Meeting with Your CFO

By Joanne Cawley

Call centers are a familiar part of many U.S. hospitals. Some have been delivering community based services for decades, while others are still in their infancy. For both, funding is a tremendous strategic issue. Between employing qualified clinical and non-clinical staff and using the latest technology, call centers are often viewed as “cost centers” that make little or no contribution to the financial security of the organization. Those working within a call center know the kind of value that it adds to patients and the entire organization. However, in today’s economic climate, you should expect that your call center will be asked to prove its value to the CFO in real numbers. So, how can you demonstrate the value of your call center, the revenue it generates, and prove the worth of all of your efforts?

The Buck Stops There: One of the responsibilities of a CFO is to establish an overall strategy to reduce spending while increasing revenue. Although many people feel intimidated by the title “Chief Financial Officer,” this person can assist you in the definition of your call center business goals and help you determine the type (direct or indirect) and amount (percentage) of revenue you can claim for your existing call center services. The CFO should also be included in the planning process for new services so you can establish from the beginning both support for the program and agreement on the amount of revenue the call center may claim.

Keep in mind that every organization’s financial philosophy may be different when it comes to the call center. For example, it may be acceptable to one CFO to have the call center simply able to cover its costs or break even. Another may want the call center to show positive net revenue contribution. In some cases, it may even be acceptable to be an expense, as long as the call center is contributing to the overall mission or goal of the organization. But you will probably not get a clear picture of what that philosophy is until you meet with your own CFO.

After you meet with the CFO and understand what his or her philosophy is for the organization, you can begin tailoring programs within your center that bring in either direct or indirect revenue. Direct revenue are dollars that are paid directly from the buyer to the service provider and may be obtained from programs like class registration or after hours triage support for physicians who pay a set dollar amount per call. Indirect revenue refers to dollars generated or saved for other entities; it can be obtained by providing services for other departments to help them better manage costs and increase productivity. By working with your CFO, you can determine together a revenue recognition plan that will be credible and build the security and stability of your call center.

And the Winner Is…You! Using a revenue-tracking program can help you collect appropriate data and track revenue generated through services and programs. Working with your CFO to show how your call center has financially contributed to the overall organization will add credibility to the importance of your programs and services. It could even extend the life of your call center!

Joanne M. Cawley is the Marketing Communications Specialist for McKesson Health Solutions. One of their products is CareEnhanceTM Revenue Tracker (CERT).

[From the February/March 2005 issue of AnswerStat magazine]