We’ve been talking a lot lately about the rise of mobile technology and the implications of continual evolution of digital and mobile technology. We’ve discussed the impact of this evolution on our marketing strategies. We’ve also looked at the evolution of the healthcare consumer as it relates to changing technology.
One topic that, while important to an overall marketing strategy, hasn’t been discussed as much is the impact of changing technology on the call center.
Prepared or not, the digital revolution isn’t just coming – it is already here. Is your call center ready? In order for call centers to survive and thrive in this changing environment, they, too, must evolve. As one of the tools in the toolbox for your organization’s digital strategy, a digitally-oriented call center has a great future.
Call centers and hospitals have worked hand-in-hand for years, running the gamut from a simple switchboard to a specialized call center service. While there has been an ebb and flow to the call center’s place in an organization’s strategy, the modern healthcare call center is currently enjoying a renaissance.
Helping to revive the call center’s role in the digitally-astute organization is Web enablement of the call center. Call centers perform a close, beneficial function by acting as the “voice” of an organization’s Web site, as well as its fulfillment arm, while the Web helps to complete the relationship by functioning as a conduit to/from the call center as well as being a source of information and service after hours.
Simple integration with a hospital’s Web site is just the beginning of a true digital call center, however. It also means:
- Having a call center manager with both digital acumen and seasoned management skills who can operate at many levels of the organization and across generations of consumers.
- Understanding how social media is reshaping the consumer decision-making process (i.e., picking a doctor, selecting a hospital, choosing a class, etc.). More choices and far greater sources of pre- and post-purchase information make today’s buying process more complex. The call center must embrace, monitor and participate in social conversations if it wishes to continue to influence current and potential customers.
- Understanding and exploiting the potential of smarter, quicker, more advanced mobile technology. Services that combine social with local elements are the norm. Do you have a call center app? If not, are your services part of the hospital app? Can Web visitors “find a doc” via your mobile app? Can they sign up for a class? Can they check a symptom? Find a close ER? Is the call center a link on your Hospital’s mobile version of the Web site? According to a recent Pew study, 35% of Smartphone owners used their device in the last 30 days to solve an unexpected problem and 19% used it in the last 30 days to get help in an emergency. A digitally-astute call center – and hospital – doesn’t miss these opportunities.
- Embracing the growing use of instant and text messaging. Whole generations communicate almost exclusively via text – including the up and coming residents and doctors who will be walking your hospital halls, not to mention their patients. Does your call center accept and facilitate text communications with potential and current patients? Web chats? How do you communicate with potential referring physicians and members of your medical staff? How do you communicate with on-call providers? A digital call center can’t ignore real time messaging any longer.
- Wrapping its arms around the concept of Big Data, the latest marketing buzzword. The call center has always had tons of data. Now, it’s important to understand the call center contribution to Big Data. Maybe start small and think big. Mine your own data and develop actionable insights to share with your leadership. But just as importantly, figure out how the call center data feeds into the data streams of the rest of organization.
- Understanding the medical home concept and how to be part of the care continuum. Monitoring and counseling patients connected to the hospital through telephony, digital, mobile and/or wearable devices should be a key new role for the call center.
- Incorporating video conferencing with callers into their service mix. Is your call center ready to Skype and Facetime with patient and potential patients as a way to create long-lasting, productive and personal relationships? Real time connections, like those, are common now – just watch your kids communicate with their friends. Soon these functions will be an expected part of a call center.
Yes, there’s a lot to consider when strategizing the call center’s place in your organization and this is why “re-imagining” your call center is vital. Those who re-imagine reap the benefits; those who don’t will likely be left behind.
The time is now to re-imagine your call center. It's not too late, yet.
And, if you are going to be in Minneapolis this week for the 25th Annual Healthcare Call Center Conference, be sure to catch my presentation, with Mike Schneider, on just this topic. We'd love to see you there!