Address These Critical Items to Better Retain Staff and Serve Callers
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Operating a successful call center in the healthcare industry is hard. There is a never-ending tension to balance the expectations of patients and callers with the needs of operational staff, all the while remaining fiscally viable.
Here are six tips to help you produce a happy and effective workforce to keep your operation running smoothly and efficiently.
1. Compensation Package
I’ve never talked with anyone who thinks they’re overpaid. And only a few people ever think they receive appropriate pay. Most think they deserve more.
Ask any call center employee what’s most important to them in their work, and they’ll likely say their compensation. They work to earn money so they can cover their needs and wants. Though their actual paycheck is a big part of their compensation package, they’re also looking for other benefits such as healthcare coverage and provisions for time off, including vacation, sick days, and personal time.
Though you could bust your budget trying to provide the compensation package your employees think they deserve and expect you to provide, you don’t need to do so if you address other, less tangible workplace-related items.
Providing a competitive compensation package, along with covering the next five items, will help you produce a happy and effective workforce.
2. Managerial Support
Employees want to feel the support of their supervisors and managers. This starts with listening to what they say and showing them you care.
Let them know you understand what it’s like to answer phone calls all day long. You do know this, right? When they see you periodically sit down and take calls like the rest of them, it will do much to garner their attention and gain their respect.
Most managers say they appreciate their staff. But how often do they take the time to actually tell their employees? How often do they do things to show it?
This doesn’t need to be anything expensive or spectacular. I once had a boss who each payday would look me in the eye, hand me my paycheck, and say, “Thank you.” He did this for every employee. I was often frustrated with him in other areas, but I had no doubt he appreciated me and my work. Though this might be hard to implement if your call center operates 24/7, look for creative ways to produce the same results. And if your staff receives their pay and documentation electronically, look for other opportunities to make eye contact and sincerely say, “Thank you.”
Appropriately staffing a call center is a tricky issue. You need to have the right number of people working to efficiently handle the calls and other communications that come in. If you don’t have enough people present, those who are there will end their shift exhausted, frazzled, and frustrated. Yet if you have too many people working, your labor costs will escalate, and you’ll be over budget. Seek to find a scheduling balance that doesn’t overwork your staff or tax your budget.
When developing a schedule, be considerate of the needs of your employees. If they rely on public transportation to get to work, don’t schedule them on days or times when they’ll have trouble getting to work or making it home. If they go to school, be sure to work around their schedule.
Call center employees who move continuously from one call to the next throughout their entire shift are less likely—and less able—to give their best to every caller every time. They’ll soon grow immune to the number of calls in queue and plod through their day from one call to the next. However, if they have too much idle time between calls, they’ll become bored, and their focus will wane. This doesn’t provide for good customer service either.
Instead, strive to develop a schedule that will give your call center staff a balanced workload that is just right—neither too busy nor too slow. It will make their shift go by quicker and produce better results.
6. Shared Vision
This final item is by no means the least important. In fact, when you and your call center staff share a compelling vision about what you’re doing and what you want to accomplish, the first five points on this list become less important. This doesn’t mean you can ignore those items, but when you have a shared vision with your staff, they may be a bit more open to overlooking shortcomings in other areas.
Though it takes work to produce a happy and effective workforce for your call center, it can happen. Follow these six tips to move you closer to achieving that goal.
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.