Prioritizing Customer Service in Medical Billing
Customer service is an integral part of a customers’ experience and lasting reputation with the company’s brand. One does not only have to consider the one customer you are speaking with at the time, but also the next five people that will hear about his or her review afterward through word-of-mouth or an online review written about your company. That is why it is essential that customer service is considered and trained accordingly.
It is particularly important to uphold quality customer service within the healthcare industry considering the confusing and frustrating path that is navigating their hospital bill. At AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions, we carefully consider this through empathy and our “First Call Resolution” method. To get a deeper look into AdvantEdge’s approach to customer service, we asked some of our leading team members what their thoughts are regarding the subject:
Barbara Lewis – Director, People Services at AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions
Lyne Green – VP of Operations at AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions
Laurie Krachenfels – Regional Director of Operations at AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions
What makes AdvantEdge’s Customer Service Department work well? What is unique about customer service departments in medical billing?
- Lewis: Our customer service (CS) department is branded the “Center of Excellence” because that’s our focus. There are two ways we achieve that, through efficiency and empathy.
- Green: We have a large and busy customer service department at AdvantEdge. One of the challenges and opportunities related to having customer service departments in different locations servicing different doctors and specialties is the focus on consistency. Recently we put together a Customer Service task force to determine best practices across all departments. First, for efficiency, we focus on First Call Resolution. In other words, how can we solve each caller’s problem on the first call?
- Krachenfels: Second, we think about how we can be the best part of that caller’s day. Our callers are dealing with medical bills, which are often confusing, unexpected, and costly expenses. The callers often are not at their best because they are worried about a bill or just not feeling well. So, empathy and the way we talk to the caller is just as important as the efficient way we handle the call.
Can you provide more detail?
- Krachenfels: Our focus is three-fold. First, it’s important to set clear expectations of standards of performance. Second, we focus on First Call Resolution by offering continuous training – and building that into everyone’s day. Third, we monitor performance and recognize great contributions. It also is important that we offer regular ‘huddles’ with the teams to talk about complex calls and discuss the best approach for repeat situations. The huddle allows all CS reps to learn how to handle the call the next time.
- Green: We offer guidelines and metrics for performance so we are defining to each rep what the expectations are. For example, the number of calls per day is a good metric because we need to keep wait times low – that impacts the caller’s experience before he/she even starts talking to a CS rep. The metrics are used to coach and mentor CS reps throughout their career. Also, our CS reps often are the first employees to hear about claims that are being handled differently by insurance companies or government agencies. The huddle is used to identify patterns in claims processing, such as unusual delays and denials. If there’s a difficulty that more than one rep is experiencing, the CS leader sends the information to operations leaders for follow up and research.
- Lewis: We pay very close attention during the recruiting and interviewing process and continue that focus on how our customer service staff is interacting with each other and with the callers. We want our staff to speak “with a smile in their voice”. We provide countless examples of positive interactions from recorded calls. We encourage our callers to leave their feedback after their call and we take that feedback very seriously. We consistently cheer on the successful, positive calls and have included Executive Management in interacting and praising the staff for outstanding feedback from our callers. It is part of our culture within our organization.
How do you measure and celebrate excellence?
- Green: One of the most important standards is the focus on first call resolution, and the opportunity to provide continuous training. Because every call is different, it’s complex to train in every scenario. Instead, we focus on developing problem-solving capabilities that can be applied to almost all scenarios. Also, Our technology allows CS leaders to monitor calls continuously, then provide feedback to the CS rep, providing encouragement on what was done right and going through the standards to correct what needs to be improved.
- Krachenfels: It’s also important that we find ways to recognize the tough job that our CS reps perform every day. In October, we celebrated National Customer Service Week’s Dream Team slogan by creating ‘player cards’ of fun facts for each employee, then offering a contest to see if employees could match the fun fact to the employee.
- Lewis: One of the most important ways we celebrated our CS reps during National Customer Service Week was to ask callers to leave a voicemail message offering their feedback on their call experience. The response was great and reminded all of us how each caller has a problem they are depending on our help to fix. After listening to the caller feedback, one manager stated “I knew my team was good. But hearing these messages from callers reminded me that each employee is focused on solving the callers’ problems – and is successful at it.” We instill our commitment to quality assurance to our customer service representatives as early as during the hiring process. In order to be on our team, it is necessary to share the same values to thoroughly be part of our overall mission.