In this recorded conversation, Marnie Barnhart, Associate Director of OTC Operations at Solugenix, provides an inside look into customer support and the special agent equipping required for the medical device industry.
Her department works with customer orders, warranties, claim handling, accounts receivables, and complaint intake. They support a US-based provider of breast implants in an evolving environment, working with healthcare providers (HCPs) and patients. Below is a summary of the recording.
The Distinction between Healthcare Provider and Patient Interactions
When healthcare providers call into the service center, they are experienced working with device manufacturers and understand how to interact with them. They come prepared and have the data needed to process a request on behalf of their patient. When a patient calls in, the exact nature of their situation or emotional state can vary. Some patients may be experiencing debilitating health issues or be in a state that requires special handling. Furthermore, they may not know what the process to submit a request is like, nor what to expect when dealing with a medical device manufacturer for themselves.
Solugenix agents work with these patients to educate them on the process and give them the information needed to address their concerns. Ensuring that the patient is well-informed of the FDA approval and quality check processes helps to alleviate their concerns in a way that supports patient engagement.
Agent Training & Onboarding
The successful interactions with customers, both HCPs and patients, do not happen by accident. When a newly hired agent is on-boarded, we ensure they understand the environment that they will be supporting. During the training period, agents are trained on how to de-escalate calls or escalate calls depending on the nature of the call. They are also sensitized to the potential conditions of the patient and how to show empathy.
As a requirement, all new agents undergo a robust four-week classroom training, shadow experienced agents, and receive additional instruction from the Solugenix TRACESM team on how to have difficult conversations.
The training emphasizes de-escalations, showing empathy for the patients they encounter, and maintaining HIPPA & FDA compliance.
One important factor contributing to service delivery excellence is agent satisfaction. Agent satisfaction results in better retention creating better phone interactions due to more experienced agents handling calls. A team-centered environment is also key as these teams strive to support one another and learn from each other.
All the training and support given to agents results in competent and confident agents. Agent confidence is a driver behind positive customer interactions. They know the information that patients need and can assuage their concerns. They are also able to their handle their requests efficiently with more first call resolutions and greater patient satisfaction.
A clear indication of customer satisfaction levels usually comes from feedback received from customers. It is not often that customers will comment on great service that is received from a manufacturer.
In the case of the service desk set up by Solugenix for a medical device client, teams often receive positive feedback directly demonstrating that the emphasis on agent training creates a positive impact on SLAs and customer satisfaction. This benefits the client’s business through higher customer retention.
Delivering on SLAs
Ensuring an efficient use of resources is key to lowering hold times. When we first took on this client project, we analyzed the call queue and agent schedules, looked at historical data to understand the number of calls expected, and set target service level agreements (SLAs).
Since then, we’ve met the SLAs at 98%. It’s been consistent for over 5 months. Since bringing the hold times and first call resolutions under control, the client has expanded the scope of services we provide to them. We’re now focused on improving the audit data to facilitate easier regulatory audits.
With more than 20 years of experience in order to cash (OTC), Solugenix Associate Director Marnie Barnhart helps business customers transform their OTC operations. As a vital member of Enterprise Support Services, Marnie helps further client relationships by supporting process and system improvements, quality assurance, reporting, analysis and Client/Vendor Relationship Management.
Working in various AR and OTC leadership roles for different companies in medical equipment, medical device and pharmaceutical environments, Marnie has collectively reduced aging accounts by millions of dollars and bad debt reserves by as much as 60%. This was driven by her highly developed expertise in process development, system implementations and integration, regulatory compliance and data validation.
Marnie is also passionate about employee development and training. These skills compliment her expertise in call center customer service and project management, which collectively furthers Solugenix client successes.