By Greg Kefer
Your phone starts ringing, you drop what you’re doing, look at the screen, and see a call from some odd number from a faraway place. Or worse yet, it says “Scam Likely!” I’m rarely in the mood to listen to some foreign language robot or get rich pitch. Phone calls that matter have increasingly become the minority.
According to estimates, US mobile phone users were exposed to 48 billion robocalls in 2018, which means that every time the phone rings, there’s a 50 percent chance it’s a spam robocall.
Training the Masses to Decline Calls
There are few viable solutions available for blocking 100 percent of these annoying intrusions, so the best option when that unknown phone number shows on the caller ID is to simply hit the decline button and move on with whatever you were doing. Robocalls are creating anti-call center muscle memory across the entire mobile phone user population.
The shunning of annoying telemarketing cold calls is not a new thing. But thanks to robocall automation, the surge of incoming noise has become so intense, there’s little chance a consumer will pause and consider the possibility that an incoming call might actually matter. This is a problem for the healthcare industry.
Call centers have always been a big part of the healthcare patient experience. Challenges with being on hold, ineffective agents, and general customer dissatisfaction with call centers are well documented. But what about the outbound side?
The Challenge for Healthcare Call Centers
The healthcare industry is investing heavily in engaging patients, and call centers are a big piece of that strategy. Outbound calling campaigns help patients navigate their care, set appointments, take medicines, or check in after a visit. These are potentially important touch points. If people stop answering their phones, what happens? Email outreach is frequently intercepted by spam filters, secure messaging is clunky, and most patients don’t log into their healthcare portals.
At call centers, human capacity has always been a constraint. When it comes to dealing with healthcare situations, there have not been a lot of viable automation options that blend a quality, well-designed engagement experience with a high-scale system. Anybody that has received a robocall doctor’s appointment reminder knows how disengaging it is.
The healthcare industry faces a challenge when it comes to reaching out to patients, often for critical issues.
- Providers and pharma companies need to reach out and connect with patients.
- Most patients have a mobile phone and prefer to communicate through them.
- Robocalls have trained consumers to avoid answering their phones.
- Healthcare mobile apps are too clunky and remain unused.
- Consumers prefer text messaging.
Heavy investment in call center technology that’s focused on intelligent patient information and agent enablement is still key. But is there a new opportunity for call centers to reach out to patients as part of a patient engagement effort?
Digital Conversations at Unlimited Scale
Conversational chatbots that interact with people in a way similar to text messaging are finding their way into many industries. What would happen if an interactive text front end, first touch was woven into the outbound call center approach? The bot could completely handle simple tasks, such as reminders and information gathering. Or it could start on some of the more advanced workflows, such as monitoring care progression or providing drug background information in advance of a human to human interaction.
As they stand today, call center agents are premium level expenses when compared to a well-designed chatbot that can run 24/7. Imagine a call center not constrained by human capacity.
If the virtual dimension of a modern patient engagement strategy requires outreach and interaction with vast populations of patients, the answer isn’t to hire more agents. Rather, you must find a way to make the agents you already have handle an increased volume, with conversational chatbots conversing and engaging patients across a spectrum of workflows. And the entire process would be in the medium that consumers increasingly prefer—text-based messaging.
With this chatbot technology, the odds of reaching someone and helping them with their care can only increase.
Greg Kefer is the CMO at LifeLink.