Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Pharmaceutical Call Centers, Product Information Training is Front and Center

November 17, 2014

The life of a call center agent has never really been described as easy; even with the growing amount of technological developments we have for the call center, there are still plenty of everyday issues for the reps to address. The pharmaceutical call center in the United States, meanwhile, is facing issues of its own, as a new report from Cutting Edge Information notes that pharmaceutical call center training in the U.S is now focused on product information, with better than 55 percent of training time focused in that direction.

The report from Cutting Edge Information, titled “Medical Information and Call Center Performance: Building New Practices to Meet the Evolving Needs of HCPs and Patients”, spells out the issues at hand. Not only do call centers in the United States find a lot of time going to product information, but so too do those of the rest of the world as well. Call centers in Europe find 46 percent of training time going to product information, and emerging markets find almost half—49 percent—going there as well.

One root cause of so much training time going to product information is that there's simply so much more information on hand than normal. Callers are getting educated before making calls to a call center to help fill in the gaps, and that means that call centers are getting much more complex questions about various medications. Both patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) are turning to online sources to ask simpler questions, and when questions become too complex for online sources to easily tackle, that's leading said groups to the call center.

With that in mind, that's leading call centers to focus staffing on experts in the field, looking for things like physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmaceutical doctors (PharmDs). With a majority of training clearly focused on product information that in turn has left other topics like database operation, customer relationship management (CRM) tool use and certain compliance measures to take up the rest of training time. The report also made note of some critical points for those involved in call center management, like how to build medical information teams for the best in efficiency, how best to measure the effectiveness of a call center, and how to handle increasingly complex questions.

While indeed, it's important for those who staff a call center to be familiar with the subject at hand, the question in general becomes what to do about the other things that call centers need in order to be effective. With half of training time roughly—sometimes more, sometimes less as noted previously—going to product knowledge, where is the training time coming from for information about customer service principles and the like? Also, what kind of impact does this have on budgeting for call centers? Hiring nurse practitioners and the like for call center staff might well get to be prohibitively expensive after a while, as the call center post would have to approximately match the value of a nurse practitioner's pay.

These are developments that may prove somewhat unsettling, but by like token, may also prove to be valuable in the long term. As the value of healthcare increases and the Baby Boomers become the next generation of heavy healthcare users, being able to address certain points at the call center level makes some sense. But this may have some more disturbing ramifications that are as yet unclear, and only time will tell just which emerge.

Edited by Maurice Nagle