Be Sure You Deliver the Options Today’s Consumers Expect
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
For years we’ve talked about the need for healthcare call centers to become contact centers. This name realignment shifts our attention from telephone calls to embrace other forms of contact as well. This is a multi-channel mindset, and we provide multi-channel access to deliver the contact options that today’s consumers expect, which we must do if we’re to remain viable.
Some people call this omnichannel, which implies all channels, while multi-channel more realistically looks at many channels. We’ll not debate which name is more appropriate. Instead, we’ll focus on the concept of moving beyond the telephone.
Here are some multi-channel access points to consider.
The telephone remains key for most people in most industries. In our push for multichannel access, let’s not forget the telephone as it will continue to be the foundation for what we do. The telephone has been around for a long time, longer than any of us.
The first healthcare call centers started nearly a century ago in the form of medical answering services, often called doctors exchanges. The telephone is proven, ubiquitous, and dependable. It’s not new or exciting, but it is stable.
And most consumers expect you to answer their telephone calls.
Email has been around for several decades. It’s no longer novel, with naysayers long claiming that email is dead. It’s not. It’s very much alive. When you consider growing your call center beyond the telephone, the first multi-channel access option to consider should be email.
Email integrates smartly into call center activity. Unlike the telephone, where callers expect a timely answer with minimal delay, their expectation with email is less demanding. This doesn’t mean you can sit on a pending email message for days and should aim for a same-day response, but most people accept a reasonable delay as normal. This provides the opportunity to set email aside when call traffic is high and to process email messages during slow times.
Email agents should be able to read and absorb typed information quickly. They should also be able to type fast and accurately, without the need for editing.
A third multi-channel access option to consider is text chat. This common, and increasingly popular, communication option is how many people communicate with their family and friends. It’s no wonder that they expect businesses—including the healthcare industry—to embrace it too.
Text chat agents, like email agents, must be able to quickly process typed messages and respond with accuracy. Unlike email, however, texting carries with it the expectation of minimal delay. In comparing chat with telephone calls, where multitasking doesn’t work, experienced chat agents can effectively handle multiple simultaneous chat sessions.
Next consider social media. If patients try to contact you on social media, be prepared to respond. If you ignore them or take too long, they’ll be sure to vent their frustration to everyone on their platform of choice.
Social media agents need many of the same skills as email and chat agents. In addition, they must understand and be comfortable using each of the social media platforms that people could use to contact you.
This list is a great start, but it’s not conclusive. If people want to contact you by mail or fax, be ready to handle those interactions. Also watch for emerging communication technologies so you can prepare for them before your patients ask.
Multi-Channel Access Conclusion
If your call center is already providing multi-channel access, that’s great. Look for ways to make your channel offerings more effective.
And if your call center focuses exclusively on the phone, explore how you can move decisively and methodically forward to offer multi-channel access to your patients and customers.
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.