Call Center Lessons from a Walk-In Healthcare Clinic



We Need to Be Ready to Learn Whatever We Can, Wherever We Can

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatLast week I went to a walk-in healthcare clinic to deal with an itchy skin affliction that was driving me crazy. (It turns out it was poison ivy or some variation thereof.) Not only did I get fast attention and quick results, but I had a wholly enjoyable experience. I walked away from the clinic as a happy patient, but I usually don’t have that reaction after interacting with a call center.

Here are some thoughts as to what makes a difference.Too often, call center personnel view each caller as a problem to handle as fast as possible and not as a person who needs their help. Click To Tweet

Accessible Service

The brightly-lit clinic was easy to find and offered nearby parking. The relaxing atmosphere gave me assurance I could anticipate a successful outcome.

Too often call centers aren’t accessible. It seems they hide their numbers. Why is this? Don’t they want calls? And by the time I do talk to someone, I’m often doubtful if I’ll be able to accomplish my objective.

Easy to Use

When I walked in, a self-check-in kiosk greeted me (along with a medical assistant, who was checking in another patient). I entered my name, punched a couple buttons, and was ready for step two.

Contrast this to a call center, with its endless array of auto-attendant prompts that seldom fit the reason for my call. And if I pick wrong, the best solution is to hang up and call back. Though call centers should be easy to use, reality may be different.

Known Timeframe

At the healthcare clinic I immediately knew where I was in the queue. One person was being checked as another waited. Beside this visual indicator, the kiosk provided an expected wait time of 28 to 56 minutes. Anticipating this, I had my iPod to keep me company. But before I even plugged in my earbuds, the first patient was ushered into the examination room, and the man ahead of me was being checked in. In a few minutes he went on to exam room two. I was next in line, and it hadn’t even been five minutes.

I always appreciate call centers that tell me where I am in the queue and give me updates as things progress.

Provide Options

I learned I could have checked myself in online. This would have guaranteed my place in queue at the clinic. Then they would have texted me as my appointment slot neared.

This is much like call centers offering a call back option. It’s nice to have alternatives. Why don’t more call centers offer this?

Exceptional Staff

The most impressive thing was great staff. The medical assistant at the healthcare clinic was both professional and personable. Within seconds she had me checked in. A few minutes later she moved me to exam room one, when the first patient left. A positive experience continued with the physician’s assistant. She treated me as a person and not as a problem to solve. She was patient, thorough, and precise in her diagnosis and recommendation. I’m actually looking forward (kind of) to my next visit.

Too often, with the ongoing onslaught of calls, call center personnel view each caller as a problem to handle as fast as possible and not as a person who needs their help. Making this distinction is key in the overall customer experience.

Successful Results

Less than twenty minutes after I arrived at the healthcare clinic, I left with a credible diagnosis and a prescription to pick up at the pharmacy, which was less than one hundred feet away. This was the outcome I sought.

How often have I hung up with a call center, having fallen short of my goal? Sadly, the answer is too often. I may call back for a different rep, phone someplace else, or just give up.

Skilled Close

Before I left to pick up my prescription, I chatted again with the medical assistant. Though I didn’t need to see her afterward, she had more information for me. When she learned I didn’t have a primary care physician, she encouraged me to get one and offered to help. I shared my past frustration at not being able to find someone close by. She took this as a challenge. When I left, she handed me a slip of paper listing four nearby doctors who were accepting new patients. It’s too soon to know if she made a successful upsell, but she did an excellent job at doing everything she could to help me. I left with a positive feeling.

When done appropriately an upsell by a call center agent is both helpful and appreciated. But when done poorly, it’s an irritant and another reason not to call back. Be sure to end each call well.

The Next Step

How can you apply these observations of a healthcare clinic to make your medical contact center a shining example of success that your callers and patients appreciate?

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