The September 2016 Issue

LVM Systems

How to Provide Quality Service

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Growing up, I heard a radio commercial with the tag line, “Service sold it.” Even as a young child I grasped the concept that quality service was great for business.

Over the years, I have heard this mantra repeated, either verbatim or conceptually, by various companies, medical answering services included. Yet I give this grand platitude only passing consideration. The phrase has a hollow ring; it seems a disingenuous assurance, holding an empty promise.

What was once good business turned into good ad copy and now gets lost in the clutter of promotions we no longer believe. In fact, the louder companies trumpet this claim, the less credence I give it. I assume their quality is lousy, and their ad campaign’s only goal is to convince us otherwise.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, “He who can, does. He who cannot, talks about it.” It seems too few organizations provide quality service any more.

We all know someone who left one company because of poor quality and then subsequently left their competitor for the same reason. Eventually, having tried and rejected all available alternatives, they face the necessity of returning to a previously unsatisfactory provider. Their new goal is to pick the one who is least bad.

Does anyone provide quality service anymore? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

The key is the personal touch. For each positive example I’ve encountered, it was always a specific person who made the difference. This was someone who genuinely cared and had a real interest in the outcome, someone who was willing to make me his or her priority and do what was required.

Every medical answering service claims to offer quality service, but is this reality or a hoped for fantasy? Do you provide a one-on-one personal relationship to clients? Can you honestly say, believe, and prove your telephone answering service provides quality service? If not, what changes do you need to make?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Crisis Call, Line One: Preparing and Training Staff for Crisis Callers

By Scott J. Terres

It’s critical that call centers are prepared to deal with callers in a crisis mode. This article focuses specifically on call centers that are likely to encounter crisis situations.

Start with the Definition: Define what you believe is a crisis caller. Crisis call centers attempt first to define both the crisis behavior and level of severity. Callers may have concerns about verbal, emotional, or physical abuse; chemical use or abuse; or thoughts of harm to themselves or others. Violence and threat of harm indicators may be passive (less extreme), active (actively planning or currently engaged), or pervasive (daily or ongoing regular planning or action). Chemical use and abuse is often present in conjunction with violence indicators but can also exist independently.

Determine Needed Action: Once a crisis is defined, the center must determine its role in assisting the caller. A crisis call center has the task of keeping the caller alive. With the role clearly identified, the actual workers need to be trained with these definitions and roles in mind and put into practice.

Provide Appropriate Training: Staff should have the education and background to handle callers in a competent and effective manner. They need training in how to talk about crisis frankly and openly. Additionally, workers in crisis call centers experience a higher rate of compassion fatigue than those in other centers, due to spending the majority of their days talking about horrific actions, plans, and thoughts. For this reason, they may need more than two fifteen-minute breaks during a workday. These workers also need ongoing training and education to keep current with standard practices in handling crisis situations.

Provide Needed Resources: A well-trained staff equipped with relevant resources can make a significant difference in the life of a crisis caller. Ideally, these resources should be available at a moment’s notice. Crisis call centers also need to make safety planning a normal part of all crisis calls. Safety plans can vary widely depending on the need.

Consider Confidentiality: When the goal is to keep the caller alive at all costs, companies need to be aware of their respective state laws about confidentiality, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and duty to warn as established by Tarasoff vs. Regents of the University of California. Crisis call centers accredited by AAS must be willing to break confidentiality and inform law enforcement when callers will not agree to a safety plan or provide a verbal no-harm contract.

Seeking Successful Outcomes: Call center workers rarely know what awaits them when the phone rings, but a well-trained staff with appropriate resources has the ability to stabilize a crisis call, providing relief to both the caller and the answering agent. Safety planning and a clearly defined contingency plan round out the ways in which any call center can operate more effectively.

Scott J. Terres, MA, LPC-S, Ph.D., serves as vice president of Alliance Work Partners, professional service of Workers Assistance Program, which has provided employee assistance programs since 1977.

[This article first appeared in Connections Magazine. Read the full text online.]

Healthcare Call Center News

ICMI Releases Program for 2016 Contact Center Demo & Conference: ICMI announces the return of Contact Center Demo & Conference in Dallas. Focused on helping professionals improve customer and employee engagement, elevate satisfaction, and deliver results, the conference will empower attendees through a range of rich educational content.

The conference will take place October 25-27 at the Intercontinental Dallas in Addison, TX. Spanning three days, the conference will explore the top trends of the contact center industry, including managing people, processes, and technology. The combination of inspirational keynotes, in-depth educational sessions, hands-on workshops, tours of local contact centers, powerful networking opportunities, and an exhibit hall will heighten the knowledge and skill level of contact center professionals. More than seventy-five speakers across fifty sessions and eighty exhibitors will join forces to bring attendees an unforgettable week in Dallas.

“As customer service excellence becomes increasingly important, there’s more opportunity than ever for the contact center to contribute to its organization’s mission and bottom line. It’s critical for today’s customer management professionals to expand their skill sets by learning new techniques and processes,” said Patty Caron, ICMI event director. “Our event keeps professionals up to date on new practices, trending topics and technologies – all while expanding their network of industry connections.”

Nat’e Guyton Named Chief Nursing Officer for Spok: Spok Holdings, Inc. appointed industry veteran Nat’e Guyton as chief nursing officer (CNO), effective July 6, 2016. In her new role, Guyton will be responsible for effectively representing nursing communications needs in a clinical setting to drive enhancement of Spok’s critical communications software solutions. She will also work with nurses at healthcare facilities globally in order to share best practices and implement programs for improved patient care and satisfaction.

“Nat’e brings over fifteen years of healthcare experience to the position,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc. “She will play a vital role in executing our long-term strategy to achieve significant growth in all markets, by being a trusted partner with CNOs (chief nursing officers) and nursing professionals worldwide. She has an impressive track record of success in delivering effective clinical consultations as well as utilizing strong management skills and critical thinking to lead clinical product teams.”

“I am excited to join the Spok team and to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities to help clinicians and patients,” said Guyton. “Response time is a critical factor in patient care. Most CNOs are looking to improve the efficiency of nursing workflows and address patient safety, outcomes and satisfaction. Spok can help with those challenges.”

A Thought For Today

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” -James Matthew Barrie