Consider Outsourcing to Better Manage Call Traffic and Increase Availability
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
As your healthcare call center grapples to deal with more calls than perhaps ever before, you seek ways to maintain the service level you provide to callers. Ideas include using automation, increasing employee schedules, and hiring more staff.
A fourth option is to outsource calls to another call center—an outsource call center—that specializes in taking calls for other healthcare organizations. Before you dismiss this as a bad idea, consider four common types of outsourcing scenarios.
Outsource Certain Call Types
Analyze the types of calls you answer and the appropriateness of your existing staff to take them. As an example, assume you handle triage calls, appointment schedules, call transfers, and medical answering service. Note the number of calls and the amount of time you spend in each category. Now document how many agents can take each of these call types and the number of hours they work each week. See how well your staffing aligns with your call types.
Next identify the biggest gaps. By way of example, let’s assume you discover triage nurses taking routine messages for doctors. This is a huge mismatch. What if you send routine calls to your outsourcing partner, thereby freeing your nurses to do what they do best and what’s most important?
Of course, the opposite scenario is too many triage calls and not enough nurses. You can outsource those too, but it might be to a different outsourcing partner, one that specializes in telephone nurse triage.
Another scenario that’s ideal for outsourcing is at unexpected times when call traffic exceeds the schedule you carefully devised to meet the projected call volume. Instead of having calls pileup in queue, reroute them to your outsourcing call center partner.
Outsource Specific Times
Third, look for daily or weekly patterns to see how well staffing matches up with traffic. You may discover—or confirm—that your third shift staff doesn’t have enough work to keep comfortably busy. Outsource those third shift calls to your outsource partner. Then move your third shift employees to second.
Of course, depending on the type of work your operation handles, you could have the opposite scenario where not much happens during regular business hours, with all the action happening evenings and weekends. Then outsource first shift weekdays and reallocate those personnel to evenings.
Outsource Specific Days
Assume you have difficulty scheduling enough agents to handle your Sunday traffic. You can save yourself the hassle by sending those calls to your outsourcing call center partner and shut down your call center on Sundays. Then you can reschedule your few Sunday employees to other days of the week.
Many call center managers summarily dismiss outsourcing, either because they see it as a loss of control or because they perceive a lack of quality. Yet today’s leading healthcare call center outsourcers provide a high quality of service, often matching or even exceeding their client companies. Just vet them with care and make your decision based on outcomes, not price.
When you consider the benefits of being able to reallocate your staff to where they’re most needed and to better serve your patients and callers, outsourcing is a viable option that warrants careful consideration.
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.
Read more of his articles or his book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.