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 health care risk management (HCRM), enable healthcare providers to deliver the level of customer experience and personalization consumers expect.
The ideal customer experience that 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 are faced with 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.
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 resolutionIt’s crucial 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: Traditional call center operations are siloed, 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.
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.
Each interaction with the organization is recorded in the healthcare CRM to ensure continuity and enable personalization throughout the patient journey.
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 can serve 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 utilizing 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 promotes 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 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 that can be tailored to the individual customer while reflecting their location within the patient journey.
Another important element to call center training is ensuring agents can handle any non-clinical queries. Given the high volume of customer interactions call center agents handle each day, it’s crucial they have a clear understanding of the healthcare organization ecosystem, as well as the capability to handle queries on the fly.
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.