Disrupting the Health Care Call Center Agent

In my previous post, “Is it time to disrupt your Higher Ed Call Center?,” I described an all-too-common experience of calling a major university for assistance. In that post, I discussed an impact on the customer experience and how it could be improved through a next-gen contact center solution.  Let’s flip the coin and vie the employee experience and engagement. These tools can also have a profound impact on the experience of the call center staff. Let’s use a health care call center as an example.


A Day in the Life

Take a seat in a busy healthcare call center, your primary job is to answer the phone plus you email, chat and text with patients and providers. You are paid a low wage, possibly even minimum wage. You may routinely work 10-hour shifts with the expectation of fielding between 150 and 200 calls a day. Because of staffing shortages, you will be encouraged to work even longer shifts.

When you pick up the phone, you have little-to-no information about the patient, doctor, or insurance company that is calling, the context of the call, or the mood of the caller. On a given day, you may be yelled at, cursed at, talked down to, or hung up on…multiple times. No surprise: it’s a top high-burnout job.


Next-gen Contact Center to the Rescue

One of the tenets of digital transformation is customer-centric focus (patient-centric focus, in this example). Patients and providers want and expect a highly personalized experience. Many organizations are providing these types of experiences. Why stop with the end-user interface? If the data is being gathered on the caller, why not provide it to the agent?

These tools can integrate patient information and prior interactions across multiple channels. If this holistic information is presented to the agent, along with an analysis of the information by an AI engine, the agent could be prepared with knowledge about the patient, their interactions across the entire health system, and the context for their call. The AI engine could also recommend some potential resolutions or even suggest a line of questions to further investigate the issue. Leveraging Natural Language Processing and AI, the tools could also coach the agent in real-time as they interact with the patient.

As the contact center tool analyzes the interactions, it could identify commonalities across multiple interactions with multiple callers. It could then alert staff to a growing problem, perhaps even reaching out to other patients who have similar characteristics, alerting them to a potential issue.


Impact on the Agent

Next-gen contact center solutions provide an easy way for patients to receive answers to repetitive or easy questions. These answers could be updated in real-time as the AI engine “learns” as it analyzes current interactions. This would enable the agent to handle the more complex (perhaps more interesting) problems, provide higher value to the patient, and take the time to create a positive and memorable experience for the patient.

Many traditional call center platforms have been skilled-based for quite some time. These platforms allow management to enter the skills of each call center agent. The call distribution software can then route the incoming calls to the available agent with the requisite skills. These tools typically rely on the caller to identify the type of call by selecting an option from a menu. It becomes a management responsibility to update the skills of the agents as they develop. It falls to IT to ensure the call routes are defined, maintained, and updated.

Next-gen contact center solutions also learn about the skills of the agent in real time. As they learn more about the healthcare system and its offerings, the engine will be able to intelligently route calls that they have the skills to handle. This results in fewer escalations. These routing tables can be updated in real time as the agent gains experience. Because the tools are using NLP, they are able to adjust the routing based on the types of incoming calls as well.

Many of these platforms also offer gamification, helping to further engage the agents in achieving the goals of the organization. Agents can earn points for completing tasks, solving problems, and engaging with patients. Gamification elements can include things like team leaderboards, showing which agents are performing well against the metrics. These metrics are then rolled up to the department levels. Agents receive real-time feedback on their performance. They can also receive real-time coaching to help them improve.

Plus, all of this can be accomplished and still maintain privacy and confidentiality!


The Agent of the Future

Well, honestly, the future is NOW. As organizations implement these next-gen contact center solutions and invest in the patient experience, they demonstrate that they value new skills in their agents. Employees who can bring empathy to their customer interactions and who can put themselves in their patients’ shoes will be able to provide better service. Agents who are collaborative, not only with their peer team members but with their customers, will be able to develop innovative solutions to customer interactions. Because the repetitive and “easy” interactions will be handled digitally, the problem-solving skills of the agent will also grow in value. The ability to think creatively and critically will enable the agent to create truly memorable experiences for the customer.


When’s a Good Time to Disrupt?

Customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) will continue to grow in importance. Institutions that invest in their CX and EX and the tools that support those experiences will outpace their competition. Now is the time to disrupt your healthcare call center. Now is the time to disrupt your healthcare call center agent.