Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Integrate Your Call Center

Facilitate Better Communication and Connectivity Within and Outside Your Operation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

With the staffing challenges that most every healthcare call center faces, it’s more critical now than ever to optimize your operation for greater effectiveness and increased efficiency. One way to do this is to integrate your call center.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Let’s consider some ways for enhanced contact center integration.

Integrate Your Staffing

To integrate your call center staffing is essentially a move from specialists to generalists. This means cross training. It includes both cross training on types of contacts (such as give information, transfer calls, take messages, schedule appointments, and so forth) and channels (such as phone, text, email, and social).

Granted, you may have some areas where cross training doesn’t make sense, but these should be rare exceptions and not the norm.

Cross training improves operational efficiency, increases employee skill level, and better serves patients and callers. Cross training also moves your operation closer to FCR (first call resolution), which produces both caller-centric and center-centric results.

Integrate Your Tools

How often do your employees need to rekey information? Ideally the answer is never. Yet reality falls short of this ideal. Not only is re-entering data time consuming, but it’s also error prone. And although a cut-and-paste transfer helps in both areas, it’s not a solution but more of a shortcut.

Related to this in integrating your auto-attendant with your agent screens. Making an agent ask in person for information the caller has already shared electronically wastes agent time and infuriates callers.

The simple solution is to integrate your call center technology and smartly avoid this needless duplication.

Integrate with Your Organization

Next is to integrate your call center operation with other departments or divisions within your organization. Move from an us-versus-them mentality to a holistic we-and-us team approach. Seek proverbial win-win outcomes as opposed to clinging to a win-lose mindset.

This may be the most challenging integration initiative as it requires a shared perspective to reach a mutually beneficial result. Without having a common goal, the altruistic call center manager can fall victim to the me-first mentality of a predatory counterpart.

Integrate with Your Stakeholders

The final consideration is to integrate your call center with your stakeholders. For the inhouse call center, this means a better information flow between you and other departments, such as marketing. For the outsourcing operation, this means a better data exchange between you and your clients.

Also don’t overlook your staff. Seek to better integrate with them and their needs. Look at schedule development and posting, performance reviews, and handling the compensation aspects of their work. This integration is even more critical now in face of a worker shortage. Although your primary stakeholders are those you serve, without your staff, you’d have no chance to serve them.

Conclusion

Pursue integration initiatives to make your call center operation be more effective and a nicer, saner place to work.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Get his book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

The Indie Book Publishing Checklist

Here are the key steps to write and indie publish a book.

  1. Develop your initial concept and vision. This step includes market research into competitive titles to gauge the book’s marketability. 
  2. Write the first draft for the entire book.
  3. Do your first edits. Continue to fine-tune until you feel you’re ready for feedback.
  4. Run spell and grammar check.
  5. Get feedback from beta readers or critique groups and fine-tune your book, though this step can also happen after step eight.
  6. Run spell and grammar check, again.
  7. Get a developmental edit. Some people call this edit a book critique, while others call it a substantial edit. But these labels can also refer to different services. What you want is big-picture feedback. At this stage, you need someone to give you an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of your book. They should address how it flows, its overall arc, and identify anything that’s out of place, missing, or not needed. You also want someone to point out shortcomings in your writing style—we all have them, but we can’t see them until someone tells us.
  8. Incorporate the feedback of your developmental edit, as appropriate, into your book. Evaluate every recommendation, but don’t feel you need to accept each one. When you feel you’ve implemented all the relevant changes, proceed to the next step.
  9. Run spell and grammar check, a third time.
  10. Have someone copy edit your book. This edit looks at writing at the sentence level.
  11. Again, discerning what advice to follow and what to dismiss, make the needed changes.
  12. Do a fourth spell and grammar check.
  13. Have someone proofread your book. This edit addresses grammar and punctuation. It focuses on details. Though many authors separate copy editing and proofreading into two steps, most of the editors I work with do both at the same time. This saves money and shaves weeks off the publishing timeline.
  14. Make a final read through the book yourself and do a final spell and grammar check. Since you’ve already had professionals review your book, make changes with great care at this point. If in doubt, leave it as is.
  15. Format your book for mobi and epub (the formats needed for e-books). I do this formatting myself using a free online tool from Draft2Digital. If you use Scrivener, it can also format e-books. 
  16. Once you’ve formatted your e-book, verify that everything looks the way you want it to.
  17. Concurrent to the copy edit and proofread phases, design your book cover. Unless you have graphic software and the skill to produce a cover equal to or better than traditional publishers, hire a cover designer.
  18. Upload your e-book to your publisher or publishing aggregator or both. Though an incomplete list, these are the publishing outlets I use:
    • Amazon, to reach the US audience, you must be on Amazon
    • Kobo, which is great for other countries, such as Canada
    • Draft2Digital, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • Publish Drive, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • StreetLib, a newer publishing aggregator, with a wide reach
  19. If you want to also do a paperback version, which I recommend, hire someone to do the interior layout. Yes, you can do this step yourself, but it’s tedious and frustrating. (I have spent over twenty hours trying to do the internal formatting myself. So now I pay someone else to do it.) They will provide a PDF file of your book. Note that Amazon and IngramSpark have different file expectations, so you need two files, one for each publisher.
  20. Verify that everything in your PDF is correct.
  21. Upload your paperback version to your publisher or publishers.
    • Amazon
    • IngramSpark
  22. Now it’s time to launch and market your book. Marketing gives us a whole new topic to deal with.

Since I’ve written and published many books, I made my own checklist (on which the above list is based) to make sure I cover everything and don’t miss a step. As more options become available and I learn more about the writing and publishing process, I will continue to fine-tune my list. If you plan on being a multi-book author, I suggest you make your own checklist too.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Writing Investment

For years I made the mistake of not investing in learning the craft of writing. Though I certainly put in the time, for years I was reluctant to spend money. But taking the cheap way out merely held me back.

Here are some investments I’m now making to become a better writer:

  • Study magazines about writing and publishing
  • Read books and blogs about writing and publishing
  • Listen to podcasts about writing and publishing
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Hire editors: developmental editors, copy editing, and proofreading
  • Join online classes about specific writing-related topics
  • Take part in online writing communities
  • Hire mentors and teachers

Of course, none of these things would help if I weren’t regularly applying them every day by writing. This is a long list, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick one item to invest in and add more over time.

Note that not everything costs money but merely time. Reading blogs and listening to podcasts is a free option to learn about writing and publishing.

Bonus tip: The one mistake I almost made but didn’t was quitting my day job to write full time. This was about eight years before I was ready. Yikes!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Find and Follow a Writer’s Style Guide

The Elements of Style is an excellent writing resource. Start with it. Then build on that foundation. 

For a comprehensive reference on punctuation and formatting, there are several notable resources. Unfortunately, none of them are in complete agreement, with obvious conflicts. Each guide has its advocates. And many have specific applications. 

While some people know the major style guides and their differences, I struggle to comprehend one. I selected The Chicago Manual of Style because it best addresses the various types of writing I do. I use it as my go-to reference. I also ask my editors to follow it. It comes in book form and is also online at www.chicagomanualofstyle.org

In addition to The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), other style guides include:

  • AP (Associated Press)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • Turabian, often used for academic work

Special application style guides include:

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • AMA, the American Medical Association
  • NLM, the National Library of Medicine
  • CSE, the Council of Science Editors Manual
  • ACS, the American Chemical Society
  • ASA, the American Sociological Association
  • The Bluebook, for the legal profession

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Call Center

Going Beyond the Call

Offer Call Backs and Customer Service Options

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In thinking about going beyond the call, you may assume this is an article about offering web chat, text messaging, and email response in addition to handling phone calls. Though I’m an advocate of these options, thereby turning your call center into a contact center, these are not my focus this time.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Instead, I’m addressing what you can do with the telephone to go beyond the call. Here are some considerations:

Call Backs

Offering to call back the caller instead of having them wait on hold—in queue—is an option call centers can offer.

Some callers like this flexibility and others don’t. Some are skeptical they’ll receive a call back, while a few have tried it and never got the promised call—or it came hours later instead of the few minutes they were led to believe. Yet many delight in this option.

The benefits of a call back for the customer is not having to wait on hold, being able to attend to other activities, and a feeling of greater control.

Benefits to the call center are fewer callers on hold, lower toll-free costs, and agents who have a chance to prepare to engage with the caller before placing the call. Even something as simple as bringing up the customer’s account in advance saves agent time and reduces customer angst.

Abandoned Calls

What do you do with callers who hang up in frustration while on hold? Hope they’ll call back? It might not happen. Be glad for one less call to handle? This is a short-sighted response that misses the reason for the call center in the first place.

What if you took the initiative and called the customer back? “We see that you called us earlier today, but we couldn’t get to your call in time. Is there anything we can help you with now?”

Yes, some customers will have given up, figured it out on their own, or decide to vent their frustrations. But many will be impressed you called to check with them and have heartfelt gratitude you made the effort.

In doing so you can turn around a negative experience and correct it. As you do so, you’ll forge a stronger relationship between your organization and your customers.

Surveys

Some organizations do follow up surveys, either at the conclusion of a call or afterward. If you conduct surveys, what are your goals in doing so?

Is it merely to amass a statistical database of C-Sat (customer satisfaction) scores? There’s nothing wrong with this, but too often the end-of-call surveys try to learn about the effectiveness of the call before the caller knows if the advice they received is correct.

A better reason for follow up surveys is to determine customer service failures, providing a chance to correct your call center’s shortcoming. Then you can work to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Going Beyond the Call

These are ways you can go beyond the call to better serve your customers. And that’s the reason your call center exists.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Consider the Future of Book Publishing

What do the days ahead hold for those of us who publish books?  What is the future of book publishing?

Given the rapid changes the industry is undergoing, we anticipate a different tomorrow, but just how much different will it be? Will today’s roles even exist in a decade or two?

Predicting the future or even anticipating what might lie ahead in the years to come is a difficult task. Although the details are unclear, three general outcomes remain assured:

Consumers of Content

Barring a cataclysmic apocalypse with survivors reduced to a subsistence life, there will always be people who will desire and consume content. Generically called art, entertainment, or education, this content could take many forms, including print, audio, video, multimedia, or interactive, but regardless of the formats, consumers will want content.

Producers of Content

As long as an audience exists, content producers will be in demand. Writers will supply content: writing, creating, inventing, and envisioning. In a way, writers will become artists, producing art for their patrons. Their art may take many forms, beyond merely the writing out of their words.

Facilitators of Content

Idealism suggests that future content producers will directly connect with content consumers. While this may happen in limited situations, middlemen will facilitate the transaction in many cases and facilitate the creation in most instances. The transaction facilitators will mass-produce and distribute the content.

Therefore content facilitators will provide today’s agents, editors, graphic designers, and publicists with tomorrow’s work, aiding tomorrow’s writers with their content.

The future of book publishing will be much different. However, as long as we can adapt, there will always be opportunities for today’s writers, editors, designers, agents, and publishers. The future is indeed bright—for those willing to see it.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Coordinate with Marketing

The Call Center Should Be the First to Know, Not the Last

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Too many call center agents learn about the launch of their healthcare organization’s product, incentive, or promotion from callers, not management. I hope your operation is different, but I fear you, too, have found yourself in this unenviable situation.

The results are dismayed callers shaking their heads in frustrated disbelief, flustered agents fumbling through the calls while irritation bubbles inside, and a peeved call center manager scrambling to piece together the details, while simultaneously trying to educate staff on how to respond.

Marketing doesn’t intend to leave the call center out of the loop, yet it happens. And each time it occurs, a wall of distrust and animosity builds in the call center toward marketing.

And marketing—not knowing they dropped the ball—is angry at the unprepared call center for bungling their carefully constructed marketing initiative.

The solution is to coordinate with marketing.

Establish an Interdepartmental Connection

Though you may be upset with marketing for their latest oversight, don’t take a confrontational approach. Instead adopt a cooperative mindset to seek your mutual benefit. Discuss ways to develop a standard communication channel.

One option might be a fixed, recurring meeting between marketing manager and call center manager, where the two sit down for marketing to talk about their projects. In doing so, the areas needing coordination will surface.

Another thought is for marketing to assign a call center liaison, who has the responsibility to look at every marketing project for possible call center application, be it direct or ancillary. Then communicate needed details to the call center.

Also invite marketing to tour your call center—preferably sitting with an agent to better understand the scope of their work. They will leave with a greater respect for the complexities of the call center, replacing a simple view of the job as “just talking on the phone—anyone can do that” with a more realistic appreciation.

Items to Consider

Sometimes your call center will be able to handle the work generated by a marketing campaign with no problem. Other times will require training. This could be on the new elements of the initiative or how to access an unfamiliar app or navigate a database.

You may also need to adjust your call center schedule on launch day and thereafter. This could require overtime, scaling back on nonessential tasks for a few days, or even hiring more staff.

If you need to hire staff for a marketing campaign but lack the needed time to fully train them, teach them only the skills needed for the marketing project, letting existing staff handle other communications. Then, once the campaign is over, consider completing their training for all other call types and communication needs.

Also have a candid discussion with marketing about launch dates, addressing contingencies should a mail piece drop early or if delivery delays occur.

The Outcome When You Coordinate with Marketing

The result of following these recommendations is your call center and marketing working together for your organization’s common good and your callers’ welfare.

And it all starts when you coordinate with marketing.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Get his book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Put Our Writing Platform in It’s Place

At one time, I became preoccupied with my writing platform. This was a huge mistake.

It nearly ruined my career and almost destroyed me as a writer. I lost the joy of writing and was ready to give up. It wasn’t until I stopped fixating on growing my platform that my passion to write returned.

Having said that, I’m still working on growing my writing platform, but I’m not putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself. I do what I can and don’t fret (too much) about the results.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Is Assisted Book Publishing Right for You?

Assisted publishing or subsidy publishing is paying a company (or a person) to publish your book for you. I don’t have any experience using assisted publishing, because it’s not the right option for me. 

If you go this route, check references, ask a lot of questions, and treat it like a business decision—because it is. Some companies are good, some are not, and some are rip-offs. I’ve heard of rates from several hundred dollars to over ten thousand. And that’s a lot of money to pay for something you can do yourself if you indie publishes your book.

Now, my statement about doing everything yourself if you indie publishes is an oversimplification. In truth, we hire experts to handle various aspects for us. In this way, we act as a general contractor on a building project. 

For example, I hire editors, cover designers, and marketing people. I coordinate their work to move toward a finished project: a published book. This approach is very much a business process.

Whichever publishing option you pick, I wish you the best

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

How Do You Use Social Media at Your TAS?

Use Social Media as the Spokes of the Wheel and Your Website as the Hub

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Most telephone answering services (TASs) have a website. That’s great! But not all do. They don’t think it’s worth the modest investment and feel social media serves them quite well.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

I’ve even heard from services that are thinking about ditching their website in favor of using social instead. That would be a bad move.

Here’s why:

Just Because Social Media Is Easy Doesn’t Make It Ideal

Social media is simple to use. Most of your staff is already adept at using the major platforms. And you likely have a platform-specific expert on staff who could help with any up-and-coming provider you might consider.

This is not the case with websites, which require a bit of expertise to manage and have a cost component, even though it may be small. But just because social platforms are easy doesn’t mean it’s the best solution.

With social media come significant risks, which you can smartly avoid by having your own website. Read on to learn more.

The Narrative is Harder to Manage on Social Media

The messaging on social media is challenging to manage—not yours, but everyone else’s. Anyone can say about anything in response to any one of your messages.

On some platforms you can block these offending messages, but on others you can’t. And too often these contrary messages spark an online war between your supporters and your detractors. No one wins.

Nowadays few websites allow for visitor interaction. And for those that still do, you—as the website owner—can delete the offending message. Your website is a safe place with relevant information about your business. Its free from trolls and malcontents.

You Can’t Control How the Platform Looks or Works

The wonderful thing about social media is it has a predetermined format for you to follow. Though you can control what you add, you have little say over where it goes or what it looks like. It offers little flexibility or customization capabilities.

Though some website providers follow this same philosophy, a self-hosted website offers a blank canvas for you or your design team to configure the way you want it and make it function however you wish.

You Don’t Own Your Presence on Social

I’ve saved the most compelling reason for last. You don’t own your page on any social media platform. Your provider does. They can limit who sees your messages. More infuriatingly, they can charge you so that the people who want to see your information actually can.

Even worse, they can summarily shut your account down at any time, leaving you with little recourse. When this happens you’ve lost all the traffic and the audience that you took years to build.

Owning your own website smartly avoids these problems and you falling victim to the whims of the social media overlords.

Conclusion

If you like social media, go ahead, and use it for your TAS. But don’t put all your eggs in one proverbial basket. Instead use social media to point people to your website, the one online destination that you can own and control.

And if you don’t like social media, don’t use it. Focus on your website. That’s what matters most.

Learn more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.