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By Omri Hayner
The pandemic served as a catalyst for cloud adoption in every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Organizations, providers and payers all made a sudden and rapid shift to cloud hosting to manage the new demands of the pandemic.
But cloudification in healthcare goes well beyond telemedicine, use of which has stabilized at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic, according to McKinsey. Many organizations also raced to move their customer service functions to the cloud in response to pandemic-driven restrictions on business operations. Cloud-based contact centers have become critical extensions of how healthcare organizations, payers and providers alike provide great customer service to patients and members.
Even before the pandemic, there was explosive growth in the need for flexible, scalable customer service. Cloud-based solutions offer many benefits not only in terms of overall cost, flexibility and scalability but also in their ability to meet evolving patient demands. Whether the patient engages via phone, text message, or chat, they expect fast resolution via their channel of choice—and patients are increasingly choosing digital channels to communicate with the customer service agents they rely on to schedule appointments, resolve issues and work with back-office agents to answer questions, process claims and more.
How Digital Has Changed the Customer Experience
The digital world added multiple layers of complexity to how organizations manage the customer service teams so critical to a frictionless customer experience due to:
- The emergence of many new channels healthcare organizations can use to interact with customers.
- The capability of these channels to enable employees to interact with multiple customers simultaneously.
- The characteristic for some of these channels to have delayed responses between employees and patients—for example, when a patient emails with a question but then steps away from his or her computer for lunch or the evening before receiving an agent’s response with a clarifying question.
- The possibility that the channel may change over the course of the interaction—from chat to a voice call or phone to email, for example.
- The difficulty in interpreting traditional KPIs like average handle time or the number of interactions.
Addressing This New Complexity Can Only Be Done in the Cloud
Meeting customer demand for a seamless, frictionless experience across channels relies on having good data to determine when customers contact you, how customers contact you, and how long those interactions take. It requires the ability to harness big data to optimize key workforce management processes like planning, forecasting, scheduling and managing intraday changes. The cloud is a prerequisite to making all of this this happen.
Traditional ways of collecting data, calculating staffing needs and generating schedules no longer work for these digital channels, but many cloud platforms have been designed specifically with multichannel communication in mind. By taking into account agent skills, workforce scheduling trends and more, cloud-based solutions allow organizations to match patients with agents who are best suited to address their medical needs. And, with new cloud-based tools to engage employees, including flexible self-scheduling options available anywhere and anytime via an app, teams are motivated to provide great customer service, every time.
Digital changes everything. To handle these new complexities and deliver a frictionless customer experience, healthcare organizations need workforce management solutions that are able to:
- Define and prioritize new digital channels dynamically.
- Handle simultaneous interactions.
- Tailor session concurrency limits for individual employees.
- Forecast and schedule based on the approach that makes the most sense for the business.
- Do the heavy lifting on data interpretation to help users understand the decisions they need to make in managing the workforce.
While these capabilities are critical for any workforce management solution operating in a digital environment, they’re just the beginning—much more can be done to effectively collect data, calculate staffing needs, generate schedules and manage change in a digital world. Reimagining customer experience in a digital world requires:
- New data to extract, transform and load, which provides exacting details on issues like handle times, in-focus activities and employee performance.
- Purpose-built engines designed to calculate staffing requirements, conduct simulations and generate schedules in environments with many new simultaneous, interruptible, asynchronous and elevating customer interactions.
- Solutions that consider how self-service and bots affect the schedules of human customer service agents.
- Tools to monitor and calculate individual cognitive load limits for various channels, so workforce managers and supervisors don’t have to guesstimate how many simultaneous interactions an individual employee can handle.
This brave new world of digital patient interactions has made cloudification an imperative—without it, it’s all but impossible to offer a seamless customer experience. Digital has irrevocably altered the customer journey, and healthcare organizations must evolve how they manage their customer service workforce to meet the new challenges posed by a digital world.
Omri Hayner is General Manager of Workforce Engagement Management at NICE. He has vast expertise in the areas of technology, software development, and go-to-market strategies. Over the years, he has held numerous R&D and management roles, delivering solutions that help organizations improve the customer experience.