Q: Are there industry standards or benchmarks for customer service phone calls, wait times, hold times, abandoned calls, etc.?
A: There are general call center statistics and standards; however, these figures apply to call centers on a very broad-based perspective and not specific to customer service within the healthcare industry. Even within the healthcare industry, you need to differentiate the customer service function from general call center activities.
Call center activities may apply to such areas as scheduling, preregistration, certification, and payer verification, as well as clinical information and support and, finally, billing and collection. This broad spectrum of applications requires very distinctive call center support and standards and/or benchmarks that could vary greatly depending on the specific area of responsibility. In general, healthcare-related customer service support requires more hands-on interaction with patients due to the importance placed on the services rendered.
However, some general call center, nonindustry-specific standards are 67 seconds for average wait times, with a goal of 80 percent of calls answered within 20 seconds. The call-abandonment rate averages 7 percent, with a goal of less than 5 percent. It is important to recognize that these stats are not industry-specific, and health care requires more time allocated to patients on the telephone.
Q: Do these standards exist for hospital business offices?
A: Hospital business office operations would generally focus on billing and collection call center activities, and that may also include charity or financial-assistance applications, as well as payer-specific qualifications, so standards would vary depending on the specific levels of responsibility. It is also important to understand the organization’s emphasis on customer service because that will drive the level of resources devoted to call center support.
Q: If so, how can hospital revenue cycle leaders access these standards? Would you be able to share the benchmarks?
A: Hospital revenue cycle leaders need to approach this subject by first establishing the mission and goals for the revenue cycle call center. Customer service should be established as the No. 1 priority, and do not confuse collection goals with customer service goals. When customer service and patient satisfaction goals are met, the collection objectives will be achieved because these satisfaction and service initiatives drive collections from patients. Organizations need to establish their individual standards based on their specific processes. Begin by measuring call-abandonment rates, as well as average hold times, but also measure average call length times. A short call time may artificially produce lower abandonment or hold times, but negatively impact satisfaction or first contact resolution rates.
We have established these standards for our healthcare clients:
- First contact resolution rate: 100 percent
- Average call length: seven to eight minutes
- Average call hold time: 50 seconds
- Call-abandonment rate: 15 percent
Stephen Chrapla, director, Avadyne Health/Revenue Cycle Partners ([email protected]), answered these questions.
Pose another question to our Revenue Cycle Forum experts.