What to Do First When Upgrading Your Call Center in a Crisis

Published On: April 1st, 20203 min read

This is the second in a series of blogs about improving your call center.

When a hospital, clinic or medical practice gets flooded with calls from worried patients, it’s only natural to think automation is the answer. If a bot can handle the easiest calls, the reasoning goes, then the humans can spend more time answering questions that befuddle the smartest learning algorithms.

A new breed of tools called Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) can indeed transform your patient-support experience. The trouble is that for all the advantages of IVAs (which are abundant), they can’t cure today’s crush of patient calls because:

  • It can take a month or longer to get an IVA system up and running. Most medical firms can’t wait that long in the middle of a public health emergency.
  • Going all-in with IVAs too quickly can be risky. Trying to do too many things at once can mess up everything.
  • IVAs require a substantial dataset to train their algorithms to translate the content of human conversations into signals of human intent. It takes time to build up that dataset.

These challenges underscore the value of thinking in terms of a journey to IVA functionality that starts out simple by automating a single communication channel. Once you’ve done that, then you can move to automating multiple channels and then, finally, implementing a robust IVA solution.

Automating Your First Communication Channel

Let’s say you’re getting about three-quarters of your patient communications from three channels: voice phone calls, text messages and a web input form. The other one-quarter comes from channels like social media and popular chatting platforms.

You want to pick a channel that gets enough usage to provide valuable data but is still fairly easy to automate. This channel also should carry the lowest risk of unexpected glitches angering large numbers of patients.

Often, a webchat is a useful starting point. An automated script can answer the easiest questions like “what are your office hours?” or “where do I go to schedule an appointment?” Just being able to automate a of couple of common questions takes some of the load off of your human patient-support team.

This gives you help when you and your patients need it most — without an extended wait for a full IVA system.

Moreover, within hours you’ll start getting precious data signaling patients’ intent. Learning algorithms can be trained to identify the patterns in people’s questions. As the algorithms build a massive dataset of right and wrong answers, they teach themselves to anticipate people’s desires and serve them even better.

Training data from people’s questions and other online behaviors makes artificial intelligence and machine learning possible. In the weeks and months to come, you’ll feed more and more training data into newly automated channels that will form the bedrock of a full-functioning IVA system.

A Partner for Your IVA Journey

A simple chatbot can get you on the road to IVA functionality and leave you better prepared for the next new influx of patient calls.

At DMI, we’ve implemented IVAs in a range of sectors including health care, finance and government. We have a deep, rich pool of talent in business consulting, automation, system architecture, machine learning, data science and customer experience. We also use Agile methodologies to get the optimum solution into our clients’ hands in tight time frames.

These skills make all the difference when your call center is at risk of being overwhelmed.

–Niraj Patel, director, artificial intelligence