Tag Archives: Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Vital Signs

Today’s Employees Want to Make a Difference



Give Staff Opportunities to Make an Impact through Their Work

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We’ve been considering five strategies to retain call center staff. The first four are through agent compensation, agent benefits, learning situations, and growth potential. Now we’ll address the fifth one. It’s showing staff how they can make a difference in their work and through their work. Today’s employees, especially Millennials and even more so Gen-Z, want employment where they can make a difference by having a positive influence through their jobs and their work.

Through Each Call

Starting at training, and reinforced on a regular basis, help employees see how each call they take makes a difference. This difference can positively impact both the caller and the person, department, or recipient of the transaction or information. This way they’ll have dozens or even hundreds of opportunities each day to make the world a little bit better. Over the course of a year that’s thousands or tens of thousands of small but meaningful positive interactions to help impact their world in a positive way.

In the Work Environment

Beyond each call, provide opportunities for employees to help make their workplace better. This can include serving on an ad hoc committee, assigning them additional tasks that add value, and taking on special assignments to improve their work environment and better serve callers. Even more beneficial is when they can work together as a team when making a difference.

Offer Volunteer Opportunities

Some progressive companies include paid time for employees to volunteer at their favorite nonprofit. When doing so, they perceive their employer as supporting the causes that they support. They value their work more because of this.

Though it may not be feasible for a medical call center to offer this benefit to every entry-level employee, this paid volunteer time could be a perk for senior operators and those who advance in the company.

And even if you’re reluctant to provide paid time for staff to do this, you can still support their favorite nonprofit in other ways. This could be as simple as offering them free voicemail service to help facilitate their favorite organizations’ communication.

Provide Matching Donations

Other forward-thinking businesses will match employee donations, usually dollar for dollar, to nonprofit organizations. Usually they place a cap on total matching funds, but this may be an unneeded precaution.

But if you’re just starting this program, having a donation cap may be an easy way to test its effectiveness and limit financial risk. You can always remove or increase the cap later. Some companies have a list of acceptable recipients for matching donations, but this could irritate employees and cause them to resent the company’s generosity and not appreciate it.

The key is to join your employees in supporting what they support. And when you do, they’ll be more supportive of you.

Summary

Today’s employees want a job that does more than provide income. They want work that helps them make a difference in their community and their world. Give them these opportunities, and they’ll give you their dedication.

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.

Retain Staff by Establishing Their Growth Potential



Increase Employee Tenure by Showing Them Their Future with Your Organization

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-employee growth potential

In considering the five tips to better retain call center staff, we’ve looked at agent compensation, agent benefits, and learning situations. Now we’ll address providing staff with employee growth potential opportunities. 

With your employees learning enhanced work skills, don’t leave them frustrated by not providing the opportunity for them to apply what they learned. Though this could relate to personal growth, it’s best to focus on job-related growth potential within your organization—and not force them to seek their own growth solutions someplace else.

As you do this, you’ll show them their potential for job enhancement. This applies for both their existing position, as well as advancement opportunities. By sharing with them that they have a future at your organization and how they can get there, they’re more likely to stick around. Not only will you have retained a valued employee, but you will have prepared them to become a more essential member of your team.

Don’t be the manager that causes your best employees to leave. This will hurt your operation and could end up benefiting your competitor. Click To Tweet

Here are some ways you can provide employee growth potential for your staff. 

Add Responsibilities 

Each time your staff learns a new skill or acquires enhance capabilities, look for ways to incorporate these into their current position. Often you can accomplish this by adding responsibilities to their existing job description. As they’re afforded opportunities that their peers don’t have, they’ll see themselves as more important and more integral to your call center.

This will increase their self-esteem, improve their work attitude, and enhance their job satisfaction. All these will combine to increase their tenure with your company.

Expand Position Scope

As they prove themselves capable by handling more responsibilities, they may be ready to take on an increased scope to their job. Look for ways they can be a call center agent and something else. This may be agent and shift leader, agent and backup supervisor, or agent and trainer. 

Another option is for them to serve on an ad hoc committee or workgroup to consider new software, implement a new procedure, or overhaul the training manual. Though these are short-term assignments, success in these areas prepares the employee to take on more.

Promote to a New Position

Those who have proven themselves by taking on more responsibilities and increased the scope of their job, stand to receive prime consideration for advancement opportunities in your organization. Note that this could be within the call center or to another position within the company.

Don’t be selfish and try to keep your most talented employees in your call center. Each time they advanced to other company departments, you’ll realize the benefit of having a call center ally who understands what you do and can advocate for you.

Adjust Compensation

Sometimes asking an employee to take on added responsibilities or an expanded scope falls within their current pay rate. However, don’t be stingy. Carefully assess when it’s warranted to offer a pay raise, added perk, or compensation incentive. Failing to do so will result in them being overqualified and underpaid. Then they become a prime candidate to leave your organization and go somewhere else. Don’t make that mistake.

Develop a Career Path

We’ve already addressed the idea of developing an employee career path when we talked about learning opportunities, but career path is also appropriate when discussing employee growth potential. When doing so, it’s critical to provide a realistic timeframe for a prospective career path. This is because you don’t know when an existing position will become open or a new one will emerge. If you don’t include timing variability when developing a career path, your most qualified employees will grow impatient and leave if they don’t see things happening as quickly as they think they should.

Employee Growth Potential Summary

When talented staff sees the employee growth potential for their career within your organization, they are more likely to stick around so they can realize the possibilities. Most people don’t want to go through the hassle and invest the time to find a new job—unless you force them into it. 

Don’t be the manager that causes your best employees to leave. This will hurt your operation and could end up benefiting your competitor.

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.

Offer Learning Opportunities to Better Retain Staff



Everyone Wins When You Provide Strategic Training for Your Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We’ve looked at five tips to better retain call center staff. The first two addressed agent compensation and agent benefits. Now we’re going to look at learning opportunities.

Today’s entry-level workforce values jobs that allow them to grow mentally. Educational opportunities provided at work, or through work, help to better connect employees with the job they do, increase their job satisfaction, and lengthen their tenure.

Not only are learning opportunities a wise retention tactic, it’s also a smart recruitment tool. Many workers so value learning opportunities that they’ll take a lesser-paying job if it provides the chance to grow, versus a higher paying position that doesn’t.

Here are some learning opportunities that you can offer to your staff.

In-House Training

Delivering internally produced training to your staff is a cost-effective way to provide the learning opportunities they crave. This can be unstructured teaching offered as needed or more organized educational offerings. The best thing about developing in-house instruction is that you can tailor it to the specific needs of your call center.

Possibilities include one-on-one training, classroom scenarios, and management coaching. You don’t need to provide all these options or offer them to all employees, but the smart move is to offer some in-house training to those employees you want to keep or groom for promotion.

Local Seminars

More general business training is available in the form of local seminars. These are usually half-day or full-day events. And since they’re local, there’s little expense beyond the registration cost. Not only do these provide important skills your staff can apply to their work, it’s also a way to increase their job satisfaction and enhance their self-esteem.

Industry Events

Don’t forget industry conferences and conventions. These include both those that are healthcare related and those that are call center related. If they cover both, that’s a bonus. These opportunities, of course, are more expensive. Registration for conferences and conventions carry a higher fee then local seminars, plus there’s also travel costs involved, which can add up. Therefore, reserve attendance at industry events for employees in management or on a management track.

Formal Education

Next on our list is post-highschool education, usually through college courses. Though this can be towards degree fulfillment, a better solution is to pick specific classes that will directly benefit your call center. Be sure to look for opportunities to audit the class. Although this won’t result in any credentials for employees, it could reduce or eliminate the cost for the class.

For these last three options, formal seminars, industry events, and formal education, you may want to ask participants to report what they learned to their colleagues. This has three benefits. One is that it reinforces what they learned. The second is that it allows others in your organization to also benefit from it. Third it enhances the employees’ self-esteem.

Develop a Career Path

To further enhance the value of these learning opportunities, integrate them with a career path for employees who you feel have the potential to advance in the organization. This includes both those who you see in various future supervisory roles, as well as managerial positions and support staff functions. When employees see the potential that awaits them from these learning opportunities, they will stay with your organization longer and provide increased value while they’re there.

The Benefits of Providing Learning Opportunities for your Staff

Not only will these learning opportunities extend staff retention, they’ll also increase job satisfaction and improve performance. However, most importantly, as you train employees to do more, they become a more valued resource for your healthcare call center.

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.

Provide Meaningful Agent Benefits to Improve Agent Retention



Spend More on Retaining Staff and Less on Hiring and Training Their Replacements

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We’ve looked at five tips to better retain call center staff. Agent compensation is first on most people’s list. However, it might not be the most important item, merely the one most cited. Pay rate alone isn’t enough to keep most call center agents happy and employed. Other items factor into this equation. A related issue is benefits. Today’s workers expect more than decent pay. They expect benefits too. This includes part-timers. Yes, your part-timers deserve benefits. If you want to keep them, you better provide what they want.

Paid Vacation

Your agents work hard for you and your callers. They deserve a vacation. This gives them a break from the routine of work, provides something for them to look forward to, and helps them recharge. A paid vacation is the top benefit employees seek. Be sure to provide it to them, both full and part-timers.

(As with all benefits for part-time agents, make it proportional to the average amount of time they work. For example, if they work twenty-hours a week, their vacation pay should be based on a twenty-hour workweek.)

Paid Time Off

Next up is paid time off. This includes sick days and personal days. Ideally, we want healthy employees who don’t get sick and who schedule their appointments on their days off. But this isn’t always feasible. Failing to provide paid time off could result in an agent coming into work sick or not attending to some important personal issue, which could have negative consequences later.

Retirement

Though not every employee thinks about retirement, some do. And for those who do, it’s of critical importance. They want to take control of what their retirement looks like, and that means planning for it now, regardless of how far away it is. Be sure to offer them the option to set money aside now for their retirement.

An employee with the opportunity to learn more, will provide more value to your organization and be more loyal. Click To Tweet

Continuing Education

Next up is the ability to pursue ongoing education. As with retirement, this isn’t a benefit that most people seek or will use, but for those who want it, it could make the difference between them quitting or staying. Tailor your program so that it provides value to participants and to your organization too. Also include a reasonable precaution to avoid abuse, but be fair. An employee with the opportunity to learn more, will provide more value to your organization and be more loyal.

Healthcare Coverage

The last significant benefit is healthcare coverage. Healthcare coverage is a growing concern for people in the United States. The cost rises and the coverage shrinks. Yet being in the healthcare industry, we’re in the unique position to help our agents with decent healthcare coverage, or at least we should be.

Conclusion

When it comes to retaining call center staff, don’t skimp on benefits. Offer them paid vacation and time off, retirement and continuing education options, and healthcare coverage. This will increase their loyalty to your organization and decrease the likelihood of them leaving your call center for another company that does provide these benefits. Just as with compensation, the cost of providing benefits concerns most managers. The key is to offer what you can without jeopardizing your organization. But if you think you can’t afford to offer benefits, the reality is that you can’t afford not to.

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.

Take a Fresh Look at Agent Compensation



Don’t Brush Aside the Importance of Providing Appropriate Call Center Agent Pay

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In my article “Ideas to Better Retain Call Center Staff,” we looked at five tips to improve call center staff retention rates. I first considered compensation, a topic of great concern for managers and which carries a critical consideration for call center agents. Because of its complexities, it’s too easy for managers to shrug and say, “We’re doing the best we can. We can’t afford to pay anything more.” In fact, I’ve shared this sentiment with call center staff a time or two myself.Make incremental steps to what you pay, what you expect, and what you get in return from your staff. Click To Tweet

Survey Your Local Market

Several years ago, I consulted for a county medical bureau’s answering service. As I met with the call center agents, each one had the same complaint: “People working fast food make more than we do.” After two days of repeatedly hearing this grievance, I did some research. I walked into the eight closest fast food restaurants and asked what their starting wage was. Each one paid less, often considerably less, than the answering service.

Agent Compensation

Armed with this information, I set about correcting the agents’ unchallenged misconceptions about their pay. My research approach was a quick and easy one, and you may want to do a more thorough analysis, but the point is to survey your local job market to know where you stand. Then you can make informed decisions about what your agents should make.

Establish Your Compensation Paradigms

Another answering service I consulted for paid their agents comparable to the local fast food restaurants, which hovered near minimum-wage. I told the owner, “When you pay fast food rates, you get fast food mentality.” This isn’t to imply criticism against fast food workers, because some of them do their jobs with excellence. It is, however, my intent to point out that taking an order for a hamburger isn’t on a par with handling a phone call at 3 a.m. from a hysterical first-time mom concerned about her screaming baby’s high temperature.

Decide what you want your call center agents to make in comparison to other area jobs. Remove the concern of what you can afford from this equation, and focus on what you should aim for instead.

Make Expectations Match Compensation

At this point, I doubt you’ve decided you’re paying too much. Though you could have concluded you’re paying your agents an appropriate hourly rate, you more likely determined that ideally you want to pay them more.

But don’t make the mistake of increasing your starting hourly pay, without making a matching adjustment to increasing your screening processes, employee expectations, and desired outcomes. Pay more and expect more.

Conclusion

Making a significant change to agent compensation is one of the most terrifying decisions to make when running a call center. Trying to make huge adjustments too quickly could produce devastating consequences. Instead determine where you want to get to, plan how to get there, and implement it with care. Over time, make incremental steps to what you pay, what you expect, and what you get in return from your staff.

As you do, you will improve agent retention and increase quality, along with enhancing your employees’ attitude and workplace environment.

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.

Ideas to Better Retain Call Center Staff



Instead of Hiring New Employees, Seek to Retain Existing Healthcare Call Center Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaanWith low unemployment rates, the task of finding qualified employees to work in healthcare call centers grows more challenging. This makes it even more important to take steps to retain the employees we have. Here are five areas to focus on. While these ideas are nothing you haven’t already heard, perhaps you can take a fresh look at them.

Today’s workers seek five core things when they evaluate a position and their long-term commitment to it and the organization. This applies to healthcare call center employees. Here are the five essentials to retain call center staff:Every call provides an opportunity for your call center staff to make a difference. Click To Tweet

1. Compensation

I’ve never met a person who thought their pay was too high, though I’ve met many who didn’t feel their pay was enough. How much is enough? I don’t know, but if you want to attract a higher skilled, more committed worker, you’ll need to pay more. Just be sure that when you raise your starting hourly rate, you raise your hiring expectations accordingly.

2. Benefits

Today’s workers want more than money. They’re seeking benefits too. This includes flexible hours and paid time off. And even part-timers want to go on vacation. Make sure you provide a way for them to do so. Offer them a retirement plan too. Not all will take it, but for future-focused employees, this makes a huge difference. But the big kicker in benefits is healthcare coverage. And being in the healthcare industry, we should have the inside track on how to address this. Right?

3. Learning Opportunities

Employees also want to be able to learn new skills in their job. Yes, in some cases the training you provide them will help their next employer more than you, but as you better retain call center staff, you’re more likely to realize the benefits of that training.

4. Growth Potential

As your staff learns more job-related skills, they’ll want the opportunity to apply them. That is, they want to see the potential for growth, both within their existing position and into advancement opportunities. Help them see that they have a future with your organization, and show them how they can get there. That will help them stick around.

5. Make a Difference

Last, but of increasing importance, is making a difference. Yes, every call provides an opportunity for your call center staff to make a difference. But if they don’t agree, help them see the ways they can make a difference every week, on every shift, and possibly on every call. But beyond making a difference within their job, consider ways that they can make a difference in their community. Surely, there’s a nonprofit organization that you can come alongside and help.

Conclusion

In upcoming issues of AnswerStat, we’ll unpack each of these five items in greater detail. As we move forward in this initiative to retain call center staff, the main thing is to consider shifting some of your hiring and training budget into the area of retention. Yes, it will take time to realize the results, but when done wisely you’ll eventually see your hiring and training costs decrease as you watch your retention rate increase. And who doesn’t want that?

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.

Call Center Lessons from a Walk-In Healthcare Clinic



We Need to Be Ready to Learn Whatever We Can, Wherever We Can

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaanLast week I went to a walk-in healthcare clinic to deal with an itchy skin affliction that was driving me crazy. (It turns out it was poison ivy or some variation thereof.) Not only did I get fast attention and quick results, but I had a wholly enjoyable experience. I walked away from the clinic as a happy patient, but I usually don’t have that reaction after interacting with a call center.

Here are some thoughts as to what makes a difference.Too often, call center personnel view each caller as a problem to handle as fast as possible and not as a person who needs their help. Click To Tweet

Accessible Service

The brightly-lit clinic was easy to find and offered nearby parking. The relaxing atmosphere gave me assurance I could anticipate a successful outcome.

Too often call centers aren’t accessible. It seems they hide their numbers. Why is this? Don’t they want calls? And by the time I do talk to someone, I’m often doubtful if I’ll be able to accomplish my objective.

Easy to Use

When I walked in, a self-check-in kiosk greeted me (along with a medical assistant, who was checking in another patient). I entered my name, punched a couple buttons, and was ready for step two.

Contrast this to a call center, with its endless array of auto-attendant prompts that seldom fit the reason for my call. And if I pick wrong, the best solution is to hang up and call back. Though call centers should be easy to use, reality may be different.

Known Timeframe

At the healthcare clinic I immediately knew where I was in the queue. One person was being checked as another waited. Beside this visual indicator, the kiosk provided an expected wait time of 28 to 56 minutes. Anticipating this, I had my iPod to keep me company. But before I even plugged in my earbuds, the first patient was ushered into the examination room, and the man ahead of me was being checked in. In a few minutes he went on to exam room two. I was next in line, and it hadn’t even been five minutes.

I always appreciate call centers that tell me where I am in the queue and give me updates as things progress.

Provide Options

I learned I could have checked myself in online. This would have guaranteed my place in queue at the clinic. Then they would have texted me as my appointment slot neared.

This is much like call centers offering a call back option. It’s nice to have alternatives. Why don’t more call centers offer this?

Exceptional Staff

The most impressive thing was great staff. The medical assistant at the healthcare clinic was both professional and personable. Within seconds she had me checked in. A few minutes later she moved me to exam room one, when the first patient left. A positive experience continued with the physician’s assistant. She treated me as a person and not as a problem to solve. She was patient, thorough, and precise in her diagnosis and recommendation. I’m actually looking forward (kind of) to my next visit.

Too often, with the ongoing onslaught of calls, call center personnel view each caller as a problem to handle as fast as possible and not as a person who needs their help. Making this distinction is key in the overall customer experience.

Successful Results

Less than twenty minutes after I arrived at the healthcare clinic, I left with a credible diagnosis and a prescription to pick up at the pharmacy, which was less than one hundred feet away. This was the outcome I sought.

How often have I hung up with a call center, having fallen short of my goal? Sadly, the answer is too often. I may call back for a different rep, phone someplace else, or just give up.

Skilled Close

Before I left to pick up my prescription, I chatted again with the medical assistant. Though I didn’t need to see her afterward, she had more information for me. When she learned I didn’t have a primary care physician, she encouraged me to get one and offered to help. I shared my past frustration at not being able to find someone close by. She took this as a challenge. When I left, she handed me a slip of paper listing four nearby doctors who were accepting new patients. It’s too soon to know if she made a successful upsell, but she did an excellent job at doing everything she could to help me. I left with a positive feeling.

When done appropriately an upsell by a call center agent is both helpful and appreciated. But when done poorly, it’s an irritant and another reason not to call back. Be sure to end each call well.

The Next Step

How can you apply these observations of a healthcare clinic to make your medical contact center a shining example of success that your callers and patients appreciate?

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.

Rebranding a Medical Call Center



A Brand is Only as Good as the Company and Staff Behind It

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

A company I do business with just announced a name change. They’re rebranding themselves. Their new name is supposed to better align with their core values, culture, and corporate vision. It’s also intended to dispel some confusion associated with their current name.

I get all that. And I think it’s a mistake. They’re going to lose a lot of momentum and confuse people in the process.

While it’s fun to dream, plan, and think grand thoughts about a new name, it’s more important to serve customers with excellence and provide value for the money they spend with you. Although a brand can help accomplish those things, it can also serve as a distraction.

If you’re thinking about rebranding your call center, here are some things to consider.

What’s in a Name?

Rebranding a Medical Call Center

One big issue in rebranding is the industry label of call center. Maybe those words are part of your name or at least implied by it. But likely they appear on your website and are part of your promotional materials. Yet the phrase call center carries negative connotations and bad memories for some people. As a result, some call centers think they need to distance themselves from that label. Contact center is often suggested as a replacement. Some other quickly-conceived names include customer service facility, customer exchange center, or customer experience gateway.

Other concerns about a name include finding one that better describes what you do now or doesn’t limit you in the future. But will changing your name really accomplish anything?

What’s Behind the Name?

Let’s say you stop referring to yourself as a call center and switch to contact center. After all, you take more than calls, you handle contacts. But what will this affect? If you continue offering the same types of service, with the same degree of quality, and with the same staff, nothing has changed. Not really.

The reason the label call center holds negative connotations for much of the public is because of the frustrating experiences they’ve had when they interacted with call centers. If you start calling yourself a contact center—or make any other name change—you run the risk of transferring people’s negative image of your existing brand to your new brand. Before long you’ll need to move away from your new brand for the same reasons.

Instead of looking to rebrand your call center, you might be better off looking to improve the operation behind your brand.Focus on staff, their environment, and the quality of their work before embarking on any rebranding efforts. Click To Tweet

Do Staff Respect and Support Your Name?

Too often I’ve talked with employees in various industries who’ve disrespected their company. They’ve said negative things about their bosses, their resources and tools, and their compensation. After listening to their rant, I don’t want to do business with that company any more. No amount of rebranding will ever fix that.

Instead of rebranding your call center, maybe it’s best to start with your agents. Are they proud of the work they do and the company they work for? Are they adequately paid? (If you say “yes” and they say “no,” do some research to find out who’s right. Adjust as needed.)

Maybe you need to fix deficiencies in your management structure or operational processes. Perhaps you need to improve agent training, raise expectations, and hold staff accountable for the results. Alternately, you may need to hire a different caliber employee.

The point is to focus on staff, their environment, and the quality of their work before embarking on any rebranding efforts. If you don’t, rebranding will fail to meet expectations, and in a few years you’ll be doing it all over again.

Conclusion

Though rebranding offers excitement and commands attention, don’t pursue it until you’ve addressed the service behind your brand and the staff that provides it.

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.

Develop an Ideal Agent Schedule to Maximize Call Center Efficiency and Effectiveness



For Optimum Results Schedule Agents to Meet Projected Call Traffic

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Call centers rely on people—that is, agents—to meet the needs of callers. This requires developing an ideal agent schedule.

Having too many agents results in idle time, with staff on the clock but without enough work to do. This bloats operational costs. From a theoretical standpoint, an overstaffed call center should provide a high level of service, but this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes an overstaffed call center grows lackadaisical and provides poor service.

The opposite of overstaffing is not having enough agents. Not only does this cause agent burnout, but it also lengthens hold times and lowers service levels.

The key is to schedule the appropriate number of agents throughout the day to provide a suitable level of service at an acceptable cost. This minimizes complaints from both callers and agents.

Consider these key points when developing an optimum agent schedule.Schedule the appropriate number of agents throughout the day to provide a suitable level of service at an acceptable cost. Click To Tweet

Balance Staff Needs with Patient Needs

If your call center agents work eight-hour shifts, I guarantee your schedule needs work. Though their average workload and service level may be acceptable, most of the day they will swing from either working too hard to not having enough to do.

This means moving away from eight-hour shifts and scheduling staff to work when you need them. This may result in shorter shifts or longer shifts. To accomplish this, you’ll need a mixture of full-time and part-time employees, with part timers usually being predominant. This could be a huge culture shift.

Analyze Small Time Increments

If you track call traffic by the day, your scope is too large. One hour is the longest increment you should consider, but quarter hour segments are better, and some call centers look at six-minute increments (a tenth of an hour), or even less. When you analyze traffic in this granular fashion, you’ll see predictable rises and dips throughout the day. Overlay your shifts to cover these peaks and miss the valleys.

Consider Historical Data

In most cases the call traffic from one week will approximate the traffic for the following week. Averaging several consecutive weeks produces a more accurate projection. You can also look at traffic from one year ago if you have seasonal fluctuations. Last, to staff for a holiday, consider the historical traffic from that holiday last year or other comparable days. This lets you project traffic demands and develop an accurate agent schedule.

Pursue Incremental Improvement

Hoping to develop one agent schedule that you can copy each week isn’t realistic. Even if traffic doesn’t change much, you’ll still need to fine-tune it to best align your agents’ availability with your patients’ calling patterns. Also, most call center traffic trends up or down from one season to the next. Be sure to adjust for that.

Conclusion

Finding your ideal agent schedule is part art and part science. It’s a time-consuming task, but the results of having an ideally staffed call center are worth the effort.

 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.

Is Your Call Center a Profit Center or a Cost Center?



Positioning Yourself as a Profit Center Will Help Drive Budget Success

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaanI once heard of a hospital marketing manager who identified their call center as their most cost-effective form of marketing, offering the highest return on investment (ROI). It was a profit center. Further shocking was learning that the entire call center operation fell under the budget of the marketing department. I imagine the call center director had little trouble getting the appropriate budget each year to operate the call center.

The Downside of Being a Cost Center

If upper management views your operation as a cost center, they’ll see your line item on their budget as an expense to control and decrease whenever possible. This results in a scarcity of funds and makes it hard to operate a call center as needed to produce the best outcomes for patients and callers.

Each new budget cycle produces a predictable challenge of fighting to maintain the status quo of your funds. And receiving approval for additional expenditures on software, services, and initiatives to better serve your organization’s clientele looms as a formidable challenge.

If this is your reality, I feel for you. But there is hope: reposition your call center as a profit center.Look for ways that you contribute to the revenue stream of your organization. Click To Tweet

The Benefits of Being a Profit Center

However, if you’re call center generates revenue—either directly or indirectly—you stand a much better chance of coming out on the plus side for each year’s new budget. If you’re a pharmaceutical or durable medical equipment manufacturer, it’s easy to make your case. You track sales, which you then use to offset the cost of your operation. Any expense that produces more sales becomes an easy request to justify.

Even if your call center doesn’t directly handle sales or take phone orders, you can still work to establish yourself as a profit center. It just takes a bit more effort. For example, if you’re a hospital call center, as in the above example, look for ways that you contribute to the revenue stream of your organization.

How to Become a Profit Center

For example, each time you make a referral to a physician or clinic in your system, what’s the value of that connection? Even more significant, what is the lifetime value of that new patient to your organization? Suddenly that single phone call has a value of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more.

What about appointments? Each time you set an appointment for one of the providers in your system, what’s its revenue potential? And often that initial interaction leads to a series of follow ups. Though these subsequent appointments may or may not go through your call center, the additional engagements would not have occurred had you not secured the first one.

Without your call center, these things would not have happened. As such, you deserve credit for the critical role your call center played in bringing this new business—and revenue—into your organization.

Start tracking these types of revenue-producing transactions. But don’t just note the number of calls. Instead report the immediate value and long-term revenue potential from each of these interactions. In doing so you’ll help shift your call center operation from a cost center to a profit center. And this will make a huge difference when it comes time to negotiate next year’s budget.

 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.