We’ve all had experience calling customer support, whether it’s for your cable, cell service or health insurance. How many times have you punched zero trying to by-pass the automated scripts just to get to a real live human being? You finally hear a voice (hallelujah!) and you realize very quickly that person cannot answer your question and transfers you to another line (or worse gives you another number to call). What seems like hours later, you finally get some sort of resolution, with perhaps additional follow-up to someone higher up that has more expertise in your issue.
Now imagine you have a patient sitting with you that traveled far and wide to get to your clinical site. You just need to do one small thing on your computer that should take a second and frustration ensues. The last thing you want to do is keep that patient waiting or worse tell them they need to come back.
That is why customer service is so important in the realm of clinical trials, with RTSM / IWRS systems, at the site-level. Customer service/help desk models have evolved over time due to the growth in technology. Although there have been significant improvements in technology it needs to go hand in hand with a shift in the support services paradigm to close the loop.
Twenty years ago, automated phone systems to distribute and record customer requests were not commonly used in clinical trial support centers. More common than not, simple databases (even spreadsheets) were used to keep track of requests coming in. When calls came into support, everyone’s phone rang, pagers went off, whether they were busy helping another customer or not.
The first major progression in handling support requests was the ability to utilize dedicated systems for automatic call distribution (ACD) and ticketing. ACD systems routed live calls to an available support associate. Ticketing systems enabled support to manage service requests in an organized manner.
Since the systems were not integrated, there were still limitations in customer service. Imagine a call comes in and that same person simultaneously sends an email. Two different support staff are assigned to the issue and manually enter information into the system creating separate tickets. This resulted in duplication, lots of open tickets, unresolved issues and back-end band-aids to resolve customer challenges and complaints.
Another layer to a traditional model involves a tiered system. The first tier received the call/email and if that initial respondent couldn’t solve the issue, it was pushed to tier two. Typically, tier one support staff were not as knowledgeable as those on tier two which resulted in most calls being sent to tier two. Remember the frustration of getting routed to someone else? It seems this was by design.
1) Integrated ACD and Ticketing Systems. If the customer support function is not built on a solid foundation, there will always be issues. It is critical to have an integrated ACD and ticketing system. This increases productivity as the support associate works within one platform instead of many. Additionally, with integrated systems, every inbound request has an ID (in both systems) which allows the support associate to easily locate the record. Voicemail files are saved and linked to the ticket automatically enabling support associates to listen to the call at any time. As a result, this technology enables tracking of every customer’s tickets through resolution. In addition, every member of the support staff has visibility into the ticket history.
2) Unparalleled Communication Channels. We should make it as easy as possible for our customers to connect with our staff. Via phone and email are no longer sufficient. Robust customer service models accommodate an omnichannel approach allowing the customer to use what works best for them.
3) First Call Resolution – Say Goodbye to Two-Tiered System. Our customers are very busy. Remember, chances are they have a patient waiting. Whenever possible, issues should be resolved in the first interaction. But how? The best way to achieve this is to have a support team knowledgeable in how the study is set up in the RTSM / IWRS and the intricacies of the core RTSM itself.
4) Global Support Facilitated by a Centralized Support Center. Many companies have moved to a ‘follow the sun’ service model with support centers located across the globe. This model can work, however, there is also a level of caution as various centers may create and utilize their own processes due to local managers. In this instance support may become fragmented. A support center under one management team with staggered shifts helps with the transfer of information and it facilitates a team approach to the customer’s requests. Technology has enabled support team members to be sensitive of the customer’s time zone and respond to various language requirements. The goal is to ensure the customer’s request is handled by a knowledgeable team in a consistent, timely and professional manner.
5) Empowered to Improve Customer Experience. The role of customer support should be elevated within the organization, with the ability to influence product design and future development. After all, they are in direct contact with your customers. Consistent survey and ticket data is valuable information that should be shared within the organization. Empowering customer support staff to advocate for changes to make the customer experience better is a key to success.
Have questions? Contact us to start a conversation.