Cloud-based contact center solutions are one of the most effective ways to scale up contact center capacity during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout
The approval of COVID-19 vaccines was cause for a lot of celebration—but it has also raised a lot of questions about the logistics of a nationwide vaccine rollout. Across the country, many organizations’ phone lines have been overwhelmed with questions from the public about vaccine eligibility, distribution and more.
State and local governments as well as healthcare systems have been caught unprepared for the dramatic increase in call volumes, which some report are ranging from an additional 1,000 calls per day to 30,000 per hour. Depending on patient population density and government involvement within each geographic area’s rollout plans, some of these organizations may never be able to handle the sheer number of calls they’re receiving, causing delays to the distribution of life-saving vaccines.
The problem: flooded phone lines
Many organizations have enough telephone lines to handle an increase in call volume of up to 20%. But even if they have adequate infrastructure, they likely do not have enough agents to answer a significant increase in the number of incoming calls. Either way, when all the “trunks” are full, patients will receive a busy signal, causing frustration to soar.
This problem affects both incoming and outbound calls, which can be disastrous for healthcare systems. Not only can this impact their ability to disseminate information about the COVID-19 vaccine, but it also affects unrelated day-to-day operations such as coordinating emergency services, dispatching ambulances, making appointment reminder calls, billing reminder calls, language translation, pharmacy orders, supply orders and more.
A simple, cloud-based solution
Luckily, cloud-based contact center solutions can provide a new, more effective approach to handling increased call volumes like those due to COVID-19 vaccine distribution by allowing organizations to easily scale up capacity while reducing call time with one simple, customizable solution.
When diverting call traffic to the cloud, organizations remove their dependency on on-premises infrastructure. The key to this tactic is to give callers all the information they need through the system, so they won’t have to call into their local healthcare system with further inquiries.
How can cloud-based contact centers be used?
One option is to route COVID-19 vaccine calls from the service provider directly to a cloud-based interactive voice response (IVR) system. This IVR can play messages letting callers know when a vaccine is available and relay essential information to patients about eligibility requirements. Building on that IVR, the solution can add functionality with artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots that can verbally answer questions based on an information repository provided by the organization or healthcare system.
While AI or chatbots cannot accommodate all callers’ needs, by the time the patient reaches the contact center agent, a significant number of calls that would otherwise flow to contact center agents will have been answered. From there, any calls answered by agents would likely be too complex in nature for the chatbots, or could not be completed through the IVR system. This reduction in call volume and handling time can ensure that calls to human operators stay at a manageable level.
Another option that cloud-based contact center solutions can provide is a self-service solution used for checking on eligibility or scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments. This functionality requires integration of the cloud contact center and IVR with the customers’ electronic medical record or electronic health record (EMR/EHR) database used for scheduling. This option can have the greatest impact on the reduction of calls landing in contact center agents’ queues. Once the EMR/EHR integration is ready to deploy, this function can be integrated into any instance of the cloud contact center solution.
Outcomes and benefits
Cloud-based contact center solutions can tackle capacity issues by:
- Supplementing or replacing an existing voice network
- Replacing or working in parallel with an existing call center by shifting all or part of the call volume to the cloud
- Supplying additional staff to call centers (through Sirius partners)
Cloud-based contact centers can also keep callers informed without the need to speak to an agent through:
- Prerecorded messages to share basic information
- Custom messaging targeted to specific caller groups
- AI-guided dialogue flow to answer callers’ questions
- Integration with EMR/EHR systems to access patient records and offer vaccine appointments to those who qualify
- Outbound calls, texts and emails about vaccine availability
Because contact centers can’t afford to waste time on setup or execution, most cloud-based contact center solutions can be deployed as quickly as organizations are ready to adopt them.
- The base solution can be set up as quickly as one day
- Once set up, cloud contact center solutions can seamlessly handle calls immediately with no additional effort or onboarding
- Pricing for contact center solutions is usage-based, so as call volumes decrease, so will costs
- The CARES Act is likely to contain funding for state and local governments as well as healthcare systems in an effort to make vaccines available as quickly as possible
With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in full swing, it seems unlikely that call volume for state and local governments and health systems will return to “normal” levels any time soon. For contact centers that need to scale up quickly, cloud-based contact center solutions are a fast, easy way to stabilize overwhelmed systems.
To learn more about cloud-based contact center solutions, be sure to reach out to your Sirius representative or email ContactCenterSolutions@siriuscom.com.