It’s likely your hospital system has at least one call center, a centralized place that handles calls. This may be for a department, a building, the facility, or the entire network. While some healthcare operations wisely have only one comprehensive call center, other networks have a dispersed array of specialty call centers. The reality is that for many large facilities no one knows for sure how many call centers actually exist.
Before you dismiss your organization as an exception, ask yourself if any departments or locations may have in effect started their own mini-call center, without permission, in order to address their own internal needs. It happens, perhaps more often than suspected.
While small, nimble, independent call centers have an appeal, they work against the greater good of their organization. Not only does this represent bad management, but they lead to a number of problems:
The impetus behind centralizing calls is greatly increased efficiency, both for staffing and caller responsiveness. The larger the call center, the more efficient it becomes. Yes, there is a point of diminishing returns, but that shouldn’t occur until you reach several hundred seats.
Call centers offer economy of scale at its best, with one larger call center able to slash the costs of multiple smaller segregated operations. It is common for one call center to absorb another with only a small incremental bump in labor costs, removing all expenses from the second operation. While labor is the most noticeable savings, other eliminated costs include duplicate network, phone service, and system expenses, along with redundant management, support, and physical infrastructure.
Maintaining a consistent public image is much easier to achieve in one call center with standard management and training, then in disparate call centers, each with their own agenda and paradigms. If branding is important to your organization, then it is essential to move all customer-facing phone support into one area.
With separate call centers come different ideals—often in conflict with one another—in interacting with callers, starting with what to say when answering the phone. Is the focus on speed? Quality? Call length? Caller satisfaction? No holds? No transfers? These are often mutually exclusive, and without one management team to set the overall direction, each call center will do what it feels is right for their callers. This results in a great variance of caller experiences, with inconsistent results from one call to the next, depending on which number is dialed.
Inconsistent responses from various call centers result in caller frustration. One time they are treated with courtesy and the next time, briskly. One time the caller is transferred to the right department and the next time they are told to call a different number. Callers opt to not call when they don’t know to want to expect or fear how they may be treated.
Consolidating call centers is good business that results in increased efficiency, saved money, enhanced branding, improved consistency, and reduced caller frustration.
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 email@example.com or call 800-901-7706.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.