Getting consumers to utilize digital channels to raise queries is something the healthcare industry has struggled with – but this can easily be rectified.
The healthcare industry has shifted significantly in the last decade or so. Consumers are taking a more active role in their own care, and the rise of personal fitness devices has created a landscape where people are more conscious of staying healthy and are actively seeking some reward from their healthcare providers for remaining that way.
In this new era of healthcare, customers are likely to have an increasing number of questions related to a multitude of issues, from their own fitness to their medical coverage to any number of other angles. Therefore, healthcare providers need to be able to handle these queries with aplomb, and – ideally – in the least costly manner possible.
It is clear that contact centers in this industry are increasingly important, as these will be at the coalface of providing answers and reassurances to customers. Thus, healthcare providers need to utilize their contact centers in an efficient way, without losing the quality of the patient support.
For this reason, many such providers have invested in multi-channel contact center platforms, which enhance and improve patient and provider communication in an efficient and cost-effective manner. However, many are finding that in spite of all these investments, members are still using voice as the primary channel by which to contact the center.
Despite attempting a range of passive approaches, including e-mails, newsletters, and SMS alerts, too often these providers have found their entreaties encouraging members to use digital solutions falling on deaf ears.
This can prove expensive to both the consumer and the provider. From the consumer’s perspective, they may end up failing to fully utilize their available benefits, leading to poor health outcomes and ultimately a higher cost to serve each individual. For the providers, it also increases the cost of operating their contact center. It is worth noting that a voice call costs in the region of five times as much to handle as an equivalent digital transaction, so this should be added encouragement for providers to transition members to these newer channels.
How can they achieve this? The answer is the digital pivot.
The digital what I hear you ask? A digital pivot is when customers that call in using the traditional voice method are automatically transitioned to a digital channel instead. Perhaps the simplest method is pivoting the voice calls over to a self-service session instead. Obviously, not every customer can be served in this manner, but it is extremely effective for simpler queries and is equally beneficial to the customer, who may find their query is resolved in the time they would have otherwise spent holding for a human agent.
The most prominent method of self-service in today’s contact center is the interactive voice response (IVR). However, IVR has a number of challenges, not the least being a customer’s failure to hear the prompts correctly, or there being too many items listed in the menu.
An effective way of overcoming the difficulties associated with standard IVR is to pivot customers over using a visual menu delivered directly to the customer’s computer or smartphone screen. This, in turn, provides a solution that creates a visual version of the voice IVR, enabling customers to see the options for themselves and simply touch their way through the prompts. This means they have the ability to both absorb and enter complex data, as well as scrolling back in order to choose a different option. Clearly, an ideal option for some of the more complex questions and answers that may be required in the healthcare space.
In addition, if the visual IVR is not able to answer the customer’s questions conclusively, you can pivot them again into, for example, a Web chat that will enable them to smoothly transition into a conversation with an agent, while keeping the costs of the transaction low for the center.
Naturally, enabling successful pivots in a multi-channel environment requires the contact center to ensure a number of components are in place. For one thing, a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system is necessary, in order to properly track customer interactions across the multiple channels. This is required so that following a pivot of any kind, continuity is maintained across the transaction and the customer doesn’t find themselves having to start from scratch every time they move to a new channel.
The other critical component is to focus on the various customer interactions across the channels and ensure that you can support various forms of communication, including text messages and social media. If your center can do this, you will be well positioned to deliver first contact resolution, regardless of the various channels ultimately used by the client. And first contact resolution means a happy – and likely a more loyal – end-customer.
Digital pivoting offers enormous benefits to healthcare providers in terms of potential cost savings, improved customer knowledge, and greater consumer satisfaction. However, it doesn’t matter how great you omnichannel center is, nor how smoothly you can digitally pivot the customer, unless you also put effort into cross-training agents, to ensure they are skilled across multiple channels.
If you are going to pivot customers into your digital channels, it is vital that you ensure that your agents are able to handle the various channels you will be using effectively, whether it is answering a Web chat or replying to an SMS or social media post. Cross-skilling will increase the agility of your contact center team and should also deliver improved levels of customer service. Cross-skilling not only means ensuring agents understand how to handle different digital channels, but also that they need to be capable of applying different skillsets to the different channels.
After all, those channels where contact tends to made via the written word – such as e-mails and SMS – require strong spelling and grammatical skills. In addition, they must be clear on how to apply the right tone – after all, would use a different tone when replying to an e-mail than you would when responding to a social media post.
So the answer to introducing customers to the digital channels in your omnichannel contact center lies not in asking them nicely, but rather in using the digital pivot to place them in the digital world at your behest.
The benefits to both your organization and your customers (and by extension, to their health) of transitioning customers to digital channels are enormous. Lower costs for you, more effective usage of your omnichannel investments and, ultimately, customers who are more knowledgeable about their policies and who are happier and healthier too.
[About the author] Dylon Mills is the Director of Marketing Content Strategy & Development at Jacada. As such, Dylon’s main responsibilities are to strategize, create and deliver content for Jacada’s product portfolio that align with the global Go-To-Market strategy, corporate positioning, and marketing campaigns. Dylon’s prior work experience includes Product Management at one of the top Fortune 500 Technology companies, Symantec Corporation. Outside of work, Dylon enjoys problem-solving and any project that includes building/tinkering with tools. Dylon holds a BS Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia.