Tag Archives: Call Center Management Articles

Mitigating Medical Call Center Risk



By Traci Haynes

Does the word risk evoke an emotional connotation? Regardless of the inference and based on life experience, the word can carry an emotive element. There are uncertainties in risk, which may be associated with hobbies, tasks, or employment. 

Calculated risk is an action taken after careful consideration and estimation of the probable outcome. Healthcare organizations employ risk managers to identify and evaluate risks to reduce injury to patients, staff, and visitors within the organization. 

The five basic steps of risk management include: 

  1. Establish the context.
  2. Identify risks.
  3. Analyze risks.
  4. Evaluate risks.
  5. Treat/manage risks.

Risks exist in a medical call center too. There are employee risks and patient risks. These can include risks from the physical environment, clinical management, and technology. What can organizations do to help mitigate these risks? They can strive to be calculative, carefully considering and estimating probable outcomes. Even doing so, however, will not eliminate all risk.

A medical call center’s number-one asset is its staff. Click To Tweet

Risk Resource

An excellent resource that covers information on risk is The Art and Science of Telephone Triage: How to Practice Nursing over the Phone. It is a book written by two industry leaders in the field of telehealth nursing practice, Carol Rutenberg, RN-BC, C-TNP, MNSc, and M. Elizabeth Greenberg, RN-BC, C-TNP, PhD. The book also documents the history of telephone triage and its subsequent evolution, provides real-case scenarios, and contains chapters onFAQs, best practices, and other topics. 

Minimizing risk is essential in the medical call center environment. Consider your potential for risk. Then analyze, evaluate, and manage it. Also essential is focusing on ways the medical call center can support the organization’s risk avoidance. Of utmost importance to every organization is supporting the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim initiative and optimizing health system performance of better outcomes, lower costs, and improved patient experience. 

Hospitals throughout the country are aggressively tackling performance improvement within their own organizations, and evidence shows their efforts are helping to reduce risk. The recent addition of a fourth aim emphasizes the importance of improving the experiences of those in the workforce who provide healthcare. The Quadruple Aim focuses not only on better outcomes, lower costs, and improved patient experience, but also on improved clinician experience. 

A medical call center’s number-one asset is its staff. Employees need to feel recognized for the work they do. Their working environment should encourage respect and foster a sense of belonging and purpose. They should have the ability to influence their work, as well as be given opportunities for professional growth.

Medical Call Center Risks

Let’s drill down a little further on potential risks in a medical call center. Please note, this is not an all-inclusive list and not listed in order of importance. However, it is valuable information to consider. 

Clinical Management

  • Clinical oversight (such as the medical director): approval of clinical content, decision support tools, educational material, medications, and orders.
  • Job descriptions: title, clear description of work duties, purpose, special skills, and qualifications for the position
  • Scope of service: what type and for whom 
  • State Board of Nursing Nurse Practice Act: follow standards of practice
  • Licensure: state license, Nurse Licensure Compact 
  • Orientation/training/preceptor: defined program with monitoring, feedback, and evaluation
  • Policies and procedures: associated with call handling and call scenarios
  • Performance monitoring/evaluations: formal approach using call records and/or call recording
  • Continuous quality improvement: process to identify issues, implement/monitor corrective action, and evaluate the effectiveness

Technology 

  • Electronic Health Record (EHR): access and by whom
  • Computers: hardware/software, latest recommendations, updates, backup, and archiving
  • Database: decision-support tools and functionality for a standard method of documenting the encounter, optimizing the intake of information, and supporting a consistent approach to provision of information and directions for care; reporting of outcomes
  • Telephone system: supports call handling that may include auto-attendant, call routing, tracking average speed of answer, time in queue, abandonment; real-time monitoring, reports, and recording of calls
  • Chat/email/texts/photos: accept and save as part of EHR
  • HIPAA-compliant: protecting health information

Physical Environment

  • Outdoor surveillance monitoring
  • Lighting: internal measurement, general, task, emergency, external
  • Security locks: after-hours or 24/7
  • Parking: on-site, off-site, monitored, lighting
  • Security personnel: on-site, off-site
  • Sound: acoustics, masking, privacy 
  • Workstation ergonomics: standing/sitting, monitor height/distance, keyboard/mouse position, adjustable chair with height/arm and height/back support, headset, and so forth. 
  • Repetitive stress injuries: most commonly affects injuries to the upper extremities (wrists, elbows, and hands) due to repetitive keyboard activities

Patients and Families

  • Medical call center access: 24/7, after-hours, business hours, community service, or provider/payer service
  • Reason for call: emergent, urgent, semi-urgent, and nonurgent
  • Language and culture: linguistically and culturally appropriate and using an individual’s primary language
  • Age-specific or all age groups
  • Social determinants of health: influences an individual’s quality of health
  • Past medical history: health status prior to encounter and effect on the reason for call/disposition
  • Chronic conditions: type, number, effect on the reason for call/disposition
  • Medications: routine, PRN, effect on the reason for call/disposition
  • Preventive health: effect on overall health
  • Disabilities: type, effect on reason for call/disposition
  • Disposition: collaborative decision, access for care as needed

Addressing risk potential in medical call centers will benefit all stakeholders and improve healthcare outcomes.

Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN, CCCTM, is the director of clinical services at LVM.

Don’t Compromise on Security When Selecting a Vendor



By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

The average cost of a data breach in the United States has hit an all-time high of 7.35 million dollars. Just this year, there have been more than one hundred hacker attacks on healthcare organizations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Despite better awareness among healthcare organizations, data breach costs average 408 dollars per record. Cybercriminals use weaponized ransomware, misconfigured cloud-storage buckets, and phishing emails to attack.

Hidden costs in data breaches are difficult and expensive to manage, resulting in customer turnover, reputation damage, and increased operational costs. Knowing where the costs lie and how to reduce them can help companies invest their resources more strategically and lower the huge financial risks at stake.

While looking for cost-saving solutions is important for any business, it is critical to make sure your vendor partners also meet the same stringent criteria on data security. This extends to your outsourced after-hours services as well. Not doing the proper due diligence can lead to a significant risk in terms of data loss and security.

Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and ask vendors questions if you have any concerns. Click To Tweet

Here are fourteen critical questions you should consider when selecting your partners in healthcare:

  1. Do you have a chief information officer (CIO) who oversees the security program?
  2. Do you have a formal security compliance program in place with yearly audits?
  3. Is the vendor URAC-accredited so a third party is auditing the triage call center policies and procedures to ensure they are followed?
  4. Does the vendor subcontract services? If they do, are the proper BAAs (Business Associate Agreements) and contracts in place?
  5. What is their data breach insurance policy limits?
  6. Is the data center infrastructure set up to maximize data protection along with regular scanning of the software and servers?
  7. Does the vendor have an intrusion detection system to alert potential threats?
  8. Does the vendor have adequate IT resources to monitor all systems and to respond quickly to any potential threats?
  9. Do the products meet HIPAA, HITECH, and other security requirements?
  10. Do the security reports meet all auditing and HIPAA-reporting needs?
  11. Do you have a formal HIPAA training program for all staff members?
  12. Does the data center where the data is stored have proper security certifications?
  13. Is the patient data secured at all times and in all modules of the product? (This must include strong password protection or other user authentication, data encrypted at rest, and data encrypted in motion.)
  14. Is the patient’s data secured when accessed via handheld devices, such as through secured through SSL websites, iPhone apps, and so forth?

If the answer is no to any of the above questions, then it may be an indication that you should look deeper and compare vendors before selecting one that will protect your patient data properly. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and ask vendors questions if you have any concerns. Remember, it is harder to change vendors once you implement a program than to ask questions beforehand and make sure that you have the best system in place for your needs.

Ravi K. Raheja, MD, is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive triage solution includes integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over seven thousand physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide. For more information, visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com.

Cyber Security and HIPAA in a Medical Contact Center


Startel, Professional Teledata, Alston Tascom

By Bobby Bennett

Regardless of size, medical contact centers must take steps to protect against cyberattacks and ensure HIPAA compliance. These two issues warrant intentional and proactive attention.

Ways to Prevent Cyberattacks

With cyberattacks on the rise, what steps should a contact center take to prevent falling victim? The first is to recognize that it could happen to anyone. Do not equate small with safe. According to a 2017 Trend Micro online survey, 45 percent of small business owners believe they will never be targeted. The cyber security firm 4iQ states in its 2019 Identity Breach Report that cybercriminals targeted small businesses with cyberattacks at an inordinate rate in 2018—up 425 percent over the previous year. Here are some ways to prevent such an attack: 

  • Install, use, and regularly update antivirus and anti-spyware software on every computer used in your business.
  • Use a firewall for your internet connection.
  • Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available.
  • Make backup copies of important business data and information.
  • Control physical access to your computers and network components.
  • Secure your Wi-Fi network and make sure it is hidden.
  • Require individual user accounts for each employee.
  • Limit employee access to data and information. Also limit authority to install the software.
  • Regularly change passwords.
  • Consider two-factor authentication such as a password and a PIN.

The Federal Communications Commission provides a Small Biz Cyber Security Planner on their website. 

A business associate is also liable and subject to civil and criminal penalties for making uses and disclosures of PHI not authorized by its contract or required by law. Click To Tweet

HIPAA and Protected Health Information

Another factor to be mindful of as a call center that takes calls for healthcare providers and clinics is that you are a business associate of the covered entity. A HIPAA business associate is a contractor or vendor to a HIPAA-covered entity that creates, maintains, or transmits protected health information in performing a function or service to the covered entity.

If a covered entity engages a business associate to help it carry out its health care activities and functions, the covered entity must have a written business associate contract or other arrangement with the business associate that establishes specifically what the business associate has been engaged to do and requires the business associate to comply with the [HIPAA] Rules’ requirements to protect the privacy and security of protected health information. In addition to these contractual obligations, business associates are liable for compliance with certain provisions of the HIPAA Rules. (HHS.Gov)

A business associate contract serves to clarify and limit, as appropriate, the permissible uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI) by the business associate. They may use or disclose PHI only as permitted or required by its business associate contract or as required by law. 

A business associate is also liable and subject to civil and criminal penalties for making uses and disclosures of PHI not authorized by its contract or required by law. It is important that employees are trained and understand the HIPAA rules required of a business associate. You can find sample Business Associate Agreement Provisions and training resources on the HHS.gov website.

Text messaging (SMS) has become the preferred method of message delivery for both the contact center and healthcare providers. With this growing trend comes the risk associated with the transmission of PHI. 

Standard forms of SMS could mean that text messages may remain on a device for an extended time. If the device is recycled, lost, or left accessible to unauthorized persons, HIPAA violations may occur. You must provide safeguards to reduce your exposure to these risks. 

Secure messaging is a HIPAA-compliant way to safely exchange sensitive information via text. Most contact center system vendors have developed secure messaging applications for use with their systems. However, quite often it is difficult for a contact center to convince a large medical group to make changes and convert from their current secure messaging provider to one offered by the contact center. 

Conclusion

Don’t ignore the risks of cyberattacks and HIPAA-noncompliance in your medical contact center. Take essential steps today to reduce bigger problems tomorrow. 

Startel

Bobby Bennett is the western regional sales manager for Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom, leading providers of best-in-class contact center solutions for healthcare and medical telephone answering service call centers. Startel’s Alston Tascom Division has created a stand-alone, vendor-agnostic secure messaging gateway that has integrations with some of the most popular secure messaging providers. Contact Bobby at bobby.bennett@startel.com or 800-782-7835. 

Build Robust Customer Relationships by Being Proactive



By Jill J. Johnson

While today’s online sales process can appear streamlined, it creates complexities and confusion for consumers who have many options in a global marketplace. The internet has blurred traditional sales territories because consumers can now search the world for the products and services they want or need. Finding the right one requires them to weed through many alternatives so they can make optimal purchasing decisions. 

Proactively building robust and trusting relationships with customers provides opportunities to become their top advisor and go-to vendor. Anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving issues in a manner that protects customer relationships. Software applications and marketing automation also create opportunities for enhanced customer insight and relationship development. 

Team Efforts Build Strong Customer Relationships

The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients waiting for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities for your customers and present new ideas when they are most likely ready to consider them.

Successful sales and marketing team members work closely together to create synergies among all communications used to connect with customers. Service teams must also work in sync with sales to deliver the quality that sales promised. There is nothing worse for the client relationship than a salesperson making a promise that service can’t deliver. In most organizations, service delivery stands separate from sales. Each department has its own evaluation metrics, with little communication between the two groups. When that happens, the entire customer relationship can be at risk.

Companies that effectively calibrate and coordinate their ability to supply the services the customer expects will be the most successful over the long-term. Sales relationships strategized throughout the organization provide the best opportunities for gaining accurate customer intelligence. 

You must move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Click To Tweet

Maintaining Customer Relationships Requires Trust

When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it can become easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high-trust relationship.

When there is a glitch in service, client relationships can be jeopardized. If something significant interferes with the trust relationship, the entire account can be at risk. It may be service glitches or price points that are too high. When this occurs, it can be easy for everyone to assume that the relationship will resolve the issue. But when it doesn’t, everyone must remember that business is business. Personal relationships developed with care over time can vanish when mistakes occur. Both parties have their own jobs to protect and their own internal political challenges.

Often the best approach is for a call center to operate on a “no surprises” basis with clients. When you know there might be a service issue, the sooner you alert the customer, the more options you have to maintain the trusted relationship. Understanding the latitude and flexibility you have when there is a problem can move you faster to finding a resolution. No matter what, resolve client problems before they become a social media nightmare or result in lost business. 

Effective Client Relationship Management 

Building and managing relationships with your prospects and key referral sources require effort. It’s more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. More personal and consistent one-to-one relationships are necessary to achieve your goals. 

You must move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Then you can match your outreach and communications to move them through their decision-making cycle. Reassess your prospect management to determine if you are relying on stale efforts that do little to move the sale forward or deepen your relationship. 

Years ago, salespeople tracked customer information on index cards. Today, robust customer relationship management (CRM) software has changed how we manage interactions with current and potential clients. CRM integration with email marketing applications can enhance sales productivity and offer options for customer personalization.

Using CRM tools helps you stay on top of customer follow-up. This requires an investment of time in capturing information into the system. Once you do this, you can take advantage of opportunities to use its robust capability for data capture and market segmentation options. These efforts will help you more effectively manage your client relationships and provide options for efficient and appropriate outreach.

Final Thoughts 

Take time to review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management. Don’t take your client relationships for granted. As with any relationship, they must be nurtured to preserve and grow. Actively managing your customer and prospect interactions creates more opportunities for engagement. Each engagement takes you one step closer to closing another sale or selling a bigger deal than you can currently imagine. 

Being your customers’ subject matter expert, anticipating their needs before they do, and doing their homework for them are essential to successful and lasting customer relationships. Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions.

Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnaround or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than four billion dollars’ worth of decisions. She has a proven record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information, visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Responding to Call Traffic Fluctuations



You Can’t Schedule for the Unexpected, but That’s No Excuse to Be Unprepared

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Traffic at many call centers fluctuates with the weather, affecting some centers more so than others. Of course, non-weather-related events can also impact call traffic. This includes natural disasters, pandemics, riots, the threat of violence, media-produced frenzies—and the list goes on with as much variety as our imaginations can conjure up.

Although some traffic fluctuations occur with predictable regularity, other call traffic spurts strike with little warning. What’s a call center to do?

Deal with It the Best You Can 

The first impulse in responding to higher traffic than you’re prepared for is to work faster, cut out all nonessential tasks, and answer calls with greater intention. This helps . . . a bit . . . for a while. You may tap non-phone staff to put on a headset and get to work. Cutting breaks and shortening lunches emerges as a tempting thought, but don’t give in to that temptation. Asking staff to extend shifts and work overtime is another approach many call centers pursue. Sometimes this becomes mandatory. It helps to get calls answered, but employee morale takes a hit.

An optional strategy is to ignore the escalating number of calls in queue and just process whatever calls you can while working at your normal pace. If the call is important, the caller will hold or call back . . . at least you hope so. Regardless, customer sentiment will take a hit.

Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a crisis to consider solutions. Click To Tweet

Intentionally Overstaff 

Given this situation, call center managers may intentionally over-hire and overschedule. That provides a nice buffer to deal with traffic peaks and longer-term surges. The side effect of this well-intended strategy is that during times of normal traffic levels, you’re either paying for unproductive work or your staff isn’t getting as many hours as they wish. Neither outcome is a good one.

Throttle Incoming Calls 

A third solution entertained by anxious call center managers is to reduce the number of incoming calls during high-traffic situations. One method is to provide a busy signal to callers. A second approach is to play a recording asking them to try later. A third possibility is to allow them to schedule a callback. Of course, for the callback solution to work requires that you’re not still dealing with the high-traffic situation when it comes time to make that return phone call.

Overflow to Another Location

If you’ve concluded that the first three options aren’t good ones, you’re right. If your call center is part of a multilocation operation, an easy solution is to send excess calls to another center in your network. For this to be a viable solution, however, requires that the other location is not suffering from the same malady.

Some multilocation call centers automatically route calls from one location to another based on incoming traffic and agent availability. In these cases, the overall traffic is self-regulating, which means that unexpected high call volume coming into one center will impact all call centers in the network. One center, therefore, can drag all the others down.

Outsource to Another Call Center

Another consideration is to form an arrangement with an outsource call center to take your overflow calls. Not only is this a great solution for high-traffic scenarios, but it also works well for understaffing. You can establish whatever events you want to trigger an overflow situation. It might be the number of calls in queue, the current wait time, or number of abandons.

Just as with sending overflow calls to another call center within your organization, select an outsource call center that’s geographically separated from your location to reduce the risk of them suffering from the same scenario as your call center. 

Conclusion

Though there is no ideal way to deal with unexpected call traffic, there are steps you can take to reduce the negative impact on both callers and staff. But don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a crisis to consider solutions—plan now before you’re swamped with calls.

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.

A Concise Guide for Outsourcing Success, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

Should you decide that outsourcing may be right for you from a financial standpoint, consider the following steps to assist you in selecting a specific agency that will meet your specific budget and service requirements.

Step 1: Design an RFP (request for proposal).

Make sure your request describes the nature of the venture and exactly what you are looking for, including agent skill sets, specific service-level objectives, technology requirements, reporting capabilities, and previous experience with your account type. 

Think of the RFP as a job description, but more in-depth. To ensure the best match, include information such as forecasted outsource volumes by hour-of-day and day-of-week, average call length, and even agent incentive strategies that work at your existing center. 

An agency's tone of voice and the way they conduct themselves is often representative of the kind of performance you can expect from their staff once they begin handling calls. Click To Tweet

 Be sure to ask each candidate to provide you with a list of their existing clients, including contact information, as well as information on the agency’s fees and other additional charges. Ask specifically for information on monthly base charges, programming and connectivity costs, telephone usage costs, and labor costs.

Step 2: Review returned RFPs and narrow down the candidates.

Select proposals that are complete, concise, and meet your minimum specifications. Check out the agency’s references. While it is unusual for an agency to give you contacts who will prove to be bad references, you can always read between the lines if you ask the right questions, such as: 

  • How productive are they now compared to when you first started doing business with them?
  • If you could improve in any area, what would it be?

Take careful notes during your reference checks.

Step 3: Conduct a phone interview.

Call each agency that survives the initial weeding-out process. Have a list of detailed questions prepared and listen to how well they represent themselves. Their tone of voice and the way they conduct themselves is often representative of the kind of performance you can expect from their staff once they begin handling calls. 

[In the next issue, we’ll cover steps 4 and 5 of selecting a call center agency.]

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

What Is Proactive Communication for Contact Centers?



By Nogol Tardugno

It’s a crazy world for today’s consumers. Not only are they pulled in different directions by all the responsibilities of their personal and professional lives, but they are also constantly distracted by all the digital alerts that arise from carrying a powerful personal computer in the shape of a phone connected to pretty much everyone and everything they want to know.  

No wonder they find it hard to get to some of the more mundane tasks in life such as paying bills and remembering appointments.

What if your contact center could put the power of that smartphone—or any of their other communication devices—to work for both them and you? Not just in basic ways, but more creatively?

That thought process is how we get to the latest focus on proactive communication for contact centers. Such notifications would benefit your business by maximizing available resources such as income and staff. But your customers also would find value in your business’s efforts to help them meet their own needs—even sending these notifications in the channels they prefer, such as voice, SMS (short message service), and MMS (multimedia messaging service). In fact, Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 70 percent of global consumers have a favorable view of brands that contact them with proactive customer service notifications. 

Let’s look at what proactive communication is and how you can customize it to provide the most benefit to everyone involved. 

Use proactive communications to level out call volumes within your center. Click To Tweet

What Does Proactive Communication Do?

It seems fair to assume that people don’t purposely set out to let things slip. Therefore, your business can only benefit by helping your customers remember, prioritize, and even complete common but important functions such as:

  • Paying bills before they become delinquent (increased revenue for less effort)
  • Setting and confirming appointments for their medical and financial needs
  • Renewing services and contracts
  • Receiving notifications of product upgrades and even deliveries

Providing this sort of communication gives your customers more control over the details of their own lives, establishes greater levels of transparency between them and your business, and helps eliminate bottlenecks and dead ends that can discourage customers from continuing their relationship with your brand.

However, proactive communication also helps meet your organizational goals by performing these functions:

  • Surveying customers immediately after their interactions with your agents as part of your voice of the customer (VoC) initiatives
  • Gathering similar information from agents as part of your contact center’s staff retention efforts
  • Increasing engagement (and revenue) by providing customers with personalized offers, scannable coupons, loyalty programs, or cross-selling and up-selling opportunities
  • Sending fraud or emergency alerts
  • Providing service outage information in affected areas

Any process that a large percentage of your customers benefit from is a candidate for proactive notification. Even better, if it’s a simple process you could automate through a phone IVR, your business benefits even further by:

  • Not having to use agents’ time and effort to handle repetitive processes; self-service IVR often costs only pennies compared to agent-assisted costs
  • Making operational options available to your customers any time they want to do business, not just when your contact center is open
  • Limiting repeat calls to your center while increasing the value of inbound calls and raising first-contact resolution rates
  • Offering efficient self-service that increases customer satisfaction rates by anticipating needs 

Customizable Solutions

These are the basics, but we’ve barely addressed what customizing your proactive communication can do. For example, once you’ve determined the message, you can set automated rules that control all aspects of the transaction, including:

  • Which customers receive which messages: from single recipients to thousands
  • Through what channel they will receive the message 
  • Any restrictions such as the times to deliver the message 
  • Any additions such as how to handle obstructions like busy signals

You can, for instance, use proactive communications to level out call volumes within your center. Sending notifications during times of low activity can include the option for recipients to speak with an agent immediately. This means that these customers will not be calling later during peak traffic times, and you will not have to adjust your staffing accordingly. 

How Does It Work? 

If you have any involvement with contact center scripts, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of all the programmable options you would have to account for to make proactive notifications work. But here’s what makes the whole idea operationally reasonable: you don’t have to do all that programming yourself, and neither does your IT support team.

The same processes that makes cloud computing work also builds the suites of applications that make proactive communication work. Web-delivered APIs ride on the top of your legacy systems, integrating with your CRM and telephony. These APIs come in packages that automate reminders, collect survey information, take payments, and more. 

You just decide which applications your contact center needs. Most apps come with pre-built templates that will get you up and running within days, but when it’s time to customize, you can program your own options using drag-and-drop functions.

The best practice is to start with the easy applications in your contact center. Do you most need actionable VoC feedback? More timely payments? A boost for your sales and marketing efforts? 

Select an application or suite of applications that will address that specific need. Then run trials around your proactive efforts, analyzing your key metrics at each step, including customer satisfaction. Apply what you’ve learned to the next need on the list and expand your automated processes. 

Even after the initial build and testing phase is over, analysis and refinement should never stop as you pursue the goals of high customer satisfaction, highly involved and motivated employees, and an expanded bottom line for your business. 

Nogol Tardugno is the director of customer success at Plum Voice. With eighteen years of experience, she is passionate about delivering the best customer journey through technology. She has a background in computer information systems and has worked in financial, digital marketing, and CPaaS industries.

Unlocking the Value of Voice Data



By Alex Fleming

Over the past few years, the contact center market has created more processes that have moved away from voice. The omnichannel direction has put a significant focus on using elements that are primarily text-based. This reflects the way end users, and we as individuals, now communicate. Instant messaging, email, and social media have grown in popularity, and contact centers have been quick to adopt these channels to engage with customers. They are perfect for engaging in a relevant way, while keeping the highest level of quality text, where the data is easy to search, index, and store. This means that contact centers have a wealth of data to use to gain valuable insights into their business and develop more tools to further address end-user requests or requirements.

Data gained through transcripts can be searched and used to generate trends of frequent issues. Click To Tweet

While omnichannel has enabled contact centers to remain relevant, the focus is shifting, with speech and voice calls providing the richest density of data. A recent report from Red Box highlighted that artificial intelligence and machine learning suddenly make voice data available in volume, when previously it would only have been accessible by listening to individual recordings. This presents organizations with an opportunity to tap a rich data set that can help drive true and measurable business outcomes.

Data gained through transcripts can be searched and used to generate trends of frequent issues. Click To Tweet

How Do You Unlock Value? 

Due to the increased interaction of end users—disclosing personal information and even payment details—the contact center market is highly regulated. The regulation is in part why contact centers record calls to ensure that they remain on the right side of compliance. This means that contact centers are sitting on a pot of gold that has built up over the years regarding customer insight and engagement, as well as training information. They also have the constant influx of additional calls every minute, hour, week, and month, so the stockpile of data keeps growing. 

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) services enable this backlog of data to be transformed, and the processing of prerecorded calls means that historical data can be transformed into a text-based format. In addition, the ability to transcribe in real time means that agents are empowered with tools that can adapt and change depending on the conversation. This solution has the added benefit of elements such as sentiment, meaning, context, and nuances within the language that add a greater value to the text output.

The Right Data at the Right Time 

Contact centers are always looking to provide the highest levels of customer service to minimize customer churn and accelerate the resolution of issues. Speech-to-text technology allows them to conform to compliance and regulation easily, while also supporting their agents by increasing their knowledge and eliminating frustration.

The value and benefit of transcription is that the information can be available right away. Even when transcribing the call content after completion, the information is accessible soon after the conversation has ended. This enables situations such as issue resolution to be accelerated for quality assurance managers to use directly. This eliminates the time and effort required to review the call’s audio. Using text also means that the content of the call history can be searched more easily, with the added value of enhancing the customer experience even in a dispute situation. 

Cases Requiring Understanding and Resolution

When discussing customers and their issues, sometimes a simple tool can be the most powerful. Data gained through transcripts can be searched and used to generate trends of frequent issues. It might be that these issues can be solved through the addition of a new section to an FAQ page, a new response in a text bot, or even the creation of a self-service portal. 

The ability to empower customers in this way not only means that their issues can be solved, but it can be done with minimum impact on contact center staff. This frees them up to handle customer issues that need human interaction. However, this solution is only possible through the ability to make the content of calls available and make intelligent decisions from that.

At a deeper level, sentiment analysis can help at a one-to-one level for the agent to better understand the caller. If agents have methods on hand to gauge a customer’s mood, it can make the difference between a successful call outcome or losing that customer. 

Say the Right Things

The ability to transcribe the content of a call enables the identification and use of keywords to autonomously trigger actions within the agent’s dashboard in real time. Using ASR services in real time can significantly impact the service that new agents, even without experience, can offer to customers. 

Know If a Customer Had a Good Experience

Core elements for agents can be enhanced by what ASR can offer. These include the ability to capture conversations in a text-based format for faster review, triggering information to be at an agent’s fingertips and extracting insight for integration into analysis products so the agent can dedicate more time to issues that require human attention. Agents are then better equipped to provide higher quality service to customers and feel that they are doing their best job. With these tools, the agent feels that they have had a positive impact on customer interactions.

Alex Fleming is products marketing manager at speech-to-text technology specialist Speechmatics.

How Call Centers Impact the Bottom Line for Local Service Businesses



By Matt Buchanan

Answering phone calls from new potential customers and effectively selling their services is the lifeblood of any growing small- to medium-sized business (SMB). To gain better insight into a call center’s role in this, we recently published our 2019 Home Service Call Performance Report to better understand how call performance impacts the bottom line. What we discovered has major implications for call centers and call answering service providers.

Call Answer Rate: The Performance Perception Gap

There is a huge perception gap between how well local service SMBs think they answer their phones versus how well they actually answer them. We polled local service SMBs on how well they think they answer the phone, and they estimated they answered 97 percent of their calls on average. Based on our call analysis findings, we learned that these businesses in reality only answer 66 percent of their calls on average.

Professionally trained call centers are consistently much better at converting phone calls into captured leads. Click To Tweet

The impact of this misperception has massive implications for these businesses. For starters, they are missing out on meaningful revenue by not answering their phones. Even worse, they don’t even realize it.

Call Centers versus In-House Staff: Call Centers Capture 70 Percent More Leads 

Many businesses assume call centers are less effective at representing their business in a positive light than they can do themselves. The reality is that when it comes to phone interactions, call centers are far superior at consistently capturing potential customer information for further sales engagement.

We found that call centers answer the phone 99 percent of the time (which makes sense), but they were also able to capture customer information 75 percent of the time. Compare with in-house staff who answered the phone 65 percent of the time and were able to capture customer information only 66 percent of the time, this works out to about a 70 percent increase in leads captured when using a call center.

The reality is that when it comes to engaging potential customers over the phone, professionally representing a local service business, and building trust, professionally trained call centers are consistently much better at converting phone calls into captured leads.

Cost Center versus Profit Center: Show Value by Delivering Revenue-Driving Insights

By utilizing a call center, local service businesses can increase their booked appointments by 80 percent without spending a single additional dollar on new marketing initiatives.

There is a really great opportunity to shift the mentality from call centers as cost centers to profit centers. Most buying decisions are made through a process of discovering pain points and then providing a solution that can solve those pain points at a price that makes sense for the buyer. But if these local service SMBs aren’t aware of the problem, then hiring a call center means buying a solution to a problem they don’t think they have.

So, how can you, as a call center marketer or leader, help these businesses discover a huge problem they don’t know they have? And then once they are aware, how can you continue to uncover revenue-generating trends to keep adding value? The answer is by making a case with data.

Invest in call analytics to understand and identify the pain points and trends of a business’s call performance, as well as the customers they are trying to service.

Some critical capabilities will be:

  • Offering call attribution reports to help clients spend their marketing budget more wisely
  • Offering time and location optimization reports to identify targeted ad strategies
  • Offering reports on trends of revenue-generating conversations with call transcription and text mining
  • Offering lead quality reports to help call center marketers better understand the audience they should be targeting

 Call centers have the unique opportunity to change this mentality, and those who take the leap in investing, building a strategy, and building products or services around customer call analytics will be the leaders in this change.

Matt Buchanan is the co-founder and VP of sales at Service Direct, a pay-per-call marketing service provider. Access their 2019 Home Service Call Performance Report.

Five Tips for Hospitals When Purchasing a Secure Messaging App



By Tom Curtin

Hospital communication systems are complex. Yet many hospitals select one communications method—secure messaging—in the hope that a texting solution or an app is going to be their panacea.

When hospital staff research communications companies in the healthcare space, they may not realize that while these businesses offer texting products, that is all they offer. Having just that one part of a communication solution, which involves systems and software from other departments, will not support what hospital care teams need to deliver a great patient experience.

The goal of every hospital is to provide the best care in the most efficient way possible to their patients. Having a secure messaging app is important, but it is only part of an effective communication protocol. It is paramount for hospitals to have a holistic communication platform so that a secure messaging app can access EHR, integrate with other communication systems, and take advantage of known data to provide reports.

Hospital medical and IT staff should consider the following five key questions before selecting a secure messaging app.

1. Deliverability

Will the app deliver messages to the right people, at the right time? Be certain the app can integrate with your hospital’s on-call schedules. Everyone needs to be able to find the staff or care team they need in an instant and contact each person how they prefer.

2. Integration

Is it easy to integrate the app with multiple systems? Do your patient room systems, as well as your EHR, communicate with your care teams? Then your app should too. Does the app support API integration to your nurse call and alarm systems so it can send critical messages to the right staff? Maintaining multiple systems takes multiple people, which leads to working in silos. Therefore, the app needs to provide simple architecture so it’s easy to implement and maintain.

3. Ease of Use

Is the app easy to use? The app should have features that are easy to use so training is fast and simple. Losing time spent on training takes away from patient care.

4. Manageability

Can staff easily manage the app? What happens when hospital staff must add or remove users? How are app updates and new releases handled? Does the company offer reliable customer support and troubleshooting help? Providing care for patients happens twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Hospital staff should be able to rely on customer support for the app 24/7 as well.

5. Workflow Impact

Does the app improve workflows? Hospital staff use multiple communication tools, and they don’t need another tool that provides the same functions as other devices already in use. The app should integrate seamlessly with existing hospital systems, save staff time, enhance the patient experience, improve clinical communications, and support reporting functions.

Conclusion

A stand-alone secure messaging app, or messaging app company, will not be able to address all the communication pain points within a hospital. However, when used in combination with communications solutions that offer scripting, directories, on-call scheduling, emergency notifications, and other web-based applications, a secure mobile messaging app used by medical staff will help patients in the most timely way. This gives the patient the best service possible.

Amtelco

Tom Curtin is the president of Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. They develop software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.[This article first appeared in AnswerStat]