Call Center Agent vs. Automated Calls

The other day I called some service provider to ask some questions about their product.  It was painfully obvious that the person at the call center was reading from a script.  This made me realize that there are reasons (beyond simply cost) for using automated, speech-recognition technology for calling people versus humans.

It would have been more conversational for me to have talked with an automated phone call where I could answer questions with certain hotwords that dynamically moved me through the path of the call.  Depending on content, I think it is often nice to have the option to transfer out to a call center agent since that role will never disappear.  Some people prefer a human (look at all the grocery store lines) and some exceptions don’t fit into a rules-based decision tree.

But, quality is a huge issue with complex plan designs in healthcare.  How do you teach each call center agent (especially when you have high turnover) to respond and explain things exactly the same?  You can’t unless you force them to read a script which is a bad experience for the member / patient.  We used to have to do lots of secret shopper calls to work with our agents to get them to the right place and meet minimum expectations.  Again, this is something that a computerized system can address.

The thing I always hear about calls is aren’t they like those election calls I get where the voice sounds a little computer-like (aka text-to-speech) or there is a big pause between the person answering the phone and saying hello and the actual recording kicking in or the live person talking.  With the top vendors out there, those are old issues.  There is no pause.  The messages are recorded in human voice.  Ideally, the variable text (e.g., patient’s name or drug name) are part of a custom audio library which is in the same voice.

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