The True Cost of Hiring a Receptionist vs Outsourcing Telephone Answering Services
An increasing number of savvy small business owners are recognizing that outsourcing their telephone answering services in the form of an off-site receptionist is an excellent way to control costs and enhance customer service without the headaches of hiring an employee. However, before taking this step it is important to assess an accurate value for such a service so you can budget realistically.
Unlike an old-fashioned telephone answering service, a modern-day off-site receptionist (sometimes called a virtual receptionist or remote receptionist), provides a wide range of services including live telephone answering, real-time call connections, appointment scheduling, order placement, seminar registrations and more. In fact, the core philosophy of these companies differ from an answering service in that they consider themselves YOUR employee for that phone call, and not the third-party service associated with after-hours calls to the doctor’s office.
So, what is the true value of an off-site receptionist and how does it compare with hiring a receptionist to work at your location? Here are some estimated costs associated with hiring that employee including some not so obvious ones you will want to consider. According to Salary.com, the median cost of hiring a receptionist is as follows:
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Source: HR Reported data as of March 2009
Multi-Site Family Planning and Wellness Centers
Family Planning and Wellness Center sought a solution to help the organization to:
- increase patient satisfaction scores.
- improve revenue.
- increase amount of time nurse leaders devote to patient care.
Administration wanted to find a way to improve customer service by allowing the callers to gain access to appointment schedulers in the least amount of time. Typical hold time averaged between five and seven minutes to get a live operator. When call volume was excessive, callers given option to leave a voicemail or hold. As a result, typical voicemail volume per office averaged 70-85 voicemails messages per day, with nurses often having to respond to non-clinical issues.
Patients were not happy with service and supervisory staff was bogged down with taking numerous patient complaints about the wait time to get a call back. In addition to patient complaints, administrator took calls from a number of physicians complaining about not being able to reach clinic staff.
Appointment scheduling line re-routed to Call 4 Health for live operator coverage from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Through web-based interface, and VPN connection, Call 4 Health remotely accessed the health centers’ EMR system Established e-mail message delivery of non-urgent messages for each practitioner.
- Improved the average answering speed from average 5 minutes to 36 seconds.
- Increased the availability of operators to handle and triage appointment calls vs non-urgent clinical questions for nurse follow-up.
- Call center scheduled 292 more patient appointments per month than the office staff, with 30% being new patients.
- Increase in appointments produced an additional $37,475 in revenue per month, which is more than 10 times the return on their investment.
- The scheduling department was able to reduce their work force by one FTE, while simultaneously increasing staff productivity by 25%.
- Nurses able to focus on patient care as they were no longer clearing off high volumes of voicemail messages.
- Patient satisfaction scores, measured through survey, increased.
Service Line Marketing
Launched a multi-media (print, radio, TV, direct mail) marketing campaign for bariatric program. The marketing campaign was supported by PR and grass roots initiatives such as brochures, flyers and posters.
- Marketing department was tasked with answering calls and responding to request for information; however, callers often were misdirected by switchboard operators or lost to voicemail.
- Staff unable to handle multiple calls and many respondents called when there was no one to answer the phone (lunch or after hours).
- Program administrator didn’t have the ability to decipher which medium was working best (print, radio, TV) to maximize advertising spending.
- Hospital staff did not have the ability to book appointments through one call.
- Staff took the callers’ information and transferred the calls to physician’s office for appointment setting but there was spotty phone coverage at the physician’s office.
- Physicians didn’t have the resources in their office to do all the call-backs to callers in a timely manner ended up losing business.
Call 4 Health Solution
- Offered 24/7 live operator call handling and fulfillment of educational material regarding the program.
- Agents not only captured caller demographic and recorded “how heard” (for advertising tracking) but screened caller to ensure met criteria for surgery.
- Implemented a process to move people from needing information to registering them to attend seminar.
- Piloted an additional avenue for appointment setting in which the call center. collaborated with the physician’s office to book consult / appointments.
- Call center managed the appointment follow-up via a reminder call 48 hours prior to appointment date.
Return on Investment
- By capturing information about advertising source, hospital was able to track how well the advertising was working and channel financial support to the marketing activities or mediums that yielded the best response.
- Enhanced patient flow during visit and enabled physician office to develop finance programs for self-pay patients thereby reducing billing and administrative issues at the hospital.
- Delivered ROI of 345 over an 18-month period.
400-Bed Regional Hospital
Regional hospital wanted to increase enrollment for community lectures, seminars and screenings. Additionally, it sought to increase efficiency of outreach staff and improve response to community requests.
Call 4 Health Solution
- Call 4 Health established a vanity number for hospital to use for all outreach programs
- Operators available “24/7” to answer questions related to the event, process event registration, collect credit card payment whenever needed and sent out confirmation letters. These are tasks that were formerly done by 2 nurses and 1 clerical staff
- The call center advised hospital leadership that with its outreach programs, there were many opportunities to support the hospital’s goal of enhancing physician relations. To that end, through a carefully scripted call handling protocol, in addition to taking registration for events, Call 4 Health operators offered callers physician referrals where appropriate.
- Doubled (and in some instances tripled) class registrations by offering “convenient hours” of registration
- Helped reduce labor costs, associated with program administration, by as much as 25%
- Freed up community outreach nursing staff from administrative duties
- Generated over 200 referrals to physician offices in a 9-month timeframe
- Management able to measure and track the number of people who requested a physician referral, which physicians received a referral, compute how many converted to patients, and derive a net revenue figure
- Built a comprehensive, real-time database of all interaction data that increased house file for donor prospecting which resulted in 3 medium size cash gifts and yielded 9 appointments for hospital services (imaging and surgical)
- Revenue from call center contacts estimated at $1.04 million
Converting Callers to Patients: ROI Results
- Community outreach department developed a 3-day PVD screening in support of heart health
- Promoted event through hospital’s community newsletter
- Call 4 Health handled 225 calls in a 4-day timeframe, pre-screened and registered 180 people for the event
- Of those, 21 had additional patient encounters at the hospital within 9-month period following screening
- Hospital received $45,979 in net revenue from those visits
- 29% of those were new patient visits
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) Seminar
- Call 4 Health fielded 68 calls for seminar registration
- scheduled 13 women for physician consult/ office visit BEFORE attending seminar, with 8 of those women needing MIS surgery
- Yielded $41,656 in related revenue
- In the six months following the seminar, the hospital realized:
- an additional 19 related outpatient visits
- total charges of $73,089
Home Health Provider: Patient Satisfaction Tracking and Reporting
- Administration identified complaint as a major area of opportunity to enhance the customer’s perception of the company
- Senior management needed a way to standardize complaint management
- When issues were resolved previously, there was no formal record with which to inform future resolutions.
Call 4 Health Solution
- Call 4 Health created a “complaint and grievance hotline”, accessible 24/7
- Developed complaint handling protocol that is accessible, in real time, by administrators at all facilities
- An intuitive interface allows hospital leadership to monitor and respond to complaints immediately as it triggers a notification to multiple parties at the organization
- Call 4 Health completely documents and records every telephonic interaction and sends encounter documentation directly to department leader. Clinical complaints are routed to risk management administrator
- Monthly trend analysis and reporting pinpoints common issues
- The company identified trends that has allowed it to implement corrective action to improve patient satisfaction and customer loyalty
- Reduced the time to resolve customer complaints
- Greater customer satisfaction has improved referrals and increased profitability