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While few people are happy with the current state of healthcare in the United States, one ray of sunshine comes from the growing role medical answering services and healthcare call centers play in providing professional, personal care and attention to patients and their caregivers.
Consider these important healthcare services:
Seminar and Class Registration
Medical call centers can register attendees for various classes and seminars, such as wellness classes, navigating insurance options, nutrition seminars, exercise classes, and so forth. They can capture registration information, attendance numbers, and possible billing information.
Download Checklist on how to compare Medical Call Centers>>
Don’t risk losing a patient in your network to a provider outside your network. By offering a physician referral service through your answering service, you can hold on to each patient and optimize the scope of care you provide to him or her.
Medical Answering Service
Not all telephone answering services are equal. Some answering services focus on commercial accounts and don’t understand the needs of doctors, clinics, and hospitals, as well as the concerns of their patients and caregivers.
A medical answering service is like a phone specialist that provides laser-focused attention on the healthcare industry.
Patients can preregister for tests and procedures over the phone and in advance of their appointment time. This speeds up the process on the day of their appointment and reduces stress. Everyone gains from patient preregistration provided by your answering service.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts tremendous financial pressure on hospitals to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions. Strategically timed post-discharge phone calls by your answering service can help patients avoid a return trip to the hospital and identify those patients who may be at risk of making a repeat visit.
Intervention is key, and the telephone is the most cost-effective way to provide it.
Remote Switchboard Outsourcing
All hospitals have a switchboard (sometimes called an operator console) that they use to answer calls, provide information, and transfer callers. However, the staff that performs these tasks need not be onsite.
In fact remote staff at your telephone answering service can provide hospital switchboard service, 24/7, at an affordable rate.
Patient Appointment Scheduling
An open slot in a physician’s schedule is lost revenue. Its inefficient and a waste of time. Medical answering services can fill open shifts around the clock.
Imagine going home in the evening with three open appointments in your morning schedule, but then your answering service fills all three with calls from patients that came in after hours, before your office was even open.
Patient Appointment Reminders
Filling open appointments is one thing. Having patients show up when scheduled is another challenge. Sometimes they forget, and other times they change their minds, but they don’t bother to let anyone know.
Strategically placed answering service reminders via phone, email, and text help ensure that patients don’t forget and identifies those who changed their minds, which allows your answering service the opportunity to fill those open slots.
Nurse Triage Answering Service
While normal answering service staff isn’t qualified to give out medical advice, a nurse triage answering service can. Licensed nurses follow carefully established medical protocols to assist concerned patients and their caregivers, over the phone, to assess symptoms and determine the best action to take.
While not all answering services can provide all these services or do them well, a professional medical answering service can.
Publish Date: December 11, 2016 5:00 AM
Whether you are a single electrician working to make a living, a small-sized firm bidding for more work, or a growing contractor set to lead your market, you must constantly balance three things: do the work, respond to existing accounts, and secure new business.But you can only do one at a time, so you need help. Regardless of the size of your staff or if you have no staff, an answering service for electricians can help you juggle these various needs while you’re out making things happen.
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1. Dispatch Emergencies
Providing service coverage for contract customers, large accounts, and emergency needs is an essential part of your electrical contracting business.
However, it doesn’t make sense to staff your office around the clock just to answer phone calls. Yet automated technology falls short of their promise of a no-hassle solution.
Your answering service can take these calls for you. They can screen calls, separating true emergencies from issues that can wait until normal business hours from non-service requests.
The results are satisfied customers, happier staff, and less harried management.
2. Handle Routine Calls
No one wants to answer a routine phone call in the middle of a job or while trying to complete an important quote or respond to a bid request. Yet routine calls do come in, and for the long-term sake of your business you can’t ignore them.
Your answering service can handle many of these calls for you. They can answer commonly asked questions so that you don’t need to call people back.
Examples might include your service rates, availability, hiring status, mailing address, email, and so forth. While these calls are important to the caller, they usually aren’t worth you being interrupted.
Your answering service can handle this burden for you.
3. Provide Fast Response to Contract Accounts
Large businesses have contracts with you to handle their ongoing electrical needs on an expedited basis.
They pay for a fast response, and you strive to provide it.
An answering service for electricians is the critical link that allows you to do so.
Don’t let a call from your largest customer be displaced by a much less important service need or routine phone call.
Your answering service can rush your response for your premium accounts to keep them happy and served well.
4. Help Turn Prospects into Customers
Prospective customers represent new business. Ignoring them now puts your future at risk, so you must handle them appropriately.
Even so, it’s hard to respond in a timely manner along with attending to all of the other demands on your packed schedule.
Your answering service can provide prospects with basic rates, gather essential information, and even schedule appointments for your salesperson.
With an answering service, you can be well on your way to winning a new account before your competition even responds.
Publish Date: November 28, 2016 5:00 AM
Some people think a virtual receptionist is a piece of automated technology that answers phone calls. This couldn't be further from the truth. In reality they are a real person ready to help when you need them.They are trained in telephone etiquette and customer service skills to delight your callers. They will answer the phone in your company name, representing you and your company as a friendly and knowledgable person.
The virtual part means they aren’t actually in your office. Though your callers will perceive it, your receptionist isn’t actually there. Their presence is virtual, but the professional phone services they provide are very real. And your callers won’t know the difference.
A virtual receptionist can…
Answer Your Calls When You Need To Focus
Sometimes you need to finish a quote right away, prepare for a meeting, or meet a pressing deadline. A telephone call, no matter how important, will keep you from accomplishing your mission on time. But a ringing phone is distracting, ignoring it is hard, and not answering it is rude to callers.
They can handle those calls for you. Then you can complete your urgent work on time and without interruption. It’s that easy.
Answer Your Calls When You Are Busy
What happens when the phone rings while you’re meeting with a client, participating in a conference call, or talking on the phone?
You hear the phone ring. Your client or prospect hears the phone ring, too. It can be distracting. It's also a bit embarrassing that you don’t have a more professional communication solution in place.
A virtual receptionist is your professional solution. Let them attend to your phone calls while you attend to business. It’s an elegant solution to a perplexing problem, which preserves your image as a business professional.
Answer Your Calls When You Are Out
If you’re not in the office and your phone rings, no one hears it. But the caller knows, and it doesn’t convey a professional image.
Yet you can’t be in two places at once. You must meet with clients and sometimes have to leave the office to make things happen. But don’t leave your phone alone.
Leave your ringing phone with your virtual receptionist, who will care for it while you care for the rest of your business.
Answer Your Calls When You Are Closed
A final consideration is evenings, weekends, and holidays. You’ve worked hard and need the time off. You strive for work-life balance, so a phone call interruption when you’re not working is unacceptable.
Yet ignoring the call could lose you a client or future business. What should you do?
Enjoy your time off and protect your personal life when you turn your phone over to a professional. They can keep your business going 24/7 even if you’re not a 24/7 worker.
They are the ideal solution for the entrepreneur, as well as small to medium sized businesses. Your virtual receptionist is scalable, cost-effective, and available on demand. Hire yours today.
Publish Date: November 15, 2016 5:00 AM
In our post '4 Key Benefits to Call Recording' we wrote about the value answering services provide when they record all their calls. Call recording provides a great means for dispute resolution, information verification, and quality assurance. Call recording systems are 100% digital making it easy to record, store, and share phone conversations.
Here are some essential facts you should know about answering services that record calls:
The best practice is to alert callers that the conversation is being recorded.
One way to alert callers that recording is happening is to play a periodic beep tone during the call. The beep lasts less than a quarter of a second and reoccurs about every twelve seconds.
The beep tone can distract some callers. An alternative is to play an initial message to notify callers that recording is taking place. A common notification is “this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.”
Professional answering services that record calls can offer both notification options.
Online Access to Call Recordings
When you want to access a recording, some answering services have to manually search for the recording and email it to you. This takes time, which they often charge for. Plus you need to wait for them to work this research task into their other workload.
The best answering services provide a more comprehensive solution. They have a secure portal for clients to use to access their own recordings. These portals are available 24/7 and allow for unlimited searching, retrieval, and listening. Users can also download these recordings and save them on their local computer.
Nothing to Hide
Some answering services but choose not provide an online portal to access call recordings. The problem is that they are afraid what you might hear. They want to listen to the call first.
Answering services that have nothing to hide with regards to the quality of their service offer online access to listen to calls. They gladly offer their clients direct, immediate access to recordings of their calls. It's impossible to achieve perfection on every call. Having access to online access lets you 'inspect what you expect'.
Answering services that offer open access to their call recordings are the best of the best.
Publish Date: October 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Property management companies handle the day-to-day real estate issues for landlords and absentee property owners. Property managers generally charge a percentage of the rents collected, so their goals are to keep tenants happy, occupancy high, and rents paid up.
To remain a viable business, they must do all this in a cost-effective manner. That’s the astute managers hire property management answering services to handle their critical phone communications so they can stay on top of their business.
Telephone answering services can help property managers by providing these six critical services:
#1 Back-up for Your Staff
Property managers can answer phone calls when they’re in the office. But what about when they’re out showing a vacancy, meeting with a vendor, or investigating a problem?
While some property managers may decide to let the phone ring or trust their voice mail to handle important messages, the smart play is to let the personal staff at their answering service handle these calls for them.
# 2 After Hours Coverage
Property managers don’t work around the clock, but tenants and prospects often call outside of regular business hours. An answering service effectively extends office hours to 24/7 coverage. They can work for you when you’re not.
#3 Capture New Leads
When someone calls about availability or rates, they want an immediate answer. If you treat them to a garbled answering machine message or don’t answer your phone at all, they will go on to the next name on their list.
The odds of them calling back are slim. Let your answering service give out this critical information to impatient callers right away. In fact, they can even …
#4 Schedule Showings
Let your answering service know what times you are available for showings. Then, once they pre-screen your prospect, they can schedule a showing aligned with your availability – during that first call.
Eliminating the need to call back and the frustration of playing telephone tag. With this approach, it’s likely you’ll be showing prospects a property before your competition has a chance to actually talk with them.
#5 Dispatch Emergency Maintenance Calls
Getting tenants is part one of the challenge of property management. Keeping tenants is the next part. This means you must respond fast when emergencies arise. Don’t make a tenant suffer with a clogged toilet, no heat, or broken shower until the next morning.
Your answering service can take these calls, assess the problem – according to your protocols, and contact your on-call staff or emergency vendors without any direct involvement on your part or interruption to your personal time.
#6 Make Rent Reminder Calls
Good renters pay their rent on time, but some need prodding. While your answering service may not become your complete collection solution, they can take part, such as making reminder phone calls or sending out email notices and texts to late paying renters.
Just give your answering service a list of past due renters and let them make those initial contacts for you. Some tenants may just need a reminder and others need to know you’re serious and won’t tolerate late payments.
Your answering service can accomplish all these things and more. The best part is their low monthly cost, which is a small fraction of what you would pay to hire another employee to handle these items. Plus your answering service never sleeps, calls in sick, or takes days off. They have your back 24/7.
Publish Date: October 20, 2016 5:00 AM
Are you familiar with virtual receptionists? If you own or manage a business, you’ll want to know what they are and how they function. While some people think a virtual receptionist is a piece of automated technology that answers phone calls, this is not a true virtual receptionist.
A virtual receptionist is a real person, professionally trained in phone etiquette and customer service skills, who answers your phone for you. They answer calls in your company’s name, give out information, transfer callers, assess emergencies in accordance with your protocols, and take messages per your instructions. They function as a real, living telephone receptionist.
The virtual part means they aren’t actually in your office. Though your callers will perceive it, the virtual receptionists aren’t actually there. Their presence is virtual, but the professional phone services they provide are very real. And your callers won’t know the difference.
A virtual receptionist is ideal for many business situations:
One Person Businesses
In a sole proprietorship, you are the only employee. It’s up to you to make things happen. This often takes you away from the office or makes you unable to answer the ringing phone. Your virtual receptionist can handle these calls for you. Plus you have the added benefit that your virtual receptionist makes your company seem twice as big.
Small businesses usually can’t afford to hire a full time receptionist, yet someone needs to answer the phone. This seems easy enough to do, but what happens when everyone is focused on a moneymaking project or out of the office working with customers? Your virtual reception stands ready to answer those calls whenever you can’t.
Medium Sized Businesses
A medium sized business often has a receptionist on their payroll, but what happens when your receptionist is on break, out to lunch, on vacation, or sick? What happens when calls come in so fast that your receptionist can’t keep up? Well, you could hire a second person, but this is seldom a practical solution. The cost-effective approach is to tap the on-demand services of a virtual receptionist to handle these infrequent, yet critical, situations.
While large businesses usually have a central switchboard to handle incoming phone calls, there are often department-level receptionists scattered around the company, too. In each of these situations, the department receptionist faces the same scenario as the main receptionist at a medium sized business. Plus the central switchboard receptionists can probably benefit from the backup capabilities of a virtual receptionist, too.
A virtual receptionist works for a fraction of the cost as a person on your payroll. And once you factor in benefits, vacations, sick days, and breaks, your virtual receptionist becomes an even more cost-effective solution.
Don’t let your phone ring, and don’t hire another employee to answer those calls. Just use a virtual receptionist from your telephone answering service. It’s quick to set up and easy to use. Be sure to check out our tips for what to avoid when hiring a virtual receptionist.
Publish Date: October 11, 2016 5:00 AM
As a HVAC contractor, using a telephone answering service is a great option for you to consider. Having a live person (actually an entire team) to answer your phones when you need them 24/7 is never a bad thing. It's the ultimate in customer service and gives you a leg up on the competition.
Common service that HVAC Answering Services provide:
- Sales leads capture
- Service call dispatching
- Appointment scheduling
For the best experience, follow these 4 tips when setting up HVAC answering service.
1. Look for an Answering Service That Has a Proven Process
Using a call center that has experience with working with other HVAC companies is your best bet. The best telephone answering services will be able to share their documented proven process.
It explains the set-up process, what happens when service begins and what to expect day to day. You should also be able to get their advice on what best practices others in your industry are using.
2. Make Sure Your Instructions Are Clear
It might be tempting use the telephone answering service right away. Especially if you’re shorthanded. Fight the urge to do this! You’ll be glad that you did. Make sure your expectations are clear for each type of call you expect to receive. This will help the call center provide the best level of customer service to your callers.
This is where using a call center that provides HVAC answering services pays dividends. Most will have a template that can be used and then adjusted to your specific needs and instruction. This can make set-up a breeze while ensuring that you’ll receive excellent customer service.
3. Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
Always think about the caller's experience. The telephone answering service becomes an extension of your business. There are many ways to wow your customers with a HVAC answering service. From how the phone is answered, to already knowing the caller’s name because the caller ID brought up their name on the screen.
Here are some ways the right answering service can provide a personal touch:
- Have the phone answered in your company’s name the same way they are familiar with during hours.
- Make sure the telephone answering service can automatically look up customer information by caller ID match or by name. The caller feels appreciated that you know who they are and are more likely to stay loyal to your business.
- Gather just the information that you need to handle the call. Many customers, especially those without heat or air, are frustrated when asked too many questions. A good example of this would be asking for an email address or billing address.
- If a first time caller, ask the person “how did you hear about us?”. If they were referred by another customer send the customers a thank you for referring business your way.
- Offering a reassuring ending to the call. Making sure the customer understands what will happen next puts them at ease. Example: “Mr. Smith, I will be dispatching our maintenance technician Tom who will be in touch with you in the next few minutes. Thank you for using ACME Air.”
4. Make Sure Your Team Is up to Speed
The answering service and your staff need to be in sync. Make sure that your front office staff and technicians know how work with the service that you select. They should know how to update on-call schedules and how to check-in to clear service calls. Most services offer online options for both of these.
Pro Tip: Create a contact for the HVAC Answering Service that has their check-in line. Text it to your service technicians so they will know who is calling or can easily reach the service if needed.
Publish Date: September 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Are you confident your medical answering service provider is equipped with the right technology to handle your patient calls? If not, it’s probably time to take a closer look at the call center you’re doing business with.
The telephone is the most popular way for patients to contact their medical practice. Whether they are a current patient wanting to schedule an appointment, a potential patient looking for information, or someone with an emergency, your practice needs to be equipped to handle calls during and after business hours. The key? Up to date technology.
While your medical answering service may not be the number one thing on your priority list, it is too important to overlook. These tools can set your practice apart and ensure that your patients feel taken care of, listened to, and supported. If you’re not 100% satisfied with your current medical answering service provider or if you’re looking to hire a call center for the first time, here’s what to look for.
1. Secure Text Messaging App
Secure text messaging is a great option as pagers are being phased-out and medical offices want to streamline customer service efforts. Look for services that offer messages sent via text, encrypted text message, email, phone, and fax. As always, verify that they offer Patient Health Information (PHI) and HIPAA compliant methods.
Your staff should be able to send secure text messages simply and efficiently to any member of your team from a web browser. An enhanced service will also offer the ability to message multiple staff members at the same time.
In today’s fast-paced world, secure text messaging is an excellent way to keep everyone in touch, on the same page, and on schedule!
2. Secure Client Web Portal
The two most essential elements of a medical answering service web portal are that it’s secure, and you have access to update and manage information about your practice. Make sure the website portal has an Extended Validation Certificate that verifies it is controlled by a legal entity. This extra level of encryption makes sure you keep sensitive PHI data safe and secure.
The risk of not having a secure website is significant. Any messages containing PHI puts your practice at risk for a HIPAA data breach violations. Not only can those violations add up to some serious coin, but also your reputation and credibility as a practice will likely be hindered.
You also want your portal to be easy to access and update. Any time you get a new patient, need to change the schedule, or update phone numbers, you want to be able to do so efficiently. The information you put in this portal is what your medical answering service team will go off of. You want to make sure the information they have is correct!
3. Real-time Access to Patient Messages and Information
Thorough, well-organized, and easy to understand records are every medical practice’s dream. Having real-time access to patient messages and information is an essential part of providing premier care.
Look for a medical answering service that offers a record of which physician was reached and their response time to the patient. Professional call centers should offer to import this data into patient electronic health records (EHRs) to streamline the process and avoid data re-entry.
4. Online Access to Patient Call Audio
Patient experience is more important than ever. In fact, their experience influences the level of reimbursement practices are receiving from insurers. That’s why it is a huge benefit to be able to listen to recordings of how your patient calls were handled.
Don’t leave this to chance – verify that your patient’s experience is optimal. When hiring a call center, take the time to train them on how calls should be handled and then follow up to make sure your instructions are being followed.
Side note: If you notice repeated problems with your call center’s professionalism, it’s probably time to switch medical answering service providers.
5. Web On-Call Software
As a medical practice, you have a lot of different team members and their schedules change often. Make sure your medical answering service provider offers a way to update your on-call schedule on the go. Avoid having the wrong person notified when they aren’t on-call and say goodbye to mismanaged emergencies.
The best web on-call tools are mobile optimized, allow schedule sharing, and have a secure text messaging capability. An efficient on-call system will also keep your call-center informed so they can do their job as professionally as possible!
6. Appointment Reminder Service
If you’re like many medical practices, one of your biggest losses of revenue comes from patient no-shows. Given the busyness of life, most of us need a reminder to ensure we are where we need to be when we need to be there.
A tech-savvy call center should offer the ability to upload appointments or even integrate reminders with EHR appointment software. This capability provides a way for patients to confirm or cancel their appointment. By getting this information ahead of time, you can effectively fill vacated appointment times. These automated reminders will no longer burden your staff, and can save you money by eliminating the mailed appointment reminder.
Publish Date: September 20, 2016 5:00 AM
A telephone answering service sells an intangible product. You can’t see it, touch it, or hold it. Someone must describe it to you and explain how it will solve a problem, save you money, or make your business better.
But until you actually use it, you don’t know for sure if it’s the solution you need. While there’s no getting around this dilemma, there are some key answering service characteristics that when present can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.Consider the following:
1. Family Owned and Operated
Traditionally all answering services were family owned and operated. But some corporations have entered the industry, buying up these family-owned operations. While there is inherently nothing wrong with this, in most cases these large conglomerates haven’t been able to scale their acquisitions. The service they provide to their clients has suffered as a result.
Thankfully there are still family owned and operated answering services. Selecting an answering service that is both family owned and family operated greatly increases the chances of experiencing the results you expect.
Some of the acquisition-minded corporations will buy a family-owned answering service and leave key management, including the former owners, there to run it. While this keeps people with an ownership perspective in place to operate the answering service, the reality is that they no longer actually own it. They cannot make quick decisions as they once did. Instead they must defer to the actual owners who don’t work in that office.
The reality is that most people find it hard to move from being an owner to an employee. Look for an answering service with independent ownership that doesn’t have to answer to a distant authority.
Selecting an answering service that is based in the United States and operates fully within its borders, suggests many things – in addition to being patriotic. First, their staff will have mastery of English communication, avoiding impossible to understand accents, confusing word selections, and confounding sentence structure.
Second their staff will understand US culture and expectations. Did you know that as part of their training, agents in offshore call centers often watch US television and listen to US music to understand our culture? How realistic of an understanding does that make?
Third, a US-based answering service operates in a stable political environment and enjoys a reliable infrastructure. Most offshore locations worry about one or both of these issues.
In many industries there are arguable advantages of being based in other countries, but this doesn’t work for answering services, which rely on the competency and communication skills of their staff.
4. Proven Record
Look at how long an answering service has been in business. While a startup may talk a good game, they can’t prove a thing.
Has the answering service won awards? Are they growing? Do they have a professional staff who works from a pleasant and attractive office? Do they have new equipment and the latest software? While none of these things is essential to success, they do not exist at an answering service that isn’t successful.
To make your answering service selection simpler and greatly increase the likelihood of picking a winner, seek one that is family owned and operated, US-based, independent, and has a proven track record. If you do that, it’s hard to go wrong.
Publish Date: September 15, 2016 5:00 AM
Astute business managers often wonder if they should select an established, proven answering service or try a neophyte provider. While there is no one universal answer, the following discussion will provide reliable guidance and much to consider.
The Benefits of Established Answering Services
A telephone answering service that has been around a long time, say more than fifty years has proven many things. (The oldest answering services are more than eighty.) First, they know how to adapt to changes, and there have been numerous changes over the past several decades that have scuttled many a lessor-prepared service.
Second, they have demonstrated they can successfully move from one leader to another, from one generation to the next. Few small businesses can say that and endure for the long haul over many decades. Most struggle to migrate from entrepreneurial charisma to smart business leadership that transcends the personality of its founder.
Third, there is a high likelihood they are plugged into the industry, are active in supportive associations, and have established long-term relationships with the best vendors and other leading providers. All of these connections benefit their clients.
An established answering service has proven itself and deserves attention. Their longevity indicates their stability.
The Benefits of New Answering Services
Over the years, many people have tried their hand at starting an answering service. They bring some compelling promises to the discussion. They are filled with passion, they have innovative ideas, and they are all in – because their financial future depends on it.
They often offer lower prices and promise better service. Their key staff may have a can-do attitude of an owner. Whatever you need, the answer is “yes.”
All together these expectations of new provides an enticing allure.
The Risks of Established Answering Services
Coming up with a list of cons for an established answering service is a bit more difficult. After all, they have proven over time that they can successfully deal with problems; they have overcome every bump in the road for decades. Perhaps one possible trait to watch out for is a leader who is coasting (which can’t go on for long if the business is to remain viable).
The claim that as a mature business they will be slow to change and adapt is countered by their long history of changing and adapting, so this is a pointless concern.
The Risks of Start-Up Answering Services
The start-up answering service has no history to confirm their ability to serve clients, provide the quality they promise, or maintain the low rates they initially offer. As stated earlier, many entrepreneurs have entered the industry, but few of them have survived.
Yes, every answering service in existence today was once a new one. Their founders made the right decisions that allowed them to stay in business and grow, but many more start-ups have failed to do so.
The risk of going with a new answering service is that they may over promise and under deliver, and you pay for their idealism. Yes, they may be able to work things out and move from new to proven, but do you have the time to wait?
In general, if you are a risk taker, try a new answering service; you might find a winner. If you are more cautious or can’t afford a misstep, select an established, proven answering service. The decision is yours.
Publish Date: September 12, 2016 5:00 AM
What Answering Service Agreements Do
Agreements Define Expectations
A good service agreement should explain the basics of subscribed services along with other details. These details include several unlikely scenarios which may occur, but for your protection, should be defined. Examples are resolution of unexpected issues, how to end the agreement and penalties for late payments or nonpayment.
Most people sign agreements so often, for so many situations, that they give these documents little thought. Yet contracts are an astute move to provide a workable framework for the interaction between parties. For an answering service, the contract serves additional roles as well.
Contracts Kick-Off Service
Before an answering service can begin answering your telephone calls, they must first set up your account according to your expectations. A service agreement may detail these items or reference a separate document that serves the same purpose. The answering service uses this information to begin your service.
Agreements Protect Service Levels
The most critical element of signing a service agreement with your answering service is to allow them to plan. Specifically they need to schedule their staff to answer your phone. This is a critical component to giving you the best service level possible.
They look at the number of clients under contract and the historic usage of those clients. Then they project a schedule for the next week and the rest of the month, scheduling their staff accordingly. If they over schedule they can’t run a profitable business and will cut corners, and if they under schedule they can’t provide great service. That’s why an accurate schedule is so critical.
Service Agreements Are Like an RSVP
Your signed service agreement effectively tells your answering service, “I’m committing to use your service for the next month,” so please “include my needs when you schedule your staff.”
It’s the equivalent to an RSVP for a dinner party. Imagine expecting twelve guests and having sixteen show up. There will not be enough food. Awkward. Your answering service agreement is like your dinner RSVP, and it helps them make sure there is enough “food” for everyone.
Contract Best Practices
Some answering services have an annual agreement, others are monthly, and a few are too unsophisticated to even bother. Industry best practices use an agreement for an initial time, such as three months, reverting to a month-to-month understanding for the remainder of the service agreement.
This provides the answering service with an initial period to recoup their investment for the new client, including account setup, system programming, staff training, and fine-tuning. (And no, the setup fee is usually not enough to cover all these things.)
Then, after three months, service continues on a month-to-month basis. This provides the answering service with the confirmation they need to schedule their staff and gives you, the client, the most flexibility to make changes as needed.
With the appropriate service agreement, everyone wins.
Publish Date: August 18, 2016 5:00 AM
In medical school, they never covered how to handle endless patient calls, after-hours requests, and emergencies. Often your answering service is the patient’s first impression of your practice, and it can shape whether their experience is positive or negative. The intent behind hiring a medical answering service is to take your business to the next level – but what if they’re providing a sub par service?
Switch Medical Answering Service Providers When...
1. Patients are On Hold Forever
No one likes being on hold. And frankly, most people won’t put up with extended wait times – they will hang up. If your patients need to schedule an appointment, or worse, if they have an urgent need, the last thing you want is for them not to be able to get ahold of you.
If you are receiving complaints about unreasonable wait times, don’t ignore them. A professional and reputable call center will have a system to handle all phone calls promptly and efficiently.
2. Emergency Calls are Mishandled
Not all medical answering services are created equal. If your service provider did not receive training on how to handle medical situations and emergencies, they are likely doing more harm than good. The answering service staff must be aware of your emergency policies and have set standards for directing your patients’ calls. You don't want doctors being woken up in the middle of the night when they aren’t on-call or have the wrong doctor notified of an emergency.
If you hear that a patient’s emergency call was handled incorrectly, take action immediately. Do your best to make things right with your client and do what you can to make sure the situation does not happen again. Have calls recorded and regularly reviewed to ensure accuracy and professionalism.
3. Agents are Rude
You’ve worked hard to gain the trust of your clients. Don’t reward their business with rude phone operators. One way to avoid this is to make sure the company you hire uses a thorough vetting process when selecting new agents. Set clear expectations on how you want them to treat your patients, how frustrated customers should be handled, and how to best provide a positive experience. Again, make sure that there is a review process so you can verify your patients are treated with respect, patience, and understanding.
Rudeness is unacceptable and should not be overlooked. Your reasonable expectation is that your customers will be delighted with the service they receive. The hope is that they will assume the people answering the phone are simply members of your staff.
4. Patient Data is Repeatedly Incorrect
Misspellings and incorrect information are generally annoying, but when it comes to patient data, it is unacceptable. Accurate patient records are an essential element of having a professional and reliable practice. With how often your staff has to look up patient data in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) database, it’s important that the information they find is meticulous and accurate. This information can be as simple as spelling names correctly to as vital as noting allergies and prescriptions.
Repeat mistakes should not be dismissed – don’t settle for a sub par service. Not only can these mistakes make your practice look negligent, but it can also hinder the care of your patients.
5. They aren’t HIPAA Compliant
Don't mess around with HIPAA compliance. Data security is more important than ever, and it’s vital that your practice’s information is kept private. Take the necessary steps to verify your call center is consistently up to date on HIPAA best practices. After all, if a mistake happens, it doesn’t matter if you knew or not – you could be subject to hefty fines – and worse, lose the trust of your patients.
Ask your provider about their standards for handling text message notifications. To be HIPAA compliant, they must use an encrypted text messaging app to send protected health information. While this may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to finding the best medical answering service, it should not go overlooked.
Do these problems sound all-too-familiar? Every time your patients have a negative experience with your phone answering service it exponentially increases the likelihood that they will switch health care providers. Don’t settle. A cost-effective solution that improves patient satisfaction with excellent customer service is not unrealistic. Look for an HIPAA compliant medical answering service that enhances the speed and accuracy of the coordination of patient care. Your patients and staff will thank you.
Publish Date: August 12, 2016 5:00 AM
It's hard to run a business and still be available for customers' calls around the clock. Your phone is the front door to your business and first impressions count.
Sending customers to voice mail when they call could be costing your business big time.
Having a live person answering your phone makes all the difference in the world to customer perception and satisfaction. What follows are the hidden costs of using voice mail.
1. Irritating Customers
What if your customers don’t like the impersonal nature of voice mail? When a customer complains, chances are their anger will increase when they go to voice mail instead of instead of speaking with a real person.
Plus, in the time it takes you to call back, their frustration can fester even more. Instead of voice mail being a customer service tool, it becomes a customer disservice tool.
2. Lost Customers
Even worse, some customers won’t tolerate automation. Tick them off with greetings, beeps and the proverbial 'voice mail jail', they will simply take their business elsewhere.
When you look at the lifetime value of a customer, suddenly the inexpensive voice mail solution just became expensive.
3. Wasted Time
With voice mail you need to listen to all the messages. Then you need to write down the key information. Some people will drone on for five minutes and give their phone number just before they hang up.
Others talk too fast and you have to listen to their message over and over, especially for addresses and phone numbers. What if you jot the number down incorrectly? What if you can’t read your writing or make sense of your notes? It happens.
If you still have the recording, you can listen to it again. If you already erased it (which is the efficient thing to do), then you need to scour your CRM and customer files to find their number. Or maybe all you have to show for your efforts is that you’ve lost the opportunity to respond. (Refer to the first two items.)
4. Endless Telephone Tag
After a while of listening to messages you realize how much some people ramble. They can talk for two minutes and still not leave the key information you need. Then you need to call them back just to find out what they want. If they’re out, you leave them a message. Then they return the call and leave you a message, hopefully a complete one this time.
Now that you’ve learned the reason for their call, you need to research the situation and call them back again. But what if you need even more information from them? The game of phone tag rages on.
When you total up the cost of angering callers, losing customers and wasted time, the true price of voice mail really adds up. Can your business afford it?
Publish Date: July 26, 2016 5:00 AM
When a business decides they need to hire a telephone answering service or virtual receptionist, they are often anxious to start right away.
That’s understandable. It’s human nature that once we decide to do something, we want immediate results.
Sometimes people base their selection criteria on how fast their account can be set up and activated. Some companies promise “immediate activation” or some similar concept. While this is an impressive achievement, it comes at a price in terms of lost quality and being forced into a one-size-fits-all approach.
A quality answering service will never promise instant activation because to do so requires automation, and automation thwarts quality and customization.
3 things that can’t happen with “instant on” answering services:
1. Custom Set-Up
To tailor an offering to meet your specific needs, your account requires customization to fit your exacting specifications. This can’t be automated. It requires a person to specifically configure your account for you.
If you want to force your business to fit into an “instant on” answering service, then maybe a computer can automatically setup your account. But most businesses have unique expectations that require a custom configuration, which takes time to set up.
Unless you want to force your business into a cookie-cutter solution, then allow the call center the time it takes to set up your account right – the first time.
2. Staff Training
When an call center promises to start your account right away, you should know that the agents who answer your calls will do so blindly, having never heard of your company, studied the essential elements of your business, or even practiced how to answer your phone.
Is that what you want?
A better solution is to give them a couple of days to train their staff on your account. This will help ensure quality from day one. This is what you deserve.
3. Personal Attention
When you fill out an online form to automatically set up your account, what happens if you don’t understand a certain field? What do you do when you can’t fit all your critical information into their online questionnaire?
You could guess and try to make everything fit, hoping it will all work out.
Or you could give your information to a real person who knows the right way to present it to their staff in order to handle your calls correctly.
What’s More Important?
If you need service now, then the “instant activation” solutions are your only option. Just know that you will sacrifice customization, staff training, and personalized service in the process.
However, if you want a quality answering service to meet your business’s exacting requirements, then give them time to set up your account properly and train their staff. You will be glad you did.
Publish Date: July 10, 2016 5:00 AM
Ambs Call Center was just awarded the 2016 ATSI Award of Excellence for answering service quality. It marks the 6th consecutive year that our team has earned the award. We couldn't prouder of the team of dedicated people that made it happen!
“Winning the ATSI Award of Excellence for a sixth consecutive year demonstrates the true commitment to excellence that AMBS has. I am proud of the entire staff for our continued dedication to providing the highest level of service to our clients.”
-Cedric Roney, Quality Evaluator for Ambs Call Center
The Award is presented annually by the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI). ATSI is the industry trade association for call centers across North America and the United Kingdom. This year, the award was presented at the 2016 ATSI annual conference in Tampa, Florida.
Secret Shopper Program for Answering Services
The ATSI award of excellence program is a secret shopper program for call centers. Independent ATSI judges evaluate telephone answering services and call centers over a six-month period.
The scoring criteria includes courtesy, response time, accuracy and service to their clients.
If a company scores 80% or better in all categories, they are presented with the coveted Award of Excellence. The program is now in its 26th year.
Call Center Judging Criteria for Agents
- Did they use the answer phrase with a genuine interest and positive attitude?
- Was the entire answer phrase clear and could be fully understood?
- Did they enunciate clearly and speak at an appropriate pace?
- Were they professional?
- Did they convey a pleasant and helpful attitude by his/her choice of words and/or tone of voice throughout the call?
- Did they use proper manners? (2 please, 1 thank you)
- Did they use proper business phrasing and grammar throughout the call, without slang, and without the use of "OK" and/or "Um" during the call?
- Did they give the impression that they were knowledgeable by giving appropriate responses and navigating information with confidence/call flows smoothly?
- Did they guide caller throughout the call with appropriate questions, with no dead air or evidence that the caller was leading the conversation and was not pushy or rushed when/if gaining control?
- Did they offer to take a message/offer to assist, explaining how the message would be handled in a clear and professional manner?
- Did they confirm correct spelling and correct phone number?
- Was script followed per client instructions?
- Did they have a strong close by advising what they would do and ask be done with the message and by advising any additional scripting?
- How was the overall "impression" the agent left with the caller?
- Did agent remain professional and interested at all time, leaving the caller to feel confident that their needs would be met?
- Did the agent personalize by referring to the caller by name, either first or last, throughout the call (at least twice)?
- Did the agent sound engaged (appropriately concerned or compassionate) with the caller and did not sound mechanical or scriped??
Ambs Call Center was established in 1934 and has grown to become a provider of the latest telecommunications technologies to a wide range of industries throughout the nation. With locations in Jackson, MI Grand Rapids, MI, and Tampa, FL, Ambs Call Center helps businesses become more efficient and profitable with its 24-hour call center services.
Publish Date: June 27, 2016 5:00 AM
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