Over the last few months I’ve been sharing information about what healthcare providers should consider when choosing a communications partner to provide patient outreach. Recently, I addressed independent versus integrated solutions and discussed the pros and cons of each.
In today’s market, making the best use of technology seems like a no-brainer, but many businesses, including communications providers, don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle figured out just yet. A complete communication solution must incorporate an IVR (Interactive Voice Response or Automated Phone System), call center, postal mail and a suite of web services including: email, web, text and chat. More importantly, they must all be designed to work cohesively, be configurable to meet your business needs and allow for the best possible patient experience.
An IVR is the workhorse of any patient communication service; it handles the bulk of patient communication. All too often, IVRs are configured to minimize costs. If your IVR calls patients 10-15 times a day, never leaving a message, and waiting to get a live person on the phone, it is configured to save money and not configured to maximize the patient’s experience. Your patients despise these systems and will typically stop responding, eroding your response rate over time.
Maximizing the Experience
A communication provider whose IVR is configured to maximize a patient’s experience will have a few simple traits. These providers will:
- publish their caller ID
- leave voice mail messages
- easily allow patients to reach a live person
- support both outgoing and incoming calls
Once you reach a live person who is supporting the IVR, these CSRs (Customer Service Representatives) must be knowledgeable in the healthcare sector they are supporting. According to survey conducted by Liel Leibivitz, from the University of New York, almost 83% of respondents said, “…they’d like to be given the option of effortlessly reaching a live CSR at any point in their interaction…”
Can your customers reach a CSR at any time during the call? If your communication provider offers a customer service option, do their employees answer the call or do they simply transfer the customer to you? A good communications provider will have their own call center with employees in the USA who are multi-lingual and more importantly, are experts in the healthcare field they are servicing.
Web Services in Demand
In addition to IVR and a live call team, patient demand for web services is growing. Having the ability to communicate with customers through email, web, text and chat will become more important in the second half of the decade. Is your communication partner able to utilize these modalities to reach out to your patients?
CareTouch has seen our web services grow from 2% in November 2011 to 14% on October 2013. We expect to see this rapid growth rate continue for the next several years. The makeup of these web interactions is still heavily dominated by the personal computer. Here are some of our stats:
- 83% of CareTouch web interactions are initiated by a PC
- 12% from a mobile phone
- 5% from a tablet
Is your web service solution able to handle the varied devices patients use on a daily basis? Again, a key component of a successful web services solution is providing your patient a seamless way to reach a live CSR.
The Power of Snail Mail
Your solution should include the ability to send printed material through the US postal service. The power of a letter, postcard or other written communication is undeniable. Does you current solution support sending information via your patient’s mailbox? If you are starting a new service, an introduction letter will increase the response and adoption rates anywhere from 5-10%. An ongoing program on either a three or six-month cycle will help you maintain a strong response rate over time.
Customization to Meet the Patient’s Individual Preferences
Finally, your solution should be configurable. You should be able to use the solution to interact with any patient. You should be able to customize the entire patient interaction from beginning to end. Several of the patient communication companies have market or product specific solutions. Seek a communication provider that can service all of your patients.
A robust communication solution must include an IVR, call center, web services and a printed mail solution. All of these outreach modalities must be cohesive and configurable to maximize the customer experience.
If you are not sure where to start, focus on the most important piece of the puzzle: an IVR supported by a live call center. According to the same survey by Liel Leibivitz, “…respondents across the board overwhelmingly stated that having a good IVR system was extremely important, and that a lack of one would result in refusal to give the company future business.”
If you’re curious about how CareTouch brings all of these outreach modalities together to help increase your revenue, set up a live demo of our CareTouch360™ platform today. If you have questions about the next steps, call us at 888-333-1456.
Source: Liel Leibovitz. Holding the Line: Customer Perceptions of Interactive Voice Response Systems. Interactions: August 2012
Matthew Dolph is CEO of CareTouch Communications, Inc. and brings 20 years of service management experience to the company’s operations. He has helped design, implement and manage numerous patient communication solutions for CareTouch customers and business partners. He coaches numerous soccer teams and lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.