Humboldt General Hospital has exchanged its automated phone system for
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.”