HGH Communications Center Gives Callers Live, Personal Care

Humboldt General Hospital has exchanged its automated phone system for live operators.

The new HGH Communications Center was born several months ago to dispatch HGH AirOne, the hospital’s air ambulance. However, hospital officials said it soon became clear the center could offer much more in terms of premium customer service.

It has been many years since Humboldt General Hospital has used only live customer service representatives to answer the phone.

Communications Center Manager Mike Cogsdill said as the hospital grew in size, so did its call volume, so it seemed logical to set up automated phone trees that require callers to press buttons.

“Unfortunately, those kinds of systems are designed to purposefully steer customers in every direction except the one that leads to a human being,” he said, “and that leads to a lot of frustration.”

Cogsdill said the new system of live communications specialists isn’t about “directing traffic.”

“Our goal is to provide personalized care,” said Cogsdill, “and that begins with the first phone call.”

Operators can quickly connect callers with their intended party, or agents are also available to make appointments at any of the HGH clinics, answer questions and even take messages if a caller’s party is not available.

Perhaps most surprising, said Cogsdill, is that going live has meant less wait time for callers. The average hold time for a customer dealing with an automated system is 1 minute, 51 seconds, according to Stella Service. Customers calling a company that employs live agents to answer the phones, on the other hand, are on hold for an average of just 51 seconds.

If 51 seconds is too long to hold, Cogsdill said callers have the option of leaving a call-back number for when the next agent becomes available.

“We’ve been tracking our lost calls and hang-ups from before going live until now,” said Cogsdill. “There’s no question that we are helping more people move through the system with, I’m sure, much less frustration.”

Cogsdill said another benefit of the live system is that the hospital’s front desk staff and volunteers can concentrate on helping patients instead of answering the phone.

Callers who know their party’s extension can simply tell the operator to be connected quickly; callers who aren’t sure who to call now have a friend to guide them in their journey.

“It’s easy to understand why companies use automated phone systems,” said Cogsdill. “They’re cheaper and more efficient than hiring people to handle all the callers.”

“But it’s also easy to understand why companies eventually leave such systems,” said Cogsdill. “Customers hate them—especially when they’re not sure who to call or what information they need.”

In addition to answering phones, the Communications Center monitors security for the hospital via an extensive series of monitors; coordinates all air and ground ambulance transfers; helps facilitate special events, including ambulance standbys; monitors newborn babies in the HGH Mother and Baby Unit; and helps troubleshoot customer care issues.

Currently, the center is fielding about 600 calls during peak hours; Cogsdill said his agents are prepared to see those numbers rise dramatically during times of seasonal illness, such as flu season.

“There isn’t a phone tree on the planet that can meet needs better and in a more timely fashion than a human on the other end of the line,” said Cogsdill. “We are excited to offer this service and to provide our callers with a much more personalized experience.”