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The Call Center: Sounding a Death Knell or Seeking a New Identity? Part 2: Moving Toward the Call Center of the Future

by Kathy Divis | Aug 31, 2015
call center image In a recent survey of healthcare call center professionals, the Healthcare Call Center Times, in collaboration with Neathawk Dubuque & Packett and Corporate Health Group, found that almost three-fourths of survey respondents say their call center will be more important to their organizations over the next two years.   In addition, survey respondents saw future call center features such as:  
  • Increased automation: fewer phone calls, more online and virtual interactions, more self service, more online appointment scheduling.
 
  • More focus on care management: more Web-based and mobile-based encounters; more care management that is patient and family centered; greater support to clinical practices, possibly assisting with the move into population health.
  The necessity of flexibility: being prepared for future developments in technology and marketing strategies is key for the call center to remain relevant.A summary of several articles published over the past couple of years on the topic of future call center developments finds that leaders in the field have discussed several common themes related to the call center of the future.   The common themes include:  
  • Moving from the concept of a “call center” to a “relationship hub.” As technology changes and more channels of communication become available, an organization must have the capability of communicating with customers over various platforms and media. A movement from “successful interactions” to “successful conversations” is seen. The call center will need to move from being reactive to being proactive in order to remain as an integral part of the overall business strategy.
 
  • Cloud technology is leading the transformation. There’s no doubt that the move to cloud technology has had a huge effect on call centers, and will continue to do so for some time to come. It’s no longer necessary to have a large room full of people tethered to phones and computers to effectively communicate with customers. Remote working is possible, which allows an organization to hire the best and the brightest agents regardless of their physical location.
 
  • Call center integration with CRM and business marketing channels. Call center success and effectiveness is a business-wide concern and such integration will be mandatory.
 
  • Call center agents will need to become “super agents.” As self-help options and user communities proliferate, only the most complex problems and issues will go to the call center. Thus, call center agents will require a wider range of skills – excellent communication skills, analytical problem solving skills, project management skills and technical training to be able to adapt to changes in technology.
 
  • Changing security features. In an era of repeated data breaches, the security of a person’s data is of utmost concern. The call center will need to adapt to improvements in security features. One such possibility is voice biometrics, where a customer’s voice is analyzed to create a unique voiceprint, similar to a fingerprint. No longer will security questions such as “What is your mother’s maiden name?” be required. Voice biometrics and other types of biometrics are much harder to replicate, which makes data theft more difficult.
 
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will be a factor. Although the IoT is still somewhat in its infancy, particularly on the consumer side, it’s predicted that by 2020, there will be 20+ billion Internet-connected devices, which is equal to 26 devices per person on the planet. This greatly multiplies the number of opportunities for connection with customers. One such opportunity is pre-emptive service, where a device could detect a problem and send an automated service request to the appropriate service team for action. Matthew Choy, Managing Director at Rsupport, says the ability to provide effective support for IoT will play a key role in call center operations, and in fact, may “make or break” call centers.
  So despite previous predictions to the contrary, the call center is not only alive and well, it is positioning itself to remain a vital component for organizations into the future.   Be sure to watch for Part 3 of this series, where we’ll look at the involvement of call centers with population health and ACOs.
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