Consumers today have more choices than ever. Those choices extend beyond general consumer products like clothing, food, and electronics and also include health care. In fact, The Affordable Care Act recently opened the door for millions of U.S. citizens to access health care. That has led to a flurry of activity, as people get online to research plan options, fill out forms, and seek provider information.
Sometimes people are able to get all the information they need and complete transactions like filling out forms on health care organization websites, and without requiring live assistance from those organizations. But, frequently, the online experience constitutes only the beginning of the customer journey. So, to save on costs and lower the potential for customer frustration, it’s important for health care organizations to provide a simple and seamless transition between channels, and enable people to segue easily to assistance from live agents.
The fact that 58 percent of health care customers who begin their journeys on websites eventually require the help of live agents (as noted in a recent study by Corporate Executive Board), and the fact that 72 percent of customers are frustrated with inconsistencies among the different channels of the same organizations (according to an Accenture Global Customer Pulse (News - Alert) report), illustrate the importance of channel accessibility, consistency, and continuity. And this seems to be particularly relevant in the case of health care.
“There is a new type of health care consumer today, one that has a higher likelihood of seeking out live assistance,” notes Tom Jameson, executive vice president of worldwide sales at Virtual Hold Technology (News - Alert) LLC in a recent white paper. “Embracing this fact can help health care providers implement proactive strategies that make it easier for customers to transition to live service, resulting in higher customer retention rates, new customer acquisitions, operational efficiencies, and overall growth.”
Linking online applications with live resources using intelligent virtual queuing can help lower contact center costs and efficiency, while improving the customer experience, Jameson says. Virtual queuing does more than a simple callback feature, he adds, it unifies an organization’s online channels with the contact center to provide a seamless transition for customers while passing along the context of the customer as he or she crosses between channels.
“Intelligent virtual queuing solutions provide a mechanism for identifying the customer’s need in one channel and connecting them to the proper resources from a separate channel to help them finish the job they have started,” he explains. “When the customer feels he has reached a dead end, he simply clicks a button. The system will then look to the resources needed to support that customer and offer the customer a callback from the agent.”
The callback can be immediate if an agent is available at that moment. If not, however, the system can offer to put the customer on hold, while providing the likely wait time, or enable the customer to get a call back at a future time. That opens the door to helping contact centers shift their traffic patterns so they’re more predictable, which can lower costs and make for an easier to manage environment.
Here, Jameson explains both the problem scenarios that lack intelligence can create, and how intelligent virtual queuing can address this pain point.
“Since most health care contact center operations are not 24/7, there are a good number of calls that come in after the center is closed,” he notes. “Today, we typically play those callers an announcement stating to try back during normal business hours and/or direct them to our website for self-service. By doing this we create, in most cases, a morning bubble, where these callers opt to try again first thing in the morning. This can cause challenges for management in staffing to those peaks, which, in turn, increases costs.”
Virtual queuing, however, can be used to guide customers into scheduling callbacks during low volume intervals, Jameson explains. That can translate into more predictable and steady call flow through the day, which makes it easier to do staff scheduling and enables contact centers to maximize their agent occupancy rates.
“Companies that have extended their virtual queuing strategy into after-hours processes,” he says, “have been able to actually influence their traffic patterns into a very predictable pattern that has enabled them to reduce and maximize their agent productivity.”
And making health care and the related processes and procedures more predictable tends to put people at ease, and provide both patients and service providers with the best possible experience.
To read the white paper “Differentiating Your Healthcare Service Through Better Contact Center Care” visit http://tinyurl.com/m4g62tv. For additional information on intelligent virtual queuing and callback solutions, go to www.virtualhold.com or call 800-854-1815.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino