To Bring the Human Element Back to Call Centers, It’s All About the Data


When you phone into a call center, on the other side of that phone is a person. Sometimes we forget about that human element, but it’s there.

That’s why when you’re managing a call center, you need to think about the people who work there and the culture that supports them. In my current role as Applications Analyst at Houston Methodist Hospital, it’s always at the front of my mind. 

Another thing that’s front of mind is the bar that’s been set at Houston Methodist. We’re one of the top 100 hospitals in the whole country and we got that way because of the experience we give our patients. Every decision we make revolves around our patients and meeting their expectations. For us in the call center, that means we need to provide that same level of care when someone calls in to book a Lamaze class or if they’re looking for a physician. 

To get the best from your employees, think about the culture that supports them.

To get to that level, we need to have data to work with. We need to have a system in place that shows us where we can improve and help us compare apples to apples. What should our call times be? Are employees taking their breaks, or working through them? These are the types of things we need to look at if we want to provide that great culture and provide the care our patients need.

On a Mission

Before I joined Houston Methodist, I was working at VITAS Healthcare. While I was at a conference, I met people from Houston Methodist and they explained to me their vision of what they were hoping to achieve. They were struggling to measure what was happening inside their call centers. I knew that if they could just see information like how many calls agents were taking, and the time on each call, they’d be in a better spot to upgrade their call center the way they dreamed they could. Their vision was on target, they just needed the right tools.

At VITAS, I had experience using Calabrio ONE to optimize our call centers. In the early days, agents would sign up on a cork board when they wanted to go on lunch, without any indication of how many staff were actually needed, or what the call volume was like. We went from that to a system where we always knew the exact staff that we needed, and when we needed them. Houston Methodist had been looking for someone to help them integrate Calabrio ONE and turn around their call center, so I joined the team.

You can’t build a coaching culture without knowing what to coach on. Data matters @Calabrio

With over 40 call centers and close to 1,000 agents, the process for rolling out Calabrio ONE at Houston Methodist is a long one. But we hit the ground running. The Primary Care Group started to centralize call center operations, since each hospital could have over four call centers in it. As that process has taken place, we’ve then shifted focus to enhancing the experience at each of the centers. One of the first things on the list is the integration with Calabrio ONE. This will allow us to get a better picture of what’s working and what isn’t.

Ultimately, what we’re trying to accomplish is to maximize our staff efficiency without sacrificing quality.

Developing a Coaching Culture

To build the culture we want, coaching is crucial. But we can’t do that without the data. We need to have insights into what we can improve in order to help our agents get better. That first starts with setting a baseline for them. 

Agents don’t know what they don’t know. They need to understand how long they’re expected to be on calls or the quality they should be striving for. Using Calabrio ONE we can get that baseline and find ways to improve it. Before Calabrio ONE, I've always had to run multiple reports in different systems to get this information. With Calabrio ONE, it’s all in one report, all in one place.

Use data to show employees both where they can improve and concrete examples of how they’re succeeding.

But this data isn’t only to tell agents what they’re doing wrong, it’s also a way to help build them up. I can show agents, “Your call quality went up 10% since last week, good job!” And actually have the data to show them. 

It also helps us reinforce things that are crucial to keeping our agents in the best shape possible. We can use the data to see if people are taking breaks. That’s so important to their personal health, which is reflected in their performance. We can’t make our call center better if we don’t have that data. We can’t see things like this without Calabrio ONE.

Getting a Better View

How we use the data that Calabrio ONE can provide, comes down to one thing: letting us read between the lines. If we don’t have the data, we can’t understand how to improve our productivity and efficiency, which helps us save money. We also can’t analyze how to make a better work environment for our agents.

I’m always thinking about how we can improve that human factor at our call centers, because that’s what agents are: humans. If we don’t treat them that way, then they won’t feel empowered to take ownership in their roles. If they don’t feel empowered to take ownership in their roles, then we won’t be serving the patients in the way we need to serve them. Funny enough, that human factor all starts with a very non-human thing: data.