New Call Center Improves Customer Service - Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
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Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System

 

New Call Center Improves Customer Service

A VA employee answers a phone call

Kim Patterson, a medical support assistant, answers a phone call from a Veteran in the new Call Center.

By Nathan Schaeffer
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When a Veteran calls their Primary Care team to schedule an appointment, the last thing they want to do is spend several minutes on the phone waiting for someone to answer.

Through focus groups, held at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, Veterans have made their frustrations known.

“One of the things that we have heard from Veterans is that they have a difficult time getting through on the phone,” said Debbie Perdue, Chief of Quality, Safety & Value Service.

To identify opportunities for improvement, the medical center chartered a System Redesign Team, involving frontline staff to review the process for answering phone calls and gather data.

In the past, medical support assistants (MSAs) at each Primary Care team often juggled multiple tasks at once. In addition to answering phones and scheduling appointments, they had to check Veterans into their appointments, assist them with the self-service kiosks and make calls to Veterans to remind them of their upcoming appointments.

“The problem was that the medical support assistant had to perform all of their job responsibilities plus answer the phone,” said Perdue. “So you’re answering the phone and you have another patient in front of you, which did not provide the best customer service.”

The System Redesign Team recommended the creation of a new Call Center for Muskogee’s Primary Care Teams, along with Pharmacy. On July 14, the medical center implemented the Call Center, which is staffed by six MSAs.

The impact has been significant. In September, the Call Center answered more than 15,000 phone calls in an average time of 37 seconds. By answering calls quicker, the Call Center also reduced the number of abandoned calls from 16 percent in June to 4.7 percent in September.

“It has improved customer satisfaction for our Veterans,” said Perdue. “We’re able to answer their call and then direct them to whoever needs to call them back. If they’re sick and need to come in today, we can get that call taken care of.”

Army Veteran Regina Barnett, who uses JCMVAMC for her health care, said the new system is a significant improvement.
 
“I’ve noticed a significant change,” said Barnett. “They’re answering faster and I’m getting in contact with who I need much faster. Everything goes much more smoothly with much less confusion and frustration on the part of the Veteran.”

With the Call Center answering all incoming calls, MSAs can now provide better customer service to Veterans who drop by their Primary Care Teams.

“The Call Center has also brought improved customer satisfaction to the employees because they are able to complete tasks and still provide customer service to the Veteran, which is important to the employees,” said Perdue. “It was all about trying to take care of the Veterans and the Veterans seem to like it.”

The medical center also has plans to establish a Call Center at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient in Tulsa.

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