The New Call Center Behavior

By John Hallick

For years, hospital call centers have been limited in promoting health services through behavioral targeting. This is because they did not have access to the tools and information necessary to engage consumers in personalized marketing conversations based upon their unique healthcare experiences and consumer profiles.

However, some pioneering medical centers have started to implement Web-based solutions to give call centers remote access to their customer relationship management (CRM) system that integrates callers’ demographic, marketing, psychographic, and, most importantly, health data in a single place. Using this real-time technology, call center representatives are now able to go beyond traditional communication – which is hindered by limited data – and truly individualize phone interaction to get the most value out of every call by encouraging consumers to take action. This helps hospitals build stronger patient relationships and increase revenue by pro-actively addressing callers’ individual health needs on the fly.

This behavioral targeted call center approach also allows the hospital to strategically “up-sell” and “cross-sell” to callers, which is the most essential component to creating new opportunities for the hospital. Moreover, the system’s ability to quickly let the call center know whether a caller had previously inquired or received material promoting a related or different service provides an excellent opportunity for the call center representative to follow-up on that information.

How It Works: When a call comes into the call center, the online application identifies the caller using various data elements, such as name and incoming phone number. Once the call center representative verifies the caller’s identity, the Web technology securely accesses and searches the hospital’s CRM database for the individual’s age, gender, address, education, income, and other relevant information. The database also contains records of the services the hospital marketed to the caller in the past, as well as claims and personal health information, assuming a caller is, or has been, a patient at the facility.

Using artificial intelligence and hybrid algorithms, CRM analyzes the data stored in its database to predict and rank the likelihood of an individual to develop certain diseases or medical needs within the next twelve to eighteen months. Just as financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether to lend money, CRM assigns similar scores to patients and prospects to help hospitals reach educated decisions about what health services to market to each individual. To ensure privacy and confidentiality, the system goes one step further than credit bureaus; call center employees never see consumers’ health risk scores or medical information.  All they see is the byproduct or the “talking points” that CRM generates behind the scenes.

After the online application connects to the hospital’s CRM database, it dynamically generates and displays personalized marketing scripts for call center employees to follow. Multiple scripts are displayed to the employee in rank order; top ranked items are those for which the patient or prospect received the highest health-risk score.

Prompts for the call center representative may also change during the call depending on the direction of the conversation; every click creates an event trigger, alerting the system to reevaluate the priority level of each script. Moreover, the services – or educational material – offered or marketed by call center staff will vary according to each individual consumer’s needs.

For Example: When a woman calls for a physician referral, the CRM software may find that she is at-risk for breast cancer, yet she hasn’t had a mammogram over the past three years. Because she is overdue for a check-up, encouraging her to get a mammogram will most likely appear at the top of the list of things to talk to her about. The call center employee will then use the system-generated customized script – which contains the appropriate phrasing and tone that will most appeal to the woman – to get her to take action and schedule an appointment. If she has young children in the household who haven’t been seen by a physician for over a year, the system may also direct the call center representative to ask whether the woman wants to schedule an appointment with or needs a referral to a pediatrician.

The result of the conversation fulfills the needs of the woman’s initial inquiry, a physician referral, and addresses those needs that were not on the top of her mind but are relevant and important to help keep her – and her children – healthy.

Hospitals can also apply behavioral targeted call center communication to outbound calls targeting high-value patients. For instance, they can offer screenings to individuals at risk of developing heart attacks. Alternatively, they can ask patients new to the area if they want a tour of the medical center.

The beauty of this type of targeted system is that it not only addresses the needs of the caller, it factors in the hospital’s capabilities as well. For example, if the hospital does not offer a service that will meet the needs of a caller’s top health risk, the system can automatically suppress any messages related to it so the call center representative will only see the prompts that are top-ranked for the caller and the hospital.

The CRM Secret Sauce: The driving force behind behavioral targeted call center communication is the CRM database. The CRM database not only houses the essential patient and consumer data relevant to callers, it addresses traditional marketing hurdles, such as integrating a hospital’s multiple communication efforts. This also includes direct mail, Internet, and email. Having all relevant data reside in a single platform enables organizations to record, consolidate, track, and analyze all communication so call center representatives don’t find themselves in a situation where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

CRM also allows hospitals to measure the return-on-investment of their individual or multi-media marketing initiatives, including call center outreach. Hospitals previously were unable to perform this task effectively, but CRM’s analytic tools provide the intelligence that organizations need to easily and quickly reallocate marketing resources and determine which programs are working or should be dropped.

Over the past decade, numerous hospitals have adopted CRM to generate more leads and use marketing resources more effectively in a difficult economic environment. As they see the value of CRM firsthand, hospitals are seeking to further leverage the benefits of the technology by transforming call centers from being providers of assisted services to strategic resources that further drive revenue, support creation and execution of effective marketing programs, and enhance physician and consumer loyalty.

As CRM makes further inroads in healthcare, call centers will play a critical role in enabling medical centers to differentiate themselves in a competitive environment, improve service to consumers, design and deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, and maximize marketing opportunities.

John Hallick is the president and CEO of CPM Marketing Group, Inc.

[From the August/September 2010 issue of AnswerStat magazine]