The Healthcare Call Center Times Conference hosts healthcare leaders from across the country passionate about empowering their call centers to improve patient access. This year highlighted the growing importance of the call center in a health system’s strategy. Throughout the conference, three key themes stood out as critical ways call centers are thinking about their role in driving customer engagement and retention:
- Amid industry consolidation, the role of the call center is expanding and specializing
In 2017, 115 M&A transactions took place in the U.S., doubling in number compared to 2007.1 Despite an all-time high of health system consolidation, call centers expect to grow in large part due to increased sub-specialization (e.g. creating a separate call center for each specialty or service line). The 2018 Healthcare Call Center Survey presented at the conference showed that ¾ of call centers expect an increase in services in the next two years.2 In a poll of conference attendees, many reported 100+ specialized call centers entities throughout their system. Many of these health systems must balance detailed provider protocols with the need to scale a consistent patient experience and portray a consistent brand.
2. Customer engagement is the new battleground for health systems
Much of the conference focused on the critical role call centers play in customer engagement. Even though most consumers search online to find provider information, nearly ⅔ still prefer to call to book appointments for a quicker and easier booking experience, so for many, their experience with the health system begins with the call center.3 To compete for market share, call centers need tools to facilitate a seamless customer experience as well as manage customer interactions. This is an area where health systems have historically fallen short, so it is not surprising that 46% of healthcare executives have 2018 initiatives to improve the patient experience.4
- Call centers must be part of a multi-channel access solution
To impact engagement, health systems must present a consistent brand across all channels where a customer may enter a health system. This means that call centers need to integrate with system-wide initiatives to project the image of “systemness,” despite the increased sub-specialization noted above. In many cases, this multi-channel approach may require the call center to adopt technology that expands the ways customers interact with the health system. Many of these technologies will be self-service digital tools such as online scheduling, texting services, and chatbots. Integrating these services into the call center expands its pivotal role in the health system’s access strategy.
To learn more about how access center models are changing, download our Healthcare Patient Access Models white paper.
1Kaufman Hall, 2017-in-Review: The Year M&A Shook the Healthcare Landscape.
2 ndp, Painting the Picture: Results of the 2018 Healthcare Call Center Survey.
3Kyruus, 2017 Patient Access Journey Report.
4Ermst and Young, Future of Health Survey 2018.