Why are call centers synonymous with bad customer service?

Why the majority of patients dislike call centers

Photo by: Alex Kotliarskyi

Call centers are used widely around the world and have become the number one customer support channel. They are more popular than other channels such as e-mails or live chat. However, call centers are often synonymous with bad customer service. Why is this the case exactly? Well, in this article, we are going to take a look at why patients dislike call centers as well as how call centers are more of a problem than a solution for healthcare. Let's take a closer look.

Call center frustrations - Reaching your agent

To begin with, we should mention that the root of the problem begins before patients even get in touch with their agents. Call centers and their lines are frequently busy. This is no secret. So, a patient calling to check on his schedule, make an appointment, find the information he or she needs, and so on, first needs to go through an often comprehensive phone menu agonies until they reach their agent. This can all be very frustrating and the main goal of each health clinic should be to help the patient experience a stress-free medical journey.

Because call centers cannot operate 24/7, they have limited work hours and, of course, limited number of agents. This results in the often dreaded 'beep' of a busy call center line. A patient can sometimes wait up to 1h to reach their agents. For health clinics, this is not a good solution to maintain and establish communication with their clients ie patients. What to the stats say? Well, A recent survey from Replicant, found that 91% of consumers report they have experienced poor customer service in the last six months. Furthermore, according to 56% of those surveyed, the biggest annoyance were the long waiting times. The global pandemic that started in 2020 has also negatively impacted waiting times and due to increased number of patients, call centers are now busier than ever. According to the survey, 32% report the average time they spend waiting on hold has doubled compared to before the pandemic.

Moving from one agent to another

The agony of a patient going through a call center does not end when they finally reach an agent. After often long waiting times, patients also often get transfered from one agent to another. This happens when agents have not been properly trained and cannot give the patient the necessary information related to their healthcare journey. This combined with the previously built-up frustration of waiting in queue to reach an agent, leads patients away from contacting call centers and in turn, the health clinic loses patients. In addition to this, when moving from one agent to another, patient can sometimes experience additional waiting times.

Poorly trained agents in call centers lead to dissatisfied patients

We have mentioned that agents who are not properly trained often cannot give the necessary information to the patient calling right away and sometimes need to transfer that patient to another agent. However, additional problems can arise when agents have not been properly trained to deal with patients and perform efficient healthcare interactions.

For example, a number of patients feel frustrated after talking with a customer service representative even if they got the information they needed. Not all patients are alike and agents need to know and understand how to approach each patient differently and properly. However, this cannot happen if they have not been through a complete customer services training. How an agent deals with a patient is extremely important in the world of healthcare. Sadly, a great number of call centers overlook this aspect and this leads to frustrated patients.

The majority of call centers today are still multichannel entities and not omnichannel

Social, email, live-chat and other platforms are needed for a call center to be omnichannel. However, most call centers are still only multichannel entities and have rarely integrated other platforms to reduce repetition. Repeating their name to the same agent twice, or repeating their name over and over again after being switched from one agent to another, are all the things patients dislike. To be truly omnichannel, call centers need to integrate other channels and it is essential your representatives know the customer was on the website, talking to a person or an AI for example. Agents should be aware of the steps that have already been taken to resolve the issue of the patient.

Communication with patients - Are call centers the only solution?

Overall, as we can see, there are numerous different problems related to call centers. They are generally disliked by many and are also very expensive to manage and set-up. Is there a better, more efficient and cost-effective solution? As we have mentioned above, integrating other channels is extrememly important. Going back to the Replicant survey mentioned at the beginning of this article, nearly 80% of consumers would converse with a machine to avoid long hold times and other problems related to call centers.

So, this leads us to the new and innovative solutions for a better outreach of health clinics and a more effective communication with patients. Efficient digital tools and services powered by a natural language processing engine such as Patricia are designed to understand the needs of patients and improve the patient experience throughout their healthcare journey. This kind of proprietary natural language processing engine, built 100% to manage health interactions, can interact with patients completely naturally, and perform all of the tasks a call center would do but more efficiently. Patients can receive the information they need instantly, and can also quickly book appointments, check schedules, change appointments, confirm appointments, and so much more.

In conclusion, call centers are synonymous with bad customer services because of long waiting times, poorly trained agents, and complicated menus. The new digital solutions are already here and working. Health clinics can benefit from the usage of AI now more than ever. More importantly, conversational AI can allow patients to have a quick and stress-free healthcare journey were they feel comfortable and are not left frustrated.

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