Healthcare has in recent years become an ideal vertical for BPO providers to engage with, as it provides a massive range of possibilities for back-office, customer care, administrative, or even high-value services, such as around-the-clock nursing.
With its close relationship to insurance, many customer interactions are related to cost, denied claims, variations in eligibility, and the different benefits available to them. Alongside the regular inquiries, there are others related to fraud, mistaken claims, and the adherence to state and federal laws, especially from the U.S. market. This is where complications can start to emerge, as a customer may call to check their eligibility for a specific benefit, only to discover they have been denied insurance, or have become a victim of fraud, for example.
Furthermore, due to the level of anxiety associated with health and welfare, BPO teams need specific personalities and a vast range of different skills to order to cover all bases, and some companies are finding that talent right here on the nearshore.
Building the Right Healthcare Team
Since arriving in Jamaica around four and a half years ago, India’s Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) has grown from 120 people to 1,500, but aims to double that headcount and capacity by the end of 2017. Around two-thirds of this existing team (950-1,000) is focused on the healthcare vertical, making it a vital component of their Jamaica operations. The company’s focus on healthcare involves helping people with their eligibility for benefits, or claims that need to be processed, and covers standard healthcare, dental, optical, and even behavioral sciences.
“Broadly speaking, we look for people who fit a specific profile to work on our healthcare contracts,” said Narasimha Murthy, President of Jamaica and Corporate Shared Services, Americas at HGS. “Having a 16-year history of doing this, we know inherently what type of person will be successful and what kind of qualities they must have, whether that be qualitative aspects, logical reasoning skill sets, typing speed, speaking skills, or a deep sense of empathy.”
HGS has designed a recruitment test that is designed to measure these skills, which is the first step of on-boarding new team members. After that, there is a framework of knowledge imparted on them to prepare for the client-specific training that follows. The time it takes to prepare talent for a healthcare campaign is around two weeks, but if somebody doesn’t fully meet the requirements in that time frame, the company allocates extra time to get them up to speed.
“People assimilate knowledge differently in different places because of their cultural upbringing,” said Murthy. “In Jamaica, for example, the people are more inquisitive, and because it is a tourist destination, they are also very outgoing. They won’t hesitate to put up their hands to ensure they fully understand what they are being shown. While this can slow down the pace of learning, it shows that they are more eager to absorb everything they are being told to better prepare for their tasks.”
The Mexico Approach
Spanish BPO firm, Atento, has around 200+ seats and just over 250 people for healthcare in Mexico City, where they cover back-office services and inbound/outbound, serving primarily the Mexican market. This is mostly centered on life and medical insurance, plus retirement plans. Within each of these businesses, there are different branches and different channels, such as email, Facebook, chat, and even video chat.
“The call center industry is changing, but the healthcare business is changing even faster,” said Juan Antonio Olivares, the company’s Business Development and Marketing Director. “The coverage is always being modified, so we have to be very adaptive to keep up with the dynamism. This then has to be imparted to our agents, through continuous training and updates to our internal intranet. We also have other tools that help to reduce training times, so people can learn in a more digital, self-learning environment.”
Atento’s on-boarding process for healthcare is also based on specific profiles, but their primary requirement is customer service experience, which includes a deeper level of empathy that other contracts require. The second requirement is specific medical experience or education, due to the type of questions that are asked by customers. The training process varies across different branches, from two weeks to three or four weeks, depending on the individual. This is the most complex training in the company, according to Olivares. “In comparing with other campaigns, it’s not just the specific processes and procedures that need to be taught, but the difficult situations that representatives will sometimes find themselves in too,” he said.
One of the cultural traits of Latin America is that workers are more relaxed and more laid back that some other regions, which can play well into this sometimes stressful vertical. “Sometimes, we Latin Americans are empathetic in excess,” said Olivares. “Furthermore, it’s not been an issue finding talent for healthcare contracts, as there are plenty of service-oriented people here in Mexico that are very proactive.”
In comparing the healthcare vertical to industries like banking or finance, Murthy explained that the anxiety levels and stress levels of the end-customers are much higher, due primarily to the issue being related to their health. “In finance, the worst-case scenarios are always well-known, whereas in healthcare, there is another level of fear associated with the customers, and it can play out in many different ways,” he said. “As an example, if a customer’s child needs treatment for whatever reason, the anxiety is much higher than it would be for a mystery charge on your credit card. For this reason, the sensitivity levels and empathy that agents must have in order to deal with these calls is much higher. This is why the profiling of new hires actually matters, because somebody who doesn’t have the right temperament will not make it and might actually break.”
One of the frequent types of calls that HGS and Atento experience is from people who should be calling 911 instead, the reason being to check whether they are covered before calling for emergency assistance. When these misdirected calls occur, the agents have to stay on the line until the ambulance arrives, which again relates to the type of people that need to be hired. For instance, if a customer discovers that they’re not covered for an accident while also dealing with whatever injury they have, the level of “human” support that representatives need to be able to provide is extremely important.
Ultimately, while the dynamic and fast-evolving healthcare vertical offers BPO providers plenty of opportunity to grow, the success of a campaign leans heavily on the team’s temperament and their ability to handle increased stress levels. According to Atento and HGS, the nearshore is the right place to find people that fit these requirements, and has so far served both companies and their healthcare clients very well.
To learn more about the healthcare vertical and how automated healthcare solutions are being rolled out in digital transformations, join us for a special webinar on December 7th, 14:00 EST. For more details, click here.