Improving Agent Skills Generates Healthy Return

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TeamHealth, an outsourced healthcare professional staffing and administrative services provider established in 1979, wanted to drive collections from its accounts receivable above what was being achieved by external agencies. To address this, the company created a separate division, Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group (HRRG), in 1996. HRRG was also formed to focus on reducing complaints and providing feedback to help TeamHealth improve revenue recovery while accounts remained in active billing and precollection stages.

HRRG saw a need to identify which agent skills were crucial to increasing collections revenue and to measure usage of those key skills beyond just monitoring a sample of recorded calls using traditional methods.

"We could see how learning more about agent conversation would enable us to steer our team based on the knowledge gained," says David Friedlander, president of HRRG.

After speaking with five different speech analytics providers, HRRG choose UTOPY.

"We ultimately made the...decision to go with UTOPY because they were responsive, had a willingness to work with our team, and provided flexible, best-of-breed software," Friedlander says. "They had product knowledge and reasonable pricing."

UTOPY found that the company needed a cost-effective, systematic means of monitoring and assessing agent performance and identifying which specific agent skills were needed to increase collection revenue and phone payment rate.

UTOPY guaranteed HRRG that within the first 12 months, it could help increase collections revenue by at least 1.5 percent and/or increase its phone payment rate by 2.5 percent. Achievement of these goals would provide HRRG with a return on investment within the first year of deployment.

To begin the assessment, HRRG identified its top- and bottom-performing agents in terms of revenue collected. UTOPY took the information to identify which agent skills were the best predictors of collections success.

In identifying best agent practices, UTOPY employed its SpeechMiner solution, which directly recognizes entire phrases within conversations without first converting the speech into text or phonemes, and has the ability to directly recognize entire spoken phrases, not just individual words. Additionally, UTOPY SpeechMiner automatically monitors every agent's usage of the key skills on an ongoing basis, alerting supervisors and the agents themselves when performance needs improvement, along with targeted coaching and training recommendations.

UTOPY was able to determine skills that set the top performers apart from those at the bottom. UTOPY said it discovered that HRRG's top performers used specific techniques much more often than HRRG's bottom performers. Top performers created urgency more than twice as often, suggested a payment plan almost three times as often, and suggested reimbursement nearly four times as often as bottom performers.

Based on the results, UTOPY recommended that HRRG train all of its agents on the collections skills that had been identified as being the most successful. After the initial training, UTOPY recommended that HRRG focus on ongoing training and coaching efforts on the critical skills so that bottom performers used the techniques more often, and also recommended training new agents on effectively leveraging key skills.

Following the assessment, HRRG implemented some business process adjustments using UTOPY Intelligent Coaching, which helps supervisors create training, coaching, and self-learning plans focused on the critical skills for each individual agent and team, and immediately measure the impact on skill improvement. Training, coaching, and self-learning programs were refocused on the skills that UTOPY had identified as crucial to HRRG's success. The skills were not only taught but also practiced in role plays and evaluated with real customer calls until the agents became proficient with them.

UTOPY Intelligent Coaching is also being used by HRRG to establish set times for agents to review their skill usage trends on their own and listen to calls grouped by skill. Agents are encouraged to recommend their calls for "Best Practice Libraries" managed by Intelligent Coaching. Agents can win a gift card if their call is selected. HRRG also runs other contests to generate excitement and maintain focus on the key skills.

"Speech analytics has helped increase average agency receipts by improving agent skill levels," Friedlander says. "We've deployed new initiatives with far greater ease. Using SpeechMiner reports, we can quickly identify and reward agents who follow our recommended approach. The same reports identify those agents in need of additional coaching. We're able to demonstrate how agents using the recommendations are succeeding with best practice examples."

UTOPY said that by improving usage of the key collections skills, HRRG's agents quickly increased the number of phone payments they received. HRRG trained all of its agents on the critical collections skills in June 2011. In the first few months following this training, usage of critical collections skills improved more than 13 percent, resulting in almost 33 percent more phone payments.

The increase in the phone payment rate contributed to a dramatic increase in collections revenue. After the June/July period during which training occurred and usage of the key skills were ramped up, HRRG's monthly revenue was 20 percent above the expected amount of revenue (on average) every month for the rest of the year. This translated to an additional $3,234 in revenue collected by each agent during each of those five months.

"We've been extremely pleased with the many improvements we have made since implementing UTOPY's SpeechMiner," Friedlander says.

App at a Glance

Since implementing UTOPY's SpeechMiner solution, HRRG has seen:

  • key skill usage improve more than 13 percent, prompting 32.5 percent more phone payments;
  • actual revenue, on average, exceed expected revenue by 20 percent every month after the training and skills ramp-up period; and
  • an increase of $3,234 in revenue collected by each agent each month.

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