Representatives at call centers are responsible for a heavy task. They have to communicate with and convince people that they should be doing something they may not want to: in this case, paying their medical bills on time. It takes a special type of person with a special personality to make that happen well. All too often, we hear horror stories about call center reps making false claims and threats, which just leads to patient dissatisfaction.
So how do call center reps do their jobs extremely well? There’s psychology involved, and if often takes the form of a few different traits.
Building a Bond
Many people who call in to (or receive a call from) a call center immediately associate it with being in trouble. This puts them on the defensive, which can make negotiations very tense.
Good call center reps build a bond with the patient they are speaking to by aligning themselves with that person. They make it clear that they are going to work together to resolve any potential issue, rather than simply make demands. A strong bond between a call center rep and a patient can help make that patient feel more comfortable as they continue through their journey with a hospital.
In psychology, priming means that you activate an association before performing an action. In essence, you make yourself think about your goals and desired outcomes before doing something.
Think of it like this: studies have shown that humans naturally are concerned about ourselves, and our own wellbeing. So if a call center rep is taking calls consistently looking out for him or herself, that rep will constantly think about whether the person on the phone is nice, or mean. Or maybe how much longer they have in their day. Or whether they’re sleepy, or anxious.
By priming themselves to focus on the patient, their needs, and focusing on the need to make them happy. This allows them to break down any barriers between them and better do the job.
Active Listening and Selective Attention
A call center rep has to listen, first and foremost. Being engaged in the conversation is key to performing well, and listening actively helps make sure that the rep is engaging well with the patient and solving the patient’s problem. This means asking clarifying questions if necessary.
But this also means allowing the patient to fully explain him or herself before jumping in to solve the problem. Selective attention is a theory that says humans tend to latch on to one of the first things they hear. In a call center, this may mean that they cut the patient off when they hear this and interrupt, saying that they can fix that problem easily. This creates a block between the rep and the patient, because the problem they’re trying to fix may not be the root of the ultimate problem the patient is having.
Control and Autonomy
Many call centers keep their reps on “scripts,” walking them through the right things to say, and trying to prevent them from saying things off the cuff. The idea is that this helps save the company from any slip-ups, which could lead to lawsuits in certain situations.
However, it has been shown that when a call center rep is given autonomy—that is, freedom to make his or her own choices about what he or she says—that the resulting conversation is far more positive. By providing employees with control over their own conversations and the ways they reach solutions for the patients, they take more ownership of their jobs and focus on creating a better resolution.