How many call centers does your healthcare facility have? While a common response might be one, this is often not the case and could be in error. Most hospital systems have multiple call centers, centralized places that handle calls for different departments, buildings, or facilities. The actual total may be surprising.
While each call center is efficient in itself, greater efficiency and effectiveness will occur under the increased scope of consolidating call centers. Here is an action plan to make this happen:
Make a List: It may take some investigation to discover all of your call centers, but having this knowledge is the first step to understanding the scope of the opportunity before you. Even if the answer is two, great economies of scale can result from merging them. Combining more than two call centers results in even greater benefits.
Look for Opportunities: Sometimes call centers functionally exist without evoking the label of a call center. These are harder to find. A good starting point is if a phone rings in a common space, it may be a call center in disguise. Identify these as potential consolidation opportunities.
Find the Ideal Location: While the largest call center on your list may be the right location to serve the consolidated operation, this might not be the case. Consider expansion potential, employee accessibility, parking availability, proximity to public transportation, and closeness to your target workforce. Few things are worse than building a call center and failing to staff it because of a bad location.
Communicate Clearly: Consolidations of any sort, and especially call centers, are rife with unwarranted speculation, rumors, and assumptions. No employee will ever presume the best and will always imagine the worst. Communicate with all staff the intention, the schedule, and most importantly how it will affect them. If their jobs are secure, confirm that. If some positions will be eliminated, provide options. Whenever there is a void of information, worried staff will insert their own misinformation.
Optimize the Existing Operation: If an existing call center will receive the others during the consolidation, ensure it is running at its full optimum potential before making a single change. Merging once disparate operations tries everyone, exposing weaknesses and fraying nerves. Start out right by building upon a well-run operation.
Cross-train Staff: In most all cases the goal is for all call center staff to handle all types of calls in every situation. (The one exception is nurses in a triage environment.) Therefore training new skills is essential. Don’t just schedule staff and expect them to learn as they go. That strategy will result in disaster.
Combine One Center at a Time: Fully integrate one call center and optimize the combined result before adding the next one. Moving too fast will result in frustrated staff and dissatisfied callers. Don’t set up a consolidation timetable. While it may look good on paper to complete the consolidation within one calendar year, this is a proverbial example of the tail wagging the dog. Don’t do it.
Consolidating call centers results in improved efficiency, greater effectiveness, and increased cost savings. And when done right consolidation also produces more fulfilled employees and satisfied callers. If you’re going to do it, do it right.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center industry and who provides a healthcare call center matchmaking service. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.