Call Centers Should Work with Marketing and Physician Relations

By Brenda Beukelman and Christine Rhodes

Do you know the marketing team? These are the people who live in those interestingly decorated offices, most likely accessorized with a Macintosh computer. What about the physician relations team? Have you seen them lately, or do you believe they are always out on sales calls? In many organizations, the call center, marketing team, and physician relations staff don’t report to the same person or even work in the same location. This can make collaboration difficult and result in missed opportunities to improve consumer and physician relations. Yet, all three areas share a common goal of increasing the revenue of the organization and maintaining customer satisfaction.

Collaboration between these functions can have a significant positive impact on consumer and physician satisfaction. Each occupies a unique niche in building the organization’s reputation. The collaboration between the three teams can help elevate the call center, transforming it into a more strategic partner in the organization.

Call center staff should not assume that the marketing and physician relations teams understand the many services they provide to the hospital, physicians, and consumers. By increasing their working knowledge of the call center services, physician relations and marketing can integrate the call center into planning processes that the call center may not have been involved in. This will also allow call center leadership to be at the table when ideas are generated that require collaboration, thus avoiding the last minute project that falls in the call center’s lap.

When the call center’s diverse services are not known, efforts and resources can be wasted or duplicated when responding to a physician request or need by a department less equipped than the call center. Collaboration and communication can save everyone time, money, and possibly a few turf wars. Call centers usually don’t have the time or resources to market themselves but with the help of the marketing and physician relations teams, they can get the visibility to grow and generate some recognition for their services.

If the call center offers a service for physicians, marketing can package the call center’s key message into a flyer, brochure, or presentation for the physician relations representative to take out to the target physicians. They can also become champions within the organization by helping to raise awareness of the wide variety of skills and services of the call center.

The data collection tools within the call center are valuable to the physician relations and marketing teams. Reports such as call volume, consumer requests, and provider referrals link strategically to their efforts. As the eyes and ears to the community, the call center holds a valuable position for the marketing team. Consumer preferences and trends are key to planning and implementing new services.

Call centers should also consider using their data to work with the hospital finance team to demonstrate revenue generation. This is done via a process of revenue reconciliation that identifies the revenue associated with call center callers that converted to patients. This process benefits the call center, as well as marketing and physicians relations, by demonstrating value and contribution to the organization.

Connecting the three teams is vital. Be intentional in building a relationship with marketing and physician relations. Include them in an occasional staff meeting to build a shared understanding of your team’s challenges and establish a connection. Invite the marketing team to shadow call center representatives during the launch of a new campaign. Let them see firsthand how the campaign impacts call volume, the typical questions the campaign generates, and how the representatives are handling calls. Offer to review the results of a patient’s referred report with the physician relations representative before they have to share with the medical staff physicians.

A good time to connect is at the beginning of the annual strategic planning and budgeting process. Find out what new goals and initiatives will go into their departmental plans and how your team can support or supplement those efforts. The incremental energy spent on increased face time and the extra effort will be worth it when consumers and physicians experience seamless service from all three teams.

Ways the call center can collaborate:

  • Share reports on referrals and appointments made.
  • Share physician complaints or concerns with physician relations team.
  • Track response to ad campaigns and report to marketing.
  • Outbound survey calling for patient satisfaction.

Ways marketing can collaborate:

  • Send samples of ads and decide where they will be running before the campaign begins.
  • Meet with the call center staff to provide information and answer questions on large campaigns that involve fulfillment through the call center. Don’t assume they understand the significance and scope of the campaign with an email or interoffice mailing of the samples.
  • Be selective about the number of vanity phone numbers you set up and ask the call center to maintain. Establish a time to review call rate and determine a minimum call volume to maintain separate number.

Ways physician relations can collaborate:

  • Provide feedback from the physicians to the call center in a timely fashion.
  • Tell physicians about the wonderful service the call center provides and how it can increase their business.
  • Consider call center software packages that have an integrated physician relations module.
  • Provide updated profile information for newly enrolled doctors as part of the on boarding process.

The call center is a vital, valuable hub of information and activity. Call center staff members have access to the very people marketing and physician relations reach out to on a daily basis. Marketing has the ability to provide great content, creating engaging messages and campaigns. The physician relations team has face-to-face interaction with physicians and the ability to understand the needs of the individual practices. Bringing the talent and resources of these three areas together can create a significant market differentiating service. Plus, you may just find you have more in common than you previously thought, with the possible exception of the marketing team’s loyalty to those Mac computers!

Brenda Beukelman and Chris Rhodes are consultants with the firm Barlow/McCarthy and specialize in physician relations, marketing, and internal strategy development. They can be reached at bbeukelman@barlowmccarthy.com and crhodes@barlowmccarthy.com.

[From theĀ October/November 2008 issue of AnswerStat magazine]