Healthcare Call Centers

Is Your Call Center Centralized?

A Decentralized Call Center Is an Oxymoron

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In the early days of our industry, the label call center fit perfectly. We handled calls from a central location. This was necessitated by the platform we used, which we installed in our office. It consisted of physical hardware to switch calls and network our computers.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD


The physical limitations of our call center equipment required that all agent stations be onsite. It was impractical, if not impossible, to connect an offsite workstation.

Because of this configuration, both our practices and management styles emerged from the idea of everyone working as a team from a centralized operations room.

Though calls could originate from anywhere, they all ended up in one place. Our staff handled them with ease and effectiveness. It was efficient and easy to manage.


With the advent of the internet, it became possible to connect a second location to the centralized telephone platform. Though the offsite agent experience was often not as fast or as reliable as its onsite counterpart, it did, nonetheless, allow for the first wave of a decentralized call center to occur.

This simple change, however, revealed some weaknesses in how we did business.

First, managing staff in two locations required a different management style. The informal—yet proven—management-by-walking-around approach was great in a centralized environment.

Yet not being able to be in two places at once, the manager effectively ignored the staff at the other location. Though some employees worked well without direct in-person oversight, others did not. Too often quality struggled and productivity dropped.

The other issue was out of sight, out of mind. Leaving a box of donuts in the break room as a “thank you” to the staff, dismissed the employees at the second location.

The proven communication technique of posting notices on a physical bulletin board ignored staff at the second site.

And holding an office potluck became more problematic, resulting in further division as opposed to enhancing comradery. Too often, an us-versus-them mentality emerged between two sparring locations.

Yet over time, wise managers adjusted their management style and operational practices to equally embrace employees at both locations.

Home Based

As hosted systems, also called SaaS (Software as a Service), became available, the longstanding dream of many a manager at last became a viable reality.

What was this grand vision? A truly distributed workforce where every employee could work at a different location, such as their own home. In truth, any location with a stable internet connection could become an effective remote agent station.

Though some resisted this opportunity, citing HIPAA and data security concerns, others already had procedures in place to effectively deal with this. And when the pandemic hit, forcing many call centers to close or pivot, some easily switched to a 100 percent home-based operation.


Though some call centers today continue to operate solely in one of these three operational models, most take a hybrid approach.

In this fully decentralized call center model, some staff work in a central office, other employees operate from a second location, and still others work from their home offices. This allows for the greatest efficiency and flexibility.

In this way, our operation benefits, our organization benefits, and our patients and callers benefit. Having a distributed operation is an ideal situation, even if we still refer to it as a call center.

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

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

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.