s consumer expects quality customer service across their health journey, from first point of contact to post-care engagement. Often the first point of communication between a customer and the healthcare organization, call centers face the responsibility of living up to the expectations of modern healthcare consumers. In fact, they handle around 68 percent of all customer communications, further emphasizing why consumers hold the call center customer service they receive to a higher standard.

Consumers expect:  

Personalized Service:When patients and consumers interact with the healthcare call center, they expect insights, resources, and interactions personalized to their unique health journey. Therefore, call center agents must understand each patient’s issues and provide solutions proactively.

Single-Call Resolution:It’s crucial that call center agents tap caller data to provide actionable and individualized recommendations, connect them with doctors and physicians, provide useful and relevant resources, and proactively anticipate consumer needs.

Cross-Channel Capabilities:Traditionalcall center operations exist in operational silos, resulting in a fragmented customer experience. With an HCRM-enabled engagement center, health systems deliver the seamless and personalized experiences customers want across communication channels, including the call center, patient portal, and email.

Facility the Patient Journey: Successful agents move callers forward along the patient journey.Quality customer service within the healthcare sector extends far beyond one phone call. Patients expect guidance and assistance from healthcare organizations throughout their care experience. This includes communication, connecting the consumer with necessary resources and solutions, and ensuring the experience is as convenient as possible.

Here’s an example: At the start of the patient journey, a consumer submits a website form submission requesting information on shoulder pain. After receiving the requested information in an email, the customer is placed in an outbound calling queue for follow-up.

The call center agent provides additional information and offers to connect the customer with a specialist. The call center agent connects them with an orthopedic physician near their home and sends timely reminders before the appointments.

During the appointment, the physician recommends physical therapy. The patient receives a call the same day from the call center to match them with a physical therapist and schedule their first appointment. The patient receives an SMS reminder forty-eight hours before the appointment. Recording each interaction with the organization in the healthcare CRM ensures continuity and enables personalization throughout the patient journey.

A healthcare CRM program serves as the foundation for successful engagement. Click To Tweet

Technology for Optimized Healthcare Customer Service

The customer service consumers expect from healthcare organizations forces call centers to evolve into comprehensive engagement centers. With the goal of serving as a strategic tool for engagement, revenue growth, and greater visibility into return on investment, these call centers combine technology with call center agent training for optimized customer service.

For call centers looking to shift toward becoming an engagement center, a healthcare CRM program serves as the foundation for successful engagement. With an HCRM in place, call centers can provide consistent, unified communications with patients and consumers while connecting disparate points of contact throughout the health system. Additionally, an HCRM provides call center agents with a 360-degree view into the customer data needed to facilitate personalized, efficient consumer interactions.

More specifically, call center agents can take advantage of unique customer profiles—a collection of demographic data, prior interactions with the organization, contact preferences, and appointments and medical history—to ensure they’re using the best method of communication (phone, email, or chat) and delivering relevant health information.

An engagement center should also incorporate marketing automation to send reminders and resources throughout the patient journey. Marketing automation tools help call centers maintain long-term engagement to promote patient acquisition and strengthens patient retention.

Call Center Training for Optimized Customer Service

Like any job, the better the training, the greater the impact. For healthcare call center agents, training is a significant facilitator to outstanding patient and customer service. One of the most important aspects of call center training revolves around the proper use of call center scripts.

By developing scripts to guide agent conversations, healthcare organizations ensure that the call center customer experience aligns with marketing efforts. Additionally, scripts can help call center agents focus on guiding customers toward a pleasant and timely resolution of their queries.

As a good practice, call centers should equip agents with at least one script for each campaign, which they can tailor to the individual customer while reflecting their location within the patient journey.

Another important element to call center training is ensuring that agents can handle any nonclinical queries. Given the high volume of customer interactions call center agents handle each day, it’s crucial that they have a clear understanding of the healthcare organization ecosystem, as well as the capability to handle queries on the fly.

Final Thoughts

Consumers today expect more value from their care providers. Optimizing the traditional healthcare call center into a modern engagement center helps provide the efficiency, personalization, and capabilities that have become synonymous with superior customer service.

To best leverage the potential of call centers and optimize the customer experience within them, healthcare organizations need to incorporate modern marketing technology and comprehensive training into their strategies.

Daymon Smith is the vice president, engagement center practice leader at Evariant. He focuses on leading health systems in their move to a proactive call center model that improves the overall patient experience and generates revenue for the system.

Four Steps to Minimize Risk in a Healthcare Call Center



By Janet Livingston

Running a call center is challenging, but mastering one in the healthcare industry carries an added set of concerns. People’s health and even their lives are at stake. Make a mistake, and it might affect someone’s future, even their life. Although it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, a few simple steps can greatly minimize them.

Hire the Right Skill Set

Determine what credentials you want staff in each position to carry. Then hire to meet those requirements. Don’t skimp or settle for someone less than ideal. With so much at stake, you don’t want to have an underqualified employee attempt to handle too big of a responsibility. This starts with hiring the right people for each position.

Determine what credentials you want staff in each position to carry. Then hire to meet those requirements. Don’t skimp or settle for someone less than ideal. With so much at stake, you don’t want to have an underqualified employee attempt to handle too big of a responsibility. This starts with hiring the right people for each position.

Determine what credentials you want staff in each position to carry. Then hire to meet those requirements. Don’t skimp or settle for someone less than ideal. With so much at stake, you don’t want to have an underqualified employee attempt to handle too big of a responsibility. This starts with hiring the right people for each position.

Consider E&O insurance as a backup in case the unthinkable happens. Click To Tweet

Provide HIPAA Training

Everyone in healthcare knows you must provide HIPAA training on a regular basis to all employees. However, finding time to do this may present a challenge. Every day in the call center is a busy one. This makes it easy to push off nonurgent tasks to tomorrow, next week, or next month. When it comes to HIPAA education, don’t delay. Make it a priority, and then do it. Provide HIPAA training as part of new employee onboarding. Then provide ongoing HIPAA instruction for every employee each year.

Insist That Staff Don’t Exceed Their Capabilities

Many medical call centers have a mix of staff, some with medical training and others without it. Though those without a healthcare background will quickly pick up medical jargon, processes, and even some protocols, make sure they don’t attempt to provide a level of service for which they lack the training. Nurses should provide nurse triage, while non-nurses shouldn’t offer any degree of medical advice. It’s that simple. This is one time to keep everyone in their place.

Have a Good Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy

Having a good errors and omissions (E&O) policy is important for outsource call centers, and it’s especially essential for healthcare-related operations. However, don’t view this as an excuse to take shortcuts. Instead strive to run your call center so that you’ll never need to file a claim. Consider E&O insurance as a backup in case the unthinkable happens.

Conclusion

While there’s a lot that can go wrong in a healthcare call center, there’s no reason to let it cause you to lose sleep. Follow these four tips to help ensure that your operation functions as it should and provides the high-quality service that your stakeholders expect.

Call Center Sales Pro

Janet Livingston is the CEO of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy and service provider for healthcare call centers and medical answering services. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or call 800-901-7706.

Three Pieces of Key Information Your Call Center Is Missing Without Machine Learning



By Dan Somers

With the amplification of social media, as well as the ease and increase in the ability for customers to complain, issues can quickly turn into operational and PR crises. Yet this is just the beginning; issues happen every day that cause customers to interact with contact centers. The intended customer experience can be impacted by taking up unallocated resources to deal with day-to-day issues.

Here we look at three ways machine learning can be applied within a contact center to unlock key data that can ensure the intended customer experience is achieved.

Call center crises resulting in high customer churn or dissatisfaction can often be prevented with enough early warning. Click To Tweet

1. Sentiment Analysis 2.0

Typically, the richest and most actionable feedback generally has a negative sentiment. However, this can be buried within feedback that traditional sentiment analysis identifies as positive overall. As a result, key customer feedback that could drive positive business change is being missed. A review such as “the food was brilliant, and I loved the atmosphere, but the service was terribly slow!” would have only one sentiment considered. Therefore, the actionable insight, “slow service,” is ignored, leading the business to miss out on a change that could potentially have turned this satisfied customer into a huge promoter.

The accuracy of items sold as sentiment analysis that are billed as 90 percent are sometimes as low as 40 percent accurate. The latest machine learning can identify multiple sentiments within text, so no valuable feedback is missed. What’s more, it can do so in near real time in an automated fashion.

2. Concepts, Not Keywords

Until now AI has not been advanced enough to deal with the subtleties of how different people voice different issues and how to make sure you’re not missing key insight as a result.

Existing analytics typically identify keywords within customer feedback. Not only does this fail to consider the myriad of ways different customers may describe different issues, but the overarching concept or message might be missed. This issue arises when a concept or feedback is implied instead of using explicit keywords. We need to understand what is driving that keyword or sentiment and not merely act on the word itself. This driver can get ignored without machine learning.

For example, a hotel chain may pick up keywords such as clean, dirty, noisy, but the driver behind these keywords might be unconnected to the issue itself. The reference to noise might be external to the hotel, or dirty could refer to a specific area of the hotel that could be easily resolved if the full picture was known.

For example, a restaurant customer stating, “By the time my meal finally arrived, the food was cold,” may be flagged as “cold food,” when in fact the driver was “slow service.” Therefore, the appropriate action is to increase speed of service. Machine learning can provide the missing link between multiple words and patterns, giving a much clearer picture of the full concept behind a piece of customer feedback, not just keywords in a silo.

3. Early Warning and Root Cause

Call center crises resulting in high customer churn or dissatisfaction can often be prevented with enough early warning. Unfortunately, current tools cannot identify negative sentiment patterns in text feedback early enough or accurately enough to allow preventative measures to be put in place.

By way of an example, digital communications company O2 had a specific issue in May 2018 with their Priority Offers promotional activity. The allocation of tickets for a popular music event at the O2 Arena for its customers was reduced, and this caused a huge influx of enquiries to their contact center.

Interestingly, this correlated precisely with an increase in customers complaining that they “couldn’t get a response” from customer service as well as “took too long” and “poor customer service.”

Furthermore, there were three categories of churn identified from the public data:

  1. Customers saying they were going to leave the provider
  2. Customers saying they could not make a purchase because of an issue
  3. Customers who made a public recommendation not to use this provider

There is a clear correlation on these three items between all forms of churn and the issues noted above.

Keyword and sentiment analysis had been applied and was not able to discern any of these insights. All it could do was pick up known keywords and generate a sentiment score. It would require an analyst to discern why there were increases or decreases in satisfaction, and this would not be an effective early-warning system.

By adopting machine learning, the company could discern in real time the topics people were talking about instead of just keywords. Fixes could be applied immediately, thus preventing more lost bookings, and they could divert more customer care representatives to the call center to deal with the increase in calls, thus lowering response times. The crisis was entirely preventable.

Using machine learning to implement an early warning system can tangibly reduce customer churn, increase customer lifetime value, and improve customer satisfaction.

Dan Somers is the CEO at Warwick Analytics, providing a machine learning platform for text and voice of customer data.

Peter Lyle DeHaan Releases TAS Book

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service
Get the latest info in the book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

Longtime industry veteran Peter Lyle DeHaan released his insider’s guide to starting an answering service on January 29. Titled How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, the book concisely shares the essential information needed for an entrepreneur to start an answering service. Based on decades of industry experience and years of consulting, Peter DeHaan, PhD, released this book as a service to the industry.

“Though I open the book trying to talk people out of starting an answering service, if they decide to proceed, I want them to do it right and not damage the industry by making naïve mistakes,” said DeHaan. It’s a must read for anyone thinking about getting into the answering service industry.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

“When I consulted for the industry, people kept calling me to help them start an answering service. I repeated the same advice so often, that I eventually resorted to putting it online.” Since day one that website received steady traffic. Now, for the first time, that updated information is available in the convenience of a book. Available in paperback and ebook.

Learn more at www.StartAnAnsweringService.com.

The Year Ahead: Call Center Trends of 2019



By Maureen Hoersten

As we head into 2019, we’re seeing a shift in the call center industry. As companies expand, the effects are felt by the call center industry and many are changing operations within their organization. Doing so boosts engagement, retention, and helps them remain competitive both in the labor market and the marketplace.

Here are four trends that are changing the call center internally in 2019.

Increased Agent Training

Training and development programs are the most effective way for companies to improve their customer experience and stay competitive in today’s tight labor market. As competition for talent continues to grow, training and development will be more important in 2019. Not only do training and development opportunities directly impact how engaged employees are at work, but the better employees are trained, the more likely they’ll be good agents.

A hiring tip for employers in 2019: in today’s tight labor market, don’t seek talent that meets the hard skills necessary for the job. Instead hire agents with strong skills for customer service and train them on the technical skills they may not have.

Customers should have to put in low effort to achieve the results they need. Efficient, user-friendly service is critical. Long phone wait times, faulty service, and being transferred to different departments all should go away in 2019. Companies should invest in training their customer service reps to have enough expertise in all areas a customer may call about. Automation will help process calls faster and better direct them to the appropriate people. Companies may also spend more money on programs to help them overcome faulty service, such as dropped calls or delayed responses. Recent graduates join organizations in customer service positions and then transition into other departments such as marketing or accounting. Click To Tweet

Implementation of Career Pathing

A critical move call centers will want to make in 2019 is developing career paths for agents, especially in the tight labor market we’re currently in and will continue to see. Agent career pathing will not only boost retention but will also help call centers build out their talent pipeline.

In terms of career pathing, it’s important to recognize that individual agents may seek out different career paths based on what motivates them. For example, not all high-performing agents will grow into managers and supervisors, and that’s okay. Some high performers may be better on an account management track. Making sure you help your agents find the right path for them by identifying their unique motivators is critical. Someone who doesn’t want to be in a leadership role but is in one won’t be effective in developing the next generation of talent at your organization.

Promotions within customer service roles are typically based on skill and tenure. Career pathing is critical to retention because someone who’s been with a company for a few years isn’t going to want to be ranked at the same level as someone who started a month ago.

Some call centers find success by having levels of accreditation, where an agent must complete certain tasks to move up in an organization. Others offer different titles to deal with different types of call. A more seasoned agent will deal with more difficult callers in this sort of system. With both, a pay increase comes with the title change.

Push to Retain Agents

Turnover has always been an issue in the call center industry. Today’s tight labor market doesn’t make it any easier to keep employees. Losing a contact center agent, then hiring, onboarding, and training a new agent is costly. Focusing on employee retention by meeting the needs of call center agents in 2019 is key.

Consider offering opportunities for flextime or remote work. As call center technology advances, there are more opportunities for employees to work remotely. Remote work is highly sought after by call center professionals and may keep them at your company longer. Those who manage remote call center workers can find success by putting mandatory check-ins, call logs, and daily reports in place. Technology and software has been designed to help manage remote workers, such as screen sharing, schedule assistants, analytics tools, and automated reporting software.

Another way to effectively retain employees is holding daily or weekly competitions. Call centers are intense, and agents feel the heat with metrics. Creating competitions around metrics can help motivate and engage agents more. Competitions can be as simple as announcing that the first five people who hit a certain metric will receive a gift card or get to leave early.

Offering benefits to employees is another retention tool. Companies now often offer health benefits. If you’re not offering benefits to your agents, you won’t be competitive in the field. Go beyond basic health benefits to be more effective in retaining your agents.

Hiring More Recent Grads

A few years ago, we saw more companies hiring recent college graduates for customer service roles. As the labor market stays hot, we’re going to see more of this. Recent graduates join organizations in customer service positions and then transition into other departments such as marketing or accounting.

There are two main profiles companies look for. One is the traditional call center professional who has experience in the field. The other profile is a fresh grad. Traditional call center professionals use intense goals and metrics, but often they may be stuck in their ways, complaining, “That’s not how we did it at my old company,” or they bounce around from company to company for more money. That’s why it can be beneficial for firms to recruit fresh grads to fill call center roles. Companies can train and develop them how they want, and the role helps the recent grads learn the business from the bottom up.

By staying ahead of 2019 trends, call centers can be successful in recruiting and retaining talent that meets customers’ needs better than ever before.

Maureen Hoersten is the chief operating officer of LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting, and culture firm specializing in customer service and call center roles. Hoersten has helped hundreds of businesses find top customer service talent, from small to large businesses in a range of industries. She has developed a deep knowledge of the space and understanding of what sets apart the top professionals during her more than fifteen years of experience.