Healthcare Call Centers

New Skills for Today’s Agents

Hire Staff with the Abilities That Today’s Consumers Need and Expect

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

There was a time when hiring managers looked for three key skills in their call center applicants: a pleasant and understandable telephone voice, good spelling, and neat penmanship. Yes, legible writing was key because everything was handwritten.

Then computers arrived and the penmanship requirement was replaced with typing skills. Today these three capabilities remain important, but we need to add more to our list.

Internet Awareness

We may assume that everyone today knows how to use the internet, navigate websites, and appropriately deal with problems that occur online. Yet we shouldn’t assume this is the case. Instead, test applicants to verify this skill.

I recently talked to a rep who admitted to being confused in navigating her company’s own website. As you can imagine, she wasn’t able to help me.

Social Media Experience

In the same way, today’s call center agents need to be comfortable using social media. And most applicants are. But don’t assume this is always the case. Therefore, it’s important to test them to make sure they have a working knowledge of the social media platforms your organization uses.

Even if their role won’t directly involve communicating with patients and customers on social media, your staff should know how to navigate your social media pages. This way they’ll be ready to assist your clientele if needed—and assume that at some point it will be needed.

Texting and Email Ability

Next, your agents need to know how to compose professional and comprehensible messages for text and email. Using slang and emojis may be fine in casual settings, but it has no place in the healthcare industry. The same applies with spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Test applicants to ensure their written communication is an asset to your organization and not a detriment to it. Failure to do so will result in misunderstandings and reflect badly on you as a healthcare provider or support service.

Video Ready

As we discussed in the benefits and disadvantages of video calling, we need to hire staff with video in mind. Even if you don’t currently use video in your operation, it’s likely that you will soon. Your employees need to be comfortable in front of a camera.

They must communicate effectively through their body language, in addition to the words they use and their tone. Though their words and tone are all they need when it comes to voice and written communication, video adds the nonverbal component, which is critical for effective communication to take place.

Hire staff that’s video ready—and willing.


In addition to hiring employees with a pleasant and understandable telephone voice, spelling proficiency, and typing accuracy, make sure they possess internet awareness, social media experience, texting and email ability, and are video ready.

This will provide you with a staff poised to help today’s patients and contacts.

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.