Improved Healthcare Collaboration Tools Let Staff Focus on the Patient

by Amy Wagner on April 16th, 2014

Amy Wagner, Principal Managing Consultant, AspectCollaboration, security, data… it’s all happening now in healthcare.  Consider how the following organizations overcame challenges to meet their disparate but connected constituent needs while achieving financial goals. In each of these examples, collaboration helped members of the care continuum drive efficiencies and promote innovative approaches to connect people and ultimately provide outstanding patient care.

Array Health’s Spectrum cloud-based software took advantage of a suite of Microsoft products to give health insurers such as Highmark Health Services the security features, scalability and high level of performance they needed to run a successful private exchange. Microsoft SQL Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 in addition to .NET framework and Internet Information Services  helped meet the increased demands on performance and security in addition to providing their clients with innovative, enterprise-grade private exchange solutions.

In less than three months, the University of Colorado Health (UCHealth), one of the largest healthcare providers in Colorado, was able to fully migrate 17,000 mailboxes from three disparate healthcare organizations on multiple legacy email platforms into one single consolidated Microsoft Office 365 environment. Switching to a complete Microsoft enterprise subscription solution is expected to increase collaboration across UCHealth and save an estimated $13.9 million in overall costs throughout an 11-year period.

Community Healthcare Network (CHN),  a group of nonprofit community health centers providing medical, dental and social services in neighborhoods throughout New York, ensures constant communication during extreme weather and crisis situations, such as Hurricane Sandy, to maintain email and server connectivity.  CHNs communications-in-the-cloud allows emergency operations to continue securely and efficiently, and most importantly, without interruptions so staff can stay in contact and concentrate their efforts on helping patients.

The physicians at Mihills Webb, a small provider practice in Southlake, Texas, uses Lync in Office 365 for physicians to communicate with their staff while still in the room with the patient, instead of walking through the 12,000 square foot facility to communicate with their team. Physicians remain in the exam room with patients longer, move patients in and out of the office faster and the practice has boosted staff communication, in addition to boosting morale with their cloud communication strategy. Mihills Webb also adopted the Office 365 cloud business productivity platform to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and to be able to sign business-associate agreements. When physicians or office staff needs records from a hospital, they simply request them through instant messaging rather than leaving the exam room.  This type of multitasking saves time and money.

Reliable patient-centered collaboration, HIPAA privacy and security compliance, better management of unified, streamlined, and standardized communications, plus productivity gains are all reasons Gwinnett Hospital System, Kindred Healthcare, and Texas Health and Human Services have moved, or are in the process of moving, to a cloud-based collaboration productivity platform – specifically Office 365 for Healthcare Organizations.

Empowering a more connected and mobile workforce—by breaking down barriers, uncovering insights, and supporting efficient, reliable processes through secure formal and informal communications is now the healthcare business challenge. Today it’s about delivering the latest capabilities in technology while keeping your tools familiar, simple and easy to use—so your employees can get up and running quickly and without interruption in patient services. It’s about delivering applications that are proactive and actually help guide people through tasks so they can achieve more with the latest devices, on any platform. It’s about technology that enables your business and your people to respond with agility and quickly adapt to changing healthcare business needs and business processes. It’s about applications that connect your employees to each other, to the extended care team, and ultimately to your patients.

How is your organization collaborating with providers, staff and patients? Is your current email environment saving you money?  Are your communication and collaboration tools quick and easy to use so that your staff can concentrate on patient care?

Please Hold for Your Worst Nightmare

by Bryan McCloud on April 14th, 2014

Bryan McCloudboogey callerEvery contact center agent has a “worst nightmare” caller. A boogey caller, if you will. While the exact description varies depending on who you ask, these are the callers who pop up out of nowhere and ruin your day without fail.

In my last blog I gave you three words to make your employees love you. This time, I’m going to give you 3 words to help vanquish any boogey caller for good: Meet its Needs.

In the simplest of breakdowns, we can think of callers as falling into three basic need groups. Almost all callers – even boogey callers – usually start out as “content” callers until a need goes unmet. You might think of this as the origin of the boogey caller:

Type of Caller Need
Content Appreciation
Irate Validation
Insistent Immediate Action

Our goal should always be to keep callers content or make them content again. Let’s look at the best ways to accomplish that.

Content Callers

This caller is the one you hope for every time the phone beeps. They are polite, patient, and simply have a question or concern they would like addressed. They seem nothing like the boogey caller we all fear, but they are in fact, one in the same. The boogey caller is nothing more than a content caller whose need to feel appreciated was not met.  Making a content caller feel appreciated is done by taking ownership, resolving their issue, and letting them know they are valued. It’s when the content callers don’t feel appreciated that they transform into our worst nightmare callers.

Irate Callers

This caller is prone to yelling, cursing, and will even make personal attacks. When working with an irate caller, you must first remember that they do not want to be like this. In most cases they are mad because they were made angry, and that is not how they want to be.

To get this caller back to a content state, you simply need to validate their anger by letting them know it is okay that they are upset. Be sure that this is done only after they have finished venting. Never cut off an irate customer as it only makes things worse. A good example of what to say to an irate caller after they vent is, “Mr. or Mrs. (Last Name), I completely understand why you are upset and to be honest, I don’t know how you are as calm as you are. If I had been through what you have, I don’t think I could handle it this well.”

If said at the proper time and with sincerity, I guarantee you they will start to calm down. Once you have them somewhat calm again, you can handle the call just as though they were a content customer by making them feel appreciated.

Insistent Callers

This caller is very demanding will tell you exactly what you are doing to do for them and when you are going to do it. While the “what” varies from call to call, the “when” is always now. Insistent callers got this way due to a lack of urgency in resolving their initial concern and they feel bossing you around is their only option.

The secret to making an insistent caller content again is to take immediate action and tell them in detail exactly what you are doing, while you are doing it. What you cannot do, under any circumstance, is tell an insistent customer what you will do and expect them to trust you. Immediate action and that alone is the only thing that will work. Once they know you are doing something about their problem right now, they will start to ease up and shift back toward content. At that point you simply need to make them feel, you guessed it, appreciated!

Now when the boogey caller strikes, you’ll know what to do to keep it from being an automatic day-ruiner… or your worst nightmare!

Get Out of the Knee-Jerk Management Trap

by Kathy Villasenor on April 11th, 2014

Kathy VillasenorOne otherwise uneventful Sunday night, my elderly parents received a phone call from their home security company alerting them to the fact that a motion sensor outside their house had been set off. Immediately, my tiny, 80-year-old mother, who is awaiting two knee replacements, leaped up to go confront the potential intruder. She had to be shouted down by several much younger family members who insisted that perhaps her son-in-law, the police officer, might be a better choice to check out the situation.

My mom’s response was a knee-jerk reaction. The term knee-jerk comes from the tendency of the knee to jerk involuntarily when hit sharply. We have all experienced this type of response when we are suddenly presented with an unexpected or startling situation and jump to a conclusion immediately without taking time to reason out the best solution. My question for you is how often do you make decisions for your contact center based on a knee-jerk reaction?

In my travels I continually run into situations where agents are moved from one skill, service or agent group to another to “catch” calls that are waiting for an undesirable length of time. I have heard every imaginable reason as to why they must manage in this fashion. Some of these reasons are creative, while others are just the fact that they cannot anticipate from one day to another where their call volume will hit.

I believe that this movement of resources could be considered a knee-jerk reaction: Look, there are too many calls in queue! Move someone to answer them! Right now!

There are tools available that can automate the selection of agents that can be leveraged to help minimize this reactionary response. If there are more than X number of calls in queue or if a call has been in queue for more than X seconds the selection of agents can be broadened. There are other real time stats that can be looked at to determine if additional resources should be added to the mix.

When haphazardly moving agents’ assignments around, someone needs to track and place them back to their normal settings. I think a great starting place to reduce this movement is looking at what you can program to automatically select the appropriate resources for the call without human intervention.

It is time to stop managing with knee-jerk responses but rather automate where you can. Minimize the stress in your work life since there is plenty of that to deal with outside of the workplace.

By the way, it was a false alarm at my folks’ place. All is well!

ACE UPDATE: Must-Attend Customer Party at the Historic Fillmore

by Samantha Johansen on April 9th, 2014

Fillmore Miami

Courtesy of

Sam JohansenDid you really need another reason to attend ACE on May 19-21? Aside from the relevant keynote speakers, breakout sessions, valuable peer-to-peer networking, and hands-on solution showcase demonstrations, you might want to consider all the fun you’ll miss at after-hour events like the customer celebration party at the Fillmore Miami.

Historically known as the Jackie Gleason Theater dating back to 1950, guests from around the world came to watch as Golden Era Legends took the stage. In the 1960s, the theater played venue to filming television hits such as The Dick Clark Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. In 1964, Jackie Gleason took Miami Beach up on its offer to film his show at the Fillmore, declaring, “Miami Beach audiences are the greatest in the world!”

Today, the Fillmore continues to host some of the biggest names in entertainment – and in the coming weeks Aspect’s own guests will receive the VIP treatment after a full day of in-depth, informative ACE sessions with your colleagues and peers. This party will be legendary — we’re working with South Beach’s best caterer and our entertainment? You’ll just have to wait and see.

If you think you’ve seen a chart-topping customer party like this before… You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

The Fillmore event is just one more reason why this year’s ACE event is not to be missed! Need more reasons? Check out the full agenda and more online.

REGISTER NOW AND SAVE: Early bird registration has been extended through April 18!

Plus, be a part of the conversation taking place now on our ACE LinkedIn group!

3 Steps for Effective Social Media Crisis Management

by Tony Lama on April 7th, 2014

Tony Lama, Global EvangelistFrom recent extreme weather to major corporate recalls to natural disasters, many organizations across all industries have experienced unexpected volumes of customer service inquiries in the past few months. When facing uncertainty, consumers take to social media to voice their frustrations or search for information. Yet, according to a recent PwC Business Continuity Survey an astounding 57% of companies are still not leveraging social media as a crisis management resource.

The following three examples of companies using social media for crisis management demonstrate the importance of a social strategy and each serve as a success story for handling difficult public situations effectively in different industries.

  • Kaiser Permanente, the largest integrated health care system in the United States, led the way to delivering customer care over social media to their 8.8 million members and addressing social “flare-ups.” Like many of Aspect’s financial and healthcare customers, Kaiser is sensitive to privacy concerns. However, Kaiser recognizes those concerns and takes all conversations of a delicate matter offline.  They are engaging and proactive about their social efforts and quickly address potential crises.
  • Fontaine Santé, provider of fresh products in the in the ready-to-eat market, faced a possible crisis and consumer backlash when it determined that some of its prepackaged salads might be laced with Listeria. Unlike the healthcare industry that takes conversations office, CPGs must deal with a crisis head-on. Fontaine Santé took swift action to proactively alert the public about the possible danger of the salads via social and traditional media. As a result, no illness has been reported.
  • The Boston Police Department successfully used Twitter to communicate with the public during the Boston Marathon bombings. Government agencies must be sensitive to privacy concerns but they also need to make judgment calls about what is best for the public. In this case, the police department shared information with the public and engaged the public for their help. This helped ease nerves and reduce the spread of dangerous rumors.

The best time to construct a plan is before a crisis happens. If you are using Aspect Social to communicate with your customers, here is my simple list of three steps for effective communication that you can use every day and in a crisis situation:

  1.  Eliminate the noise and filter in Tweets and posts that are important to the business (actionable).
  2. Apply business rules to intelligently route interactions to different areas of the business.
  3. Measure your social success against your customer care KPIs to ensure a consistent level of service across all channels.

If you have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. Or find me on Twitter @TheTonyLama

Sweet! Contact Center Technologies that Drive Success [Infographic]

by Christine OBrien on April 4th, 2014

Next week  we’ll be attending the 10th Anniversary of Frost & Sullivan’s Customer Contact East. And not only that, Aspect is pleased to be sponsoring one of the “sweetest” spots at the event – the candy bar! We hope you’ll have a chance to stop by to satisfy a sugar craving and hear about technologies that are consistently being used by Best-in-Class businesses, according to research done by Aberdeen Group.

Find out how next-generation customer relationship management, agent desktop optimization and omni-channel customer experience management can make a difference in your contact center, and to your company’s bottom line! Take a look at the infographic below and visit to learn more!


The Fundamentals of Proactive Customer Care

by John Amein, VP Product Management on April 3rd, 2014

John Amein, VP Product ManagementAt Enterprise Connect on March 20th, I joined a panel moderated by Sheila McGee-Smith regarding Proactive Customer Care. One of her main points about being proactive is that the thinking is shifting away from IVR automation as a way to deflect calls and reduce costs instead to proactively connecting with customers across all channels in order to provide a better experience while avoiding costs and inbound contacts in the first place. I think she’s got that right, and I left the audience with two key related ideas.

First, in order to be proactive, you have to know something the customer doesn’t know or hasn’t already told you about. That’s fundamental to being proactive! The types of things a company will know are:

  1. Something about the consumer’s situation that hasn’t been shared yet
  2. Something going on inside your company that will affect your customer

For example, you may know that a consumer has not signed up for a particular kind of insurance plan and it’s in their benefit to do so. Or you may know that a loan application is stuck inside your business process and will be delayed by another week. Small companies are on top of these kinds of situations as part of providing a higher level of customer service; it’s part of how small companies compete. So how do bigger companies become more proactive with what they know?

This leads to the second point: You need a platform that enables you to take action seamlessly across all channels. It should be part of your overall customer engagement strategy that we’ve outlined here. At Enterprise Connect we announced a North American rollout of one of our very successful European cloud products we call Aspect Proactive Engagement. North America is just the next stop. We’re spreading it around the globe over the next 12 months.

Connect with us and learn more about specific examples of how we’ve helped out customers improve loyalty, avoid costs, and achieve better outcomes through proactive engagement.

Workforce Management for Healthcare: A Prescription for Successful Work Life Balance

by Kathleen Schroeder on April 2nd, 2014

Kathleen SchroederforecastingAuthored by Aspect Software and Healthcare Intelligence

Forecasting for your staff can be very complicated, especially in a healthcare call center environment. Patient call volumes are constantly fluctuating; the weather, flu season, disease awareness campaigns, scholastic calendar and holidays can cause unpredictable peaks and valleys.  Some healthcare facilities have access to a workforce management suite enabling them to use historical call volumes, trends and patient behavior patterns to generate an accurate forecast.  Others are not as advanced, and use the Erlang C calculator to come up with a baseline to assess the total number of full time employee equivalents needed to handle the incoming call volume.  This type of forecasting is generally flat and leads to staff burnout, attrition and higher abandonment rates. Frustrated employees can be tempted to search for other employment opportunities that provide a more stable environment and work life balance. High turnover rate can be crippling to patient service levels and budgets alike.

Measures must be taken to ensure that employee satisfaction and work-life balance are primary areas of focus. Employees are willing to work 1st shift, 2nd shift, 3rd shifts and split shifts but, they require ample notice to create structure, organize their lives or care for their families.  Workforce management and employee empowerment with Aspect’s Healthcare Workforce Management solution is possible and can provide your staff with a schedule months in advance. Employees can plan for holidays, school schedules, child care and personal activities during their free time. Your staff will appreciate working at your healthcare facility and be more engaged in the work place.  The care that you show your staff will be multiplied and transferred to the patient during crucial interactions, creating long-term patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Using workforce management technology provides you an effective way to manage your employee’s expectations, attain their consent during scheduling, decrease shrinkage and create a transparency in the workplace. Paying kindness forward through workforce management technology promotes employee satisfaction, which translates to empathetic encounters with patients, and ultimately leads to enhanced patient satisfaction measures.

Your staff and patients will thank you for it.

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb? Not in Aspect’s Case

by Paul Stockford, Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research on April 1st, 2014


Paul Stockford, Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research

The announcement of a strategic alliance with LiveVox on March 25, 2014, capped a busy month of market activity and product announcements from Aspect.  Besides the LiveVox announcement, Aspect also introduced both Aspect Workforce Optimization 8.0 and Aspect Mentor real-time speech analytics on March 13.  Considering where Aspect has come from over the past couple of years, March was an extraordinary month for Aspect.

Aspect is one of the most remarkable comeback stories to emerge from the contact center industry in the last decade.  Two years ago Aspect was a company that had, in my opinion, mistaken the company acquisition banquet table for a smorgasbord and had overindulged a bit.  As a result, Aspect was hampered an aging product line that seemed to be suffering from neglect and a management team that was stitched together from the patchwork of acquisitions that characterized Aspect’s recent history.

All that changed in 2012 when Aspect’s private investors, Golden Gate Capital, brought in a new management team and the resulting company transition has been nothing short of remarkable.  The product announcements made by Aspect this past month are further testament to the forward momentum Aspect has achieved since that time.

Aspect Workforce Optimization 8.0 brings a state-of-the-art user interface that ties together all the WFO components into a comprehensive, intuitive, graphical presentation that eliminates any technological barriers that existed between the user and the WFO system.  Whether deployed on the customer’s premises or in the cloud the user friendliness of the interface is the same.

The net result of Aspect Workforce Optimization 8.0 is a customizable, highly intuitive interface that enables rapid access to information regardless of the web browser or device being used whether desktop, laptop or mobile.  These capabilities also extend to the back office, further optimizing business process in back office operations.

In the world of contact center analytics, real-time capabilities are becoming critical to success and Aspect Mentor answers that need with the ability to monitor voice conversations as they are in progress, providing guidance notifications and real-time alerts to both supervisors and agents.  Gone are the days of discovering barriers to customer satisfaction and first call resolution by reviewing sample calls after the fact.  Aspect Mentor also captures agent omissions of key words and phrases required to meet compliance mandates and can correct those omissions via agent and supervisor alerts before the call is terminated.  Legal issues are addressed before they can become potential problems for the contact center.

Utilizing the real-time monitoring capabilities offered by Aspect Mentor, contact center supervisors are able to more accurately identify agents that need additional coaching.  The ability to assess all calls in real-time eliminates the possibility of missing the opportunity to evaluate problem calls that may be missed during the typical random call evaluation process.  The net result is a better trained agent with a higher degree of job satisfaction.

Aspect is moving aggressively into the contact center cloud as indicated by the recent introduction of Aspect ZipWire.  This move into the cloud has now been expanded via a strategic alliance with cloud business process outsourcer (BPO) LiveVox.  LiveVox brings to the party a highly-scalable suite of cloud-based contact center solutions and services which will be further enhanced by integration with Aspect’s Workforce Optimization 8.0 solution and Aspect’s self-service suite.

Among the many benefits of this strategic alliance will be an entrée into the global cloud-based BPO market for Aspect.  LiveVox will benefit from this arrangement by leveraging Aspect’s global reach and resources, not to mention potential cross-sales opportunities.

The strategic product and market moves undertaken by Aspect management over the past two years are impressive.  The company’s activities during the past month offer assurance that Aspect is a well-managed organization that, despite its size and considerable market presence, is able to quickly recognize and act upon market opportunities as they arise.  Aspect is once again a company on the move, and this time the movement is unquestionably in the right direction.

For information on Saddletree Research go to

Why You Need A Workforce Department, The Sequel: Defining Roles

by Michael Cavataio on March 31st, 2014

Michael CavataioIn my last blog, I talked about the need for contact centers to create an official Workforce team. (Remember? With great software (should!) come great processes.) This time, let’s talk about the individuals that should make up this team and their roles and functions.


The Forecaster is much like a weatherperson on TV. The Forecaster understands your business and produces scheduling forecasts with a high degree of accuracy, whether it’s inbound, outbound or back office. But if they are wrong and the results are missed, it’s not just a picnic that will be rained out – it’s your service level goals. Accurate staffing all starts with accurate forecasting. A dedicated Forecaster will gather all the historical data in workforce management software. This person not only knows what has happened in the past and why but knows how these patterns will replicate themselves in the future.


Once the Forecaster has produced his/her forecast then the Scheduler can ensure that enough people are ready and scheduled to handle the volumes. When 70% of the cost of managing a contact center is labor, this person needs to get things right. Too few staff and service level metrics and customer satisfaction suffers. Too many staff members and the company is paying for call center staff to be idle. Unleash the skill and talent of your Schedulers and let them help the business create optimal, productive schedules.


Imagine an airport with no traffic tower to help planes take off and land safely. The Intra-Day team is the eyes and ears of the contact center. They are the early warning system. This group will tell you how well you are staffed right now as well as four hours from now. This team can field calls for employee absenteeism, run reports and analyze data looking for trends. They should not be the end but simply close the loop and give data back to Forecasters and Schedulers about what they see trending so further refinement to those processes can take place.  This team is indispensable but so often are not part of the contact center.


In many smaller organizations the workforce management Admin role may be combined with the Forecaster or Scheduler role. In large organizations they are individual roles. These people typically are fully trained in all the other roles. They understand the Forecaster, Scheduler and Intra-day roles and how the software should be configured. The software admin role will ensure the upkeep of the software.  They will ensure that when configuration changes are needed they will do it consistently along with following corporate security policies. The Admins will be knowledgeable and be the internal software expert and consultant to the organization.

Workforce Manager

A true team needs a leader and without one the workforce group is less effective. Their responsibilities include coaching, training, reviews and ensuring that the team is functioning and collectively working towards the same goals. However, there is one very important thing needed that is commonly overlooked in the Workforce Manager role and that is a seat at the planning table. Too many times plans are made in these sessions but because there was no representation by Workforce those plans may not succeed as expected. New promotions might increase call volumes resulting in a need for OT. Changes in billing cycles, new attendance rules that affect time off, new off-phone projects or additional off-phone work may increase shrinkage.  With a seat at the planning table, you will have someone with the ability to voice concerns like these.

Here’s the bottom line: Software alone isn’t going to make the changes that revolutionize an organization.  We don’t yet have Skynet in our world.  So, to help get the most out of your workforce management software, it makes sense to hire a good, professional team who knows the ropes.  Fill these roles and positions with the right people, and watch success happen!