Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

How a Medical Answering Service Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Lessen Healthcare Frustrations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Talk to just about anyone today about healthcare and they’ll voice frustrations.

Providers are frustrated that they’re hampered from giving the best care to patients. Patients are frustrated with the complexities of navigating the healthcare system and receiving the care they want.

They especially balk at automation that seeks to save costs but does so at the expense a personal interaction and what patients want.

All, however, is not lost. The venerable medical answering service can help alleviate this frustration and increase patient satisfaction in ways that have been proven over time.

Always Available

Medical answering services operate 24/7. They never close. This means they provide a round-the-clock telephone coverage. This includes daytime and evenings; weekdays and weekends; and even holidays.

Given this, when patients have a healthcare concern, they can talk to a real person anytime of the day or night. This produces patient satisfaction.

People listen. Technology can’t—not really.

People can ease frustrations. Technology causes angst more often than not.

Offer Empathy

Another thing people can do that technology can’t is to offer empathy. When we’re hurting, we want to be heard. A little bit of empathy goes a long way when we’re not feeling well or have a healthcare concern.

Though technology has the potential to mimic empathy, it usually comes across as disingenuous. But this is where people shine. The medical answering service—staffed by real people—excels at offering empathy and being sympathetic to the plight of patients when they call.

Provide Solutions

Medical answering services can do more than process phone calls. They can also help address certain patient requests.

Consider, for example, appointments. When the medical answering service is connected to a doctor’s appointment system, they can set appointments, change appointments, and reschedule appointments.

This serves patients better and saves the practice’s office from dealing with scheduling issues.

Conclusion

Don’t dismiss the respected medical answering service in a misguided effort to save money. Embrace them as a tool to help your practice shine and help increase patient satisfaction and reduced their frustrations.

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.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Measuring Success in Healthcare Contact Centers

Top Metrics for Evaluating Performance and Efficacy

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Call centers have been around for decades, and the industry has an established set of proven metrics to measure overall performance and outcomes.

Let’s take a moment to review some of these top call center metrics to use in measuring success. Then consider how they apply to non-call interactions too.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

We’ll look at three categories of metrics: patient centric, agent performance, and scheduling, with three key considerations in each category.

Patient Centric Metrics

First Call Resolution: FCR or First Call Resolution measures the percentage of inquiries that are resolved on the first contact. No patient wants to call back and no agent wants to receive those calls. Do it right the first time.

That’s what matters most, especially in healthcare where patient frustration levels are increasing and not decreasing. Now take this concept and apply it to all your other contact channels.

Abandonment Rate: Another patient-focused metric is abandonment rate. It looks at the percentage of callers who give up before speaking to an agent.

They hang up in frustration because the agent takes longer than they expect. A low abandonment rate signals better customer service performance.

Just as with FCR, give the same attention to your abandonment rate on your text chat channel and with any other real-time interactions.

Customer Satisfaction: C-SAT, which stands for Customer Satisfaction, seeks to quantify patients’ overall satisfaction level after they interact with you.

It can be measured through post-call surveys to assess the overall customer experience. This works equally well regardless of the communication channel used.

A key consideration, however, is to not ask too soon.

For example, a C-SAT survey tacked on to the end of a call often asks for feedback before the patient can give an informed answer. When this occurs, they’ll guess, but you’ll never know.

Agent Performance Metrics

Average Handle Time: AHT measures the average time for an agent to handle a call, from start to finish. This includes agent talk time, hold time, and post-call work.

A low AHT suggests an efficient operation, but balance this with maintaining your patient-centric metrics, as a too low AHT will increase patient frustration.

Average Speed of Answer: ASA looks at the average time agents take to answer calls. A lower ASA reflects better call center efficiency and more satisfied callers.

Quality Assurance: QA evaluations measure the quality of patient-agent interaction. This may be done by a person or automated through technology.

Keep in mind that this occurs independent of the patient and merely addresses what the call center thinks is important to the patient.

Schedule Metrics

Adherence: This metric confirms how well agents follow their schedule. Full adherence ensures agents are present when they’re supposed to be.

Occupancy: Occupancy tracks the percentage of time agents spend handling calls and patient-related activities. It looks at work time versus idle time.

Strive to keep agents comfortably busy without overwhelming them, which only leads to burnout.

Availability: This stat measures how much of the time agents are ready, or available, to interact with patients and callers.

Agent availability is within the control of agents, determined by their willingness to be ready to communicate with patients.

Measuring Success Conclusion

Review these nine standard call center metrics and consider which ones you need to give more attention to. Then determine how to apply these concepts to all your communication channels.

This is the best way to help you in measuring success.

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.

Categories
Call Center

7 Tips to Conduct Engaging Customer Surveys

Incorporate Best Practices into Your Customer Survey Process

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Do you survey your customers or clients? Should you do a customer survey? And if you already have a survey process in place, do the results meet your needs? Or should it be overhauled or even retired?

Regardless of where you are on the survey continuum, don’t rollout a customer survey without first determining if it’s necessary, ascertaining what you hope to accomplish, and having a well thought out plan.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Here are seven tips to conduct engaging surveys:

1. Determine Your Why

Decide what you want your customer survey to accomplish. Never do one until you know why you’re doing it. The worst reasons to do a survey are because everyone else is or because you think you’re supposed to. If it doesn’t make good business sense, don’t do it.

Here are some possible reasons why you should have a customer survey: To improve the level of customer service, to reduce customer churn, or to close more sales. But don’t try to achieve all three objectives with one survey. Pick one.

2. Fine Tune Your Focus

Next, you need to narrow your focus. Don’t expect one customer survey will meet the needs of every department throughout your organization. Thinking that you can conduct one survey to give useful information to your service department and your sales department and your marketing department is folly. Again, pick one.

3. Assign Responsibility

Based on your survey’s why and focus, assign it to the department that will most benefit from the results. Then pick a person in that department to champion it. They may or may not be the person to design and implement the customer survey, but they do need to ensure it moves forward.

4. Design with Intention

In planning your customer survey, be intentional with its design.

In preparation, take as many surveys as you can from other companies to see what you like and don’t like. Common survey issues are ones that are too long or too short. Other pet peeves include forcing users to explain their answer or not providing the option to leave a comment. Posting a time estimate for the survey helps increase participation; displaying a status bar increases the completion rate. Both are nice touches.

5. Test and Retest

With the design of the customer survey complete, it’s time to test it. The survey designer should test it thoroughly before asking for more input. Next, have employees in the sponsoring department test it. Then solicit input from the rest of your company. Last, invite select customers to go through the beta version.

After each round of testing, implement the recommended changes that support your objectives. But don’t implement every suggestion. Just do the ones that make sense.

6. Rollout Your Survey

At this point, you’re ready to publish your survey. But don’t blast it to every potential recipient, through all possible channels all at once. Instead do a soft launch. This way, if there are errors or oversights, you have a chance to fix them before everyone experiences the problem.

7. Iterate and Repeat

If you have a rolling survey that continues to collect data over time, periodically look at it to see if it needs tweaking but do this only after waiting a sufficient time and gathering enough data to do a thorough analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

And if your customer survey is a one-shot endeavor, look at what went well and what didn’t. This can inform the next time you launch the survey, because—unless you really bungled it—you’ll want to do it again.

Conclusion

When done properly, customer surveys can provide valuable data and critical feedback to inform decision making. To achieve the best results, apply these tips to your design and implementation process.

Happy surveying!

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

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
Healthcare Call Centers

Integrate with Your Organization

Don’t Stay in Your Silo or Function in Isolation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

I once needed to call a company in the healthcare sector. With their call center I encountered long wait times, surly representatives, and little help in resolving my dilemma. I made many unsuccessful phone calls.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

At last, one rep transferred me to a different department. My experience with that call center was the opposite of the first one.

The employee answered quickly, was cheerful, and offered help. In one phone call, lasting but a couple of minutes, she resolved my concern. I thanked her for her helpful resolution and remarked how difficult it was to get to her department.

Her response took me aback.

“No one knows we exist,” she laughed. “We’re our company’s best kept secret.”

It seems she worked in a silo within her organization. Her silo functioned wonderfully, in contrast to the organization’s primary call center. What made the difference? I assume it was management, but that’s a topic for another time.

Today’s discussion is about integrating your call center with the rest of your organization.

It’s Us Instead of Them

When you integrate with your organization you move away from the mindset of us referring to the call center and them referring to the rest of the organization.

Instead, everyone in the company becomes us.

Making this mental switch is key. Without it, any plans to integrate with your organization will not succeed. Embracing a holistic us mentality is the first step to successfully integrate with your organization.

It’s Focusing on Others Instead of Self

As you make this mindset shift, you also shift your focus. By redefining us to include the entire organization, you encompass a greater set of employees who can band together to serve patients and callers. Isn’t that why your organization exists? To help patients and callers? To best accomplish this the focus must be on callers and what you can do—with your whole company behind you—to best address their concerns or needs.

It’s a Team Approach

This reformed focus embraces a team approach to problem solving. The goal isn’t to make yourself look good or even your whole department. The goal is to work as a team to make your organization look good. When you do this you and your company win, and—more importantly —so do your patients and callers.

Implementation

This grand vision to integrate with your organization is easier to visualize than to realize.

Though you can start it from within your call center, it will take time to permeate through your entire organization. It’s easier when the initiative comes from the C-suite. And, of course, some managers will resist this change. But this reveals their selfishness.

They’re more concerned about maintaining the status quo than about what’s best for the organization and your customers.

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.

Categories
Call Center

Avoid the Covid Excuse in Your Call Center

Admit Your Service Faults Instead of Blaming the Pandemic

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Different countries around the world and various areas within have had differing responses to the covid pandemic. For some it is but a memory—albeit a painful one. Others, however, are only now beginning to emerge from its grip, with its influence lingering on.

Regardless, it’s impacted our call centers and how we do business. Many are quick to blame it for their staffing shortfalls and service failures. I call this the covid excuse.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Citing the covid excuse for low staffing levels, reduced hours of support, and delayed response times may be truthful, but it’s wearing thin.

Some businesses have successfully responded to the pandemic and rebounded appropriately, returning to their prior levels of service, or even surpassing them.

Yet others continue to struggle. They blame covid for their ongoing issues. And, for the most part, using the covid excuse to justify their shortcomings reached a receptive audience.

But don’t expect the public’s acceptance of covid as the explanation for continued ongoing service problems to last much longer.

Initially, virtually every company was quick to use the covid excuse as justification for everything that went wrong. But as we inched forward, many companies have moved away from blaming the pandemic. And wisely so.

The purpose of call centers is to serve customers and react to prospects. If there’s a service shortfall, regardless of the reason, that’s a bad reflection on the call center and poor customer service. It must be corrected, covid or not.

Provide Excellence

Many call centers initially struggled as they attempted to deal with lockdown restrictions, work-at-home mandates, and employee concerns. Yet they adjusted and adapted. They persisted in holding high their ideals of providing excellent customer service.

And despite having glitches along the way, they soon stopped using the covid excuse and simply assumed responsibility for their service shortfalls.

Not having enough agents working or seeing key performance indicator slip didn’t matter if it was pandemic related or not. Instead, it was something to fix, and they fixed it.

They focused on providing service excellence, pandemic or not.

Use the Covid Excuse

Other operations, however, took the opposite approach. They used the covid excuse whenever they could, and they continue to do so—even when it’s not true. This occurs for understaffing, offering poor customer service, and failing to meet caller needs.

While the pandemic may have initially caused these problems to surface, it’s disingenuous to continue to use the explanation—even if there remains an element of truth to it. The covid excuse is blamed for price increases, service delays, and supply chain issues.

The public is tired of hearing it; they don’t care. They expect service and expect companies to deliver. It’s that simple.

Moving Forward

Every person and every company had to navigate the covid pandemic. While we may never forget it and the long-ranging effects it produced, it is time to move beyond it.

It’s time to focus on serving our clients and not blame circumstances when we failed to deliver.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer ServiceSticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Remote Patient Monitoring

Add New Services to Better Serve Your Stakeholders

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Whether you’re an in-house medical call center provider or a for-profit outsourcer, look for ways to add more services to better serve your stakeholders. This will increase your value to them and help your community. It will also increase the value of your operation to your organization or to owners.

One such option is remote patient monitoring.

Remote patient monitoring tracks the output of patient devices as they gather healthcare-related data. Much of this plethora of information yields to automation. But at some point, the output requires human intervention. Why not let your call center agents provide that personal evaluation that surpasses an algorithm or escapes the abilities of artificial intelligence (AI).

You already have the staff to do it. And regardless if they have medical training or not, they do have a working understanding of healthcare. Also, you have the infrastructure in place to do it. Though you may need to add a module or app to your existing platform to handle remote patient monitoring, you already have the basic technology in your call center.

When you offer remote patient monitoring, two benefits result.

The first one is that you can better serve your stakeholders and your medical community. And the other outcome is that you make yourself a more valuable vendor to your stakeholders.

If you’re an in-house operation, this earns you more attention at budget time and a more esteemed standing within your organization. And if you’re an outsource call center, the results our increased revenues and a more holistic service package to offer to your clients.

But don’t rush into remote patient monitoring without careful planning. Consider the technology aspect, the training aspect, and the legal aspect. None of these are insurmountable issues, but it is critical to address each one in advance. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

By all means, consider remote patient monitoring for your medical call center. Just make sure you do it right, and your chances of success will increase greatly.

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.

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.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

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
Call Center

Make Chat Availability a Priority

Make Customer Service a Distinguishing Factor for Your Organization

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Companies are increasingly offering chat services as a way for their customers and prospects to reach them. Not only is this an option that more and more people want to use, but many businesses find it’s a cost-effective customer service solution.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

As such, you’d think that customer-focused enterprises would make chat availability a priority. Yet in my experience as a customer, too many do not.

Avoid Turning Chat On and Off

I’ve experienced multiple companies that turn their chat option on and off throughout the day. Though their posted schedule says they’re available during business hours, their practice runs counter to that.

One site indicated that their chat was online. Excited, I begin typing my message, but before I could press enter, the chat availability indication turned from online to offline.

Hopeful it was a momentary glitch, I stared at the screen for the next several minutes, poised to press enter as soon as the chat availability changed back to online.

I got tired of waiting and went on to my next project. This was most frustrating because I needed to reach them, and chat was their only option.

I’ve seen this occur on other websites as well, with chat toggling between online and offline throughout the day. This is no way to serve customers. But it is a way to frustrate them.

Have a Schedule and Follow It

A retail operation would never open and close throughout the day; no self-respecting business would ever do that. When a customer shows up during regular business hours, they expect to come in and make a purchase. The same mentality should apply to chat service.

Make a schedule and staff accordingly to meet that schedule. Yes, when it’s difficult to hire and keep staff, meeting a desired schedule is problematic.

Yet it should be a priority for any company that cares about its customers. And every business that wants to stay in business must put their customers first.

If staffing levels drop too low to support chat in a reasonable time frame, don’t shut it down. Instead note what delay customers may encounter, apologize for the inconvenience, and offer an alternate solution.

One company I deal with boasted 24/7 chat availability. That didn’t last long. They soon scaled back to business hours availability. And a few months after that, they reconfigured their chat window to be a front end to email.

You type in your question is normal, and they tell you they’ll get back with you in a couple of hours. The answer comes by email, even if you leave the chat window open.

Offer Alternatives

In addition to chat, other common customer service options include the telephone and email.

Presumably if a company can’t staff their chat service, they can’t operate their call center either, which carries an even more time-critical expectation than chat. But many companies have cut their telephone support altogether.

That leaves email. Of the three communication options, it’s the most frustrating, with lengthy delays lasting days—or being ignored altogether.

With email, back-and-forth interaction, which happens with ease on chat and phone interaction, is difficult and time consuming. Imagine waiting two days for an email response and receiving a message that says, “What is your account number?”

Yes, there are also self-service options, with many companies offering FAQs, blog posts, and customer forums where users help each other.

FAQs and blog posts seldom address the more specific questions I have. And I try to avoid forums because I have no way of knowing if the help they’re offering is reliable or not. And too often no one ever responds to the questions I post.

Chat Solutions

Offering accessible and prompt customer service is even more critical today than ever before, where a business can lose a customer at the click of a button. Offering chat service is a common and cost-effective way to do this.

But to be successful, do it wisely. This means no turning on and off chat throughout the day, posting and adhering to a realistic schedule of chat availability, and offering customer service alternatives.

And if your staffing levels don’t allow for this to occur, look for a contact center you can outsource this to, either to back you up as needed, according to a set schedule, or around the clock.

This is the perfect solution to providing consistent chat availability to your customers.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer ServiceSticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Go Beyond the Call  

Seek Ways to Solve Caller’s Pain Points

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

As a medical call center your job is to answer healthcare-related calls and respond to each one efficiently. Yet what if this isn’t what the patient needs? To paraphrase and old saying, sometimes we can win the battle but lose the war. That’s why we need to go beyond the call.

Being efficient sometimes gets in the way of truly winning. Call centers have a lot of metrics to track. These help us quantify results, but they may not measure outcomes. We need to find a balance between efficiency and patient-centric results.

Here are some ideas:

Offer Empathy

Sometimes callers need to know you heard them just as much as they need their issue addressed. This requires listening and offering empathy. Correcting a caller’s issue but doing so abruptly or without listening to them leaves the caller more frustrated than satisfied.

To you, they are one more call in a busy day. But to them you may be the most important call they’ll make all day.

Pursue Resolution

Other times what a patient asks for isn’t what they need—not really. Yet a passive-aggressive response results in answering the question, while not resolving the problem.

For example, a patient might ask for the web address of your online portal so they can check the results of a recent test. You give them the address because that’s what they asked for. Yet you know the results they want won’t be available for at least another day. Do you tell them that, even though it’s not what they asked? Can you suggest a different method for them to get the results quicker?

Anticipate Problems

Let’s say a patient calls to verify the location of where they need to go for an appointment with a specialist. You give them the address.

They didn’t ask about parking, but you know that’s an issue that frustrates many people. So, you can go the extra mile and let them know where they should park and how much time to allow themselves so they can arrive at the specialist’s office without being frazzled or out of breath.

Stay on the Line

Back to our caller who asked for the web address. You can give it to them and get off the call. Or you can give it to them and stay on the line to see if they have any more questions. Maybe they wrote it down wrong. If you’re still connected, you can clarify it, instead of making them call back a second time.

Or you can help them navigate the site, offering a quick tip that will save several minutes of frustration on their part. The point is, don’t end the call prematurely. If you think they’ll need help, the best approach may be to stick around.

Putting These Tips into Practice

You may acknowledge that while these are insightful ideas, they’re not practical for your busy call center and that you can’t afford to implement them. But recall the concept of winning the battle and losing the war.

That means the better perspective is that perhaps you can’t afford not to.

Think about it.

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.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Look for Ways to Better Serve Your Clients

Seek Initiatives to Stand Out from Your Competition

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

You’re proud of your telephone answering service; at least I hope you are. You strive to serve your clients and their callers well. You do things with excellence. You relish the fact that you facilitate hundreds or thousands of communication efforts every day.

Yet your competitors feel the same way. Every answering service does.

So how can you stand out? What can you do to differentiate yourself from every other service, which seems to most people to be just as impressive as yours?

You should focus on providing quality service; everyone does. It’s not a distinguishing factor anymore but an expectation.

Instead look for ways to better serve your clients. Here are some areas to consider.

Inquiries

The first idea to better serve your clients is to start before they become your customer. One area to look at is the amount of time from when they click on your ad to when they’re having a true conversation with someone on your team. An automated response or AI-powered bot doesn’t count. Only true human interaction matters.

Strive to shorten this time as much as possible. Establish systems to aid in this effort, and reform your sales staff’s perspectives of the imperative need to respond right away.

Onboarding

Once you’ve closed the sale, the next step is setting up their account and beginning to answer calls. Again, measure the time from when they commit—such as submitting paperwork or signing an online form—to when you answer their first call.

Streamline this process is much as possible. Cut bureaucratic steps. Look to do functions in tandem rather than sequentially.

Yet balance speed with completeness.

Don’t subject them to a generic solution within an hour or even a few minutes with the goal to add the details later. This will give them a negative first impression of your answering service, one from which you might never recover.

The goal is to minimize the time from when they hire you to when you’re providing complete, first-class service. The longer you take, the more opportunity they have for buyer’s remorse to sit in. Take too long and they could cancel service before they even start.

Message Delivery

The TAS industry has made great progress in better serving clients with all the innovative options in your arsenal of tools to get them their messages and information quickly and effectively. Yet most of these capabilities exist on your platform, which means every other answering service has these options at their disposal as well.

Look for other innovative ways to help your customers with their communication needs, delighting them in the process. This will be a key distinguishing characteristic to better serve your clients.

Billing

Have you ever received an invoice that was hard to understand? Did it contain descriptions that didn’t make sense or line items that delineated information that confused you?

Do the invoices your answering service sends carry these same issues?

Information on most invoices reflect what the business needs to better manage the financial aspect of their operation. The side effect is a less-than-ideal presentation to customers.

This is backward. Don’t frustrate your customers with a confusing invoice just because it is what works best for you.

Redo your invoicing with a customer-first mentality to better serve your clients.

Problem Resolution

Though we wish problems never arose with the service we provide to our clients, they do. The obvious solution is to strive to minimize the occurrence of problems in the first place.

Yet when they do pop up, how you react is critical. This includes how quickly you respond and how accurately you resolve the problem. A third, but often overlooked, element is how the customer reacts to your efforts. If you’ve corrected their concern and they don’t realize it, you still lost.

Moving Forward to Better Serve Your Clients

As you review this list of areas for improvement, pick the one that offers the biggest potential impact to your customers. Then work toward improving it. This will help you better serve your clients and stand out from your competition.

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.