How Contact Center Agents Can Influence Patient Decisions  

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Everybody makes decisions. Some decisions are second nature, like turning left instead of right, while others require more thought and consideration, such as choosing a healthcare provider.  

Regardless of the size of the decision or its impact, people go through the same processes each time they make one. The nature of the decision will determine how much time we spend in each stage of the decision making process. Choosing what to cook for dinner one night might take three minutes of thought, whereas choosing a healthcare treatment plan might take days or even weeks of consideration and research.  

Knowing how this process works and how people move through it can help others give advice, insight and direction. Contact center agents can especially benefit from this knowledge as they field calls from people who need help or have questions. Engine Systems has years of collective experience guiding and enhancing contact center operations, and we’ve found this concept to be crucial framework for improving interactions. Reach out today to book a discovery call and learn about training for your private practice’s patient experience center.  

Understanding where people are at in their decision making processes can help call center agents serve people and lead them towards action that can benefit their company or private healthcare practice. 

The Decision Making Process 

1. Identify the problem   

People won’t make decisions unless there is something driving them to action. For healthcare patients, this might be a fever, pain, or any other kind of ailment that has become so drastic they seek help. Completing this first stage and recognizing a need is a huge step.  

 

2. Establish and weigh available options 

Once a need has been recognized, it’s time to consider the next steps. This could take a while depending on different people and their personalities. Indecisive people may grapple back and forth about whether they want to take any action. Other factors such as finance, geography, family and capability play in here as well.  

 

3. Generate choices 

This step coincides with the last one, as people consider the options they have. They might qualify some and disqualify others. For example, those who have a fever might consider waiting it out instead of seeking help. Those who feel they have COVID-19 might consider getting a test, or just self-quarantining. If people want to seek new medical providers, they might spend days in this phase researching options.  

 

4. Evaluate choices 

As people conduct research and gather options, they will start comparing one another to decide which course of action will create the best outcomes. This could also be considered the ‘pros and cons’ phase.   

  

5. Make the decision 

At this point, people will use the information and options they’ve generated to make decisions. This could mean reaching out to a healthcare provider or doing nothing at all.   

6. Take action on the decision 

Making a decision and taking action are two different things. People can’t see the benefits of their decisions if they never follow through with them. 

Step 7: Evaluate the results of my action 

Once people make decisions and take action, they will evaluate the decision and consider whether it was good or bad.  

All of these phases happen, to some degree or another, when we make decisions. Understanding the significance of each phase can help contact center agents serve people because they can identify where patients are at in their decision making cycles and then use that knowledge to better serve them. 

Not only does this allow agents to do their job better, but providing people with quality assistance will give patients a good experience that enhances their perceptions of a private practice and increase their likelihood to continue doing business with it. In this way, patient experience agents can gain more business for the practices they represent and keep current patients happy. Customer service is crucial to any successful business, so it’s important not to overlook contact center representatives’ roles in this.  

Real-World Application 

So what might applying the decision making process in a phone call look like? Imagine that you are a patient experience agent and that you’re fielding this call:  

Agent: “Hello, thank you for calling our private practice today. How can I help you?”

Jane Smith: “Hello. I have a fever and I want to see if I can book an appointment with my medical provider, Dr. Doe?”  

*Jane is currently in stage 3-4 of the decisions making process, as she has already 1. identified the problem (a fever),  2. weighed available options (call a private practice) and is now generating and evaluating choices. She might be checking to see if she can book a quick appointment at your practice or if she’ll need to go somewhere else to get in sooner. The contact center agent’s job is to present her with the best possible choices that will lead her to book an appointment at your private practice.  

If that doctor is available for an appointment, you can tell her so and offer to book it. This assistance enables her to quickly make a decision and take action on it. If the doctor isn’t available, you can provide her with alternatives, such as:

Agent: “Dr. Doe isn’t available until next week, but I could connect you with Dr. Miller. Despite the change in providers for this trip, we wouldn’t need to collect any new information or bill you any differently.”  

By explaining her options, and laying out why staying in your practice will be the easiest path than registering somewhere else, you are helping her make informed decisions. At this point, she will decide one way or another and, hopefully, book an appointment with the other doctor in your practice.  

How the contact center agent interacts with her along the will also subconsciously play into Jane’s decision making process. If the agent seems helpful, friendly, and quick to respond with relevant information, this represents the capabilities of the practice and could play into Jane’s decision.  

Conclusion 

The decision making process is the framework from which everyone decides to take action or not. Understanding how it plays into patient interactions is valuable information to patient experience representatives. To learn more about providing a top-quality patient experience, and how it can make private practices more successful, reach out to Engine Systems to learn about our new practice builder system. This system is a self-guided, online guide to streamlining, improving, and maximizing operations in your private practice, and you can contact an Engine employee at any point along the way for assistance.  

 

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