7 empathy principles for healthcare outsourcing services

Bring empathy to healthcare outsourcing services

By Carlos Baltodano, Ubiquity

Say you need medical attention—and you have a choice of two equally qualified, competent doctors.

Would you choose the doctor who doesn’t take your problem seriously and makes you work to get answers? Or the doctor who really listens to you and makes you feel involved at every step of your treatment?

In the same way that patients judge healthcare professionals for their bedside manner, they’ll expect to feel understood and listened to by their healthcare brand’s service partners, too.

But many healthcare providers consider outsourcing a necessary evil rather than a valuable force for good. When outsourcing becomes a series of transactions to cut costs and chase KPIs, service quality declines and patient experience (PX) suffers.

A Relationship-based OutsourcingTM approach puts PX first. It not only improves cost-efficiency and increases positive patient outcomes—but positions empathy as the key ingredient for developing productive connections with your patients.

Choosing a BPO partner who really understands empathy can boost patient satisfaction and business growth for the long term. So what should healthcare brands look for in an empathetic BPO?

With nearly a decade of experience serving leading healthcare brands, our team has identified seven principles for empathy that BPOs must follow to elevate their clients’ PX.

  1. 1. Remember, you’re in the service business

    Empathy is hard to fake. If you don’t get a kick out of helping others, you’re in the wrong profession.

    Unfortunately, many BPOs hire people who are simply not cut out to serve others. You need teams with the right aptitude and attitude to help patients in a meaningful way.

    And this isn’t just for client-facing teams. The back office has a role in supporting PX too. Service is a calling—and it needs people who want to be there.

    At Ubiquity, our philosophy is hire right the first time. When we source and train candidates to be professional customer service agents, we look for enthusiastic people with that talent and potential to serve and grow their careers with us. It’s the foundation for empathy.

  2. 2. Your understanding can never go too deep

    People are complex creatures. The more you can understand from the way they think and behave, the closer you get to solving problems and helping them out.

    Helping patients access medication is no easy feat. Besides eligibility criteria and state-by-state rules, patient attitudes and financial circumstances can pose a challenge.

    For example, a substantial share of Medicaid members can’t read. Many struggle to afford medication. Mobility problems and language barriers can make it hard for patients to access the care they need.

    For some clients, we implement an SDOH (social determinants of health) strategy, which takes data points about the customer’s background, lifestyle and social circumstances that help us identify obstacles to patient health and accessing preventative care—empathy is key to turning this data into the right course of action.

    It’s only by understanding our customers and their challenges at an intimate level that we can really effect change. That’s what empathy is all about—understanding.

  3. 3. When we are independent, customers are independent too

    Empathy can’t always follow a script. Service agents must have the power to take some matters into their own hands to deliver valuable PX.

    When we train agents, they adopt a strong attitude of proactivity and ownership—they get invested in day-to-day contact center management, hold weekly huddles with their teams and take a hands-on approach to improving processes for our clients based on what they’re hearing from patients.

    What’s more, the right technologies can help agents rise toward autonomy and feel confident that they’re making the right decisions. For example, inTouch® is our performance management platform that helps team leaders coach and train agents to be at their best, whereas Aigent uses artificial intelligence (AI) to guide conversations in real time and empowers agents to deliver the most appropriate—and empathetic—response.

    When BPO agents are empowered to optimize the member experience, both sides win.

  4. 4. Continuity builds deeper customer connections

    With many of our clients, we make sure agents can build rapport with regularly contacted members and patients. This means the same care coordinators speak to the same members every time.

    For personal and potentially emotionally charged discussions, a familiar and empathetic voice at the end of the line drastically increases the chances of a successful resolution for members/patients.

    This simple commitment to consistency helps empathy thrive and leads to more positive outcomes for patients—they not only get genuinely better service, but they actually feel like they get it, too.

  5. 5. Don’t rest on your laurels—stay open to feedback

    Without regular feedback, a brand will struggle to really know what’s going on between their customers and their contact centers. Without it, agents won’t know what impact their service manner has on customers.

    But more than helping the brand serve better, offering the chance for feedback is itself an empathetic interaction—inviting the customer to have their voice heard demonstrates care and commitment to improve, and that their involvement matters.

    Net Promoter Scores and customer satisfaction scores are just two metrics we use to solicit feedback. They’re direct, flexible and tested, and they help paint the picture for both the long term and short term of CX performance.

  6. 6. Success looks different for every patient

    Every healthcare member and patient we serve will have their own unique KPIs relative to their specific circumstances. That means relying on traditional metrics to guide and evaluate performance can only go so far.

    To get a clearer picture of how we’re actually helping, we also use more abstract terms to measure success—especially when there are so many journeys and outcomes to consider. After all, it’s not uncommon for agents to anticipate 200-300 call scenarios per customer.

    We think of success in terms of broader outcomes: Were we able to overcome the customer’s obstacle? Were we able to offer the appropriate care or ensure they take advantage of their supplemental benefits? Enacting a change in customer behaviour is the goal.

    If we can help people make positive changes in their life, whether it’s getting a member to apply for a low-income subsidy, scheduling a doctor’s appointment and helping them keep it by providing transportation, then mission accomplished. But we can’t get there without empathetic service.

  7. 7. Empathy is a journey, not a destination

    You need a certain resilience to succeed in customer service, especially in healthcare. If you derive validation from customers recognizing your valiant efforts or believe chasing metrics will earn you recognition, that’s a recipe for disappointment.

    It’s a good idea to think of empathy like an unending journey. There is no big shiny treasure at the end. The reward is being able to help people along the way—and there is always room to learn, grow and improve.

    Only a BPO with maturity and endurance can really understand this about customer experience. You’ll never be finished—and that’s just fine with us.

Critical care is a form of competence

BPOs aren’t always known for providing empathy that can redefine your patient or member experience. We’re hoping to change that.

Inexperienced, ill-equipped outsourcers let service quality suffer when they don’t adapt and take a patient experience-led approach.

As a BPO specialized in supporting healthcare brands, serving the patients and members of our client partners is complicated and challenging—but that reward of helping people makes it all worth it.

Empathy is key to our PX-first approach to outsourced customer service. For a full rundown of our services for healthcare brands, check out our Industry page.

Carlos Baltodano leads Ubiquity’s healthcare team in delivering solutions to CMS-regulated and commercial healthcare partners. Carlos has more than a decade of experience within the managed care industry developing contact center, claims and utilization management solutions.