Archive for Sunday, October 19, 2008

Medicare maze

People working a hotline for Medicare questions need to remember how important that service is to the people who call

October 19, 2008


A congressional hearing last month offered a disturbing picture of the service Medicare clients are receiving from a hotline set up to answer their questions and provide information.

One of the six call centers that handles those calls is operated by Vangent Inc., which is in Lawrence's East Hills Business Park. The local call center wasn't criticized directly and it could well be the best call center in the nation, but the information shared in the recent hearing still should be a vivid reminder to all employees who handle such calls of how important every call they answer is to the person who is making it.

To test the Medicare hotline, Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon had his staff make 500 test calls to 1-800-Medicare. The calls, he said, resulted in hourlong waits, disconnected calls, endless loops of referrals and call transfers and erroneous information about benefits and services.

Everyone who has ever negotiated an automated phone system shares the Medicare callers' pain. If callers are able to follow the instructions, punch in the right numbers and stay on hold long enough, eventually they can reach a live person whose job it is to answer their questions. Unfortunately, even when the Medicare clients got to the right person, they sometimes got the wrong information.

In fairness, the senator's callers apparently were a special challenge because they didn't have Medicare identification numbers and were asking multiple questions. And, to their credit, representatives of Vangent told the Journal-World that they and the other call centers are constantly training their personnel and seeking ways to provide better service.

Hopefully, part of that training asks employees to put themselves in the shoes of an elderly person who may be sick, confused, frustrated or all of the above. Providing courteous service and correct information to that caller may sometimes literally be a life or death matter. Even if the call is about a relatively minor issue, it almost always is an opportunity to deliver some compassion and support to a caller who needs help.

Modern call centers may be an efficient way to handle questions, but, in too many cases, they pretty much eliminate the personal touch normally associated with good customer service. Especially when those questions involve medical matters, it's important not only to be polite but also to get it right.


RKLOG 9 years, 6 months ago

I get so lost in those scary corn mazes! I can't imaging finding my way out of one of these.

Satirical 9 years, 6 months ago

And people want nationalized health care? Imagine an even bigger labyrinth.

Confrontation 9 years, 6 months ago

You won't have to worry about the medicare maze if McSame gets elected. You won't be eligible anymore.

shannanturner1 9 years, 6 months ago

I have worked at VANGENT for four years now and the only thing that is consistent here is CHANGE. We have daily updates to better assist our callers, it is not always easy when the caller calling in doesnt have the correct informations and is not an authorized speaker on their loved ones behalf. People need to understand that we try our best to help each and every caller to the best of our acknowledge, but there are some questions that we dont have the answers to yet. thank you

toughangel41 9 years, 6 months ago

I tried my best there as well but to no avail so I left before I lost my sanity and the funniest thing about working there was the constant moving around from one cubicle to another, that was just plain stupid. As soon as you get comfy in one spot they tell you "ok were all moving again so pack it up and get going to the other building" I never did understand that one it was just a joke.

sweetone 9 years, 6 months ago

Everyone should listen to pogo cause that one is right on, Vangent cares only about money intheir pockets not the employees who have to pay for mental health issues after working in that place. Ya cant comment on Vangent unless you have worked there trust me on that issue, Toughangel and i were in the mist of it and i was there before the days of the Drug Discount card and when it use to be fun to work there. Customer service really worked then.

toughangel41 9 years, 6 months ago

WOW POGO has it right on the money very well said there POGO And yes Sweetone and I worked there together, her longer than I, poor thing ,but yes what you said... It's too bad things have changed all for the almighty dollar and at the Medicare Benes expense, doesn't matter how many toes they step on as long as Mr Curtis get's the numbers he wants. We were all just warm bodies that were replaced ASAP. And as sweetone said she was there when the place was actually a nice place to work and I started the EXACT week the Part D Plan started so I had a little training and was put out there to answer calls. Boy was that scary but soon enough you get the swing of it but then... MORE TRAINING!! and I mean alot more in a very short time and BOOM out you go again. Alot of the trainers were awesome some were supervisors that were learning at the exact same time as we were or getting refresher training on what they had learned a few minutes before training us. I hope some day Medicare get's back too good again for the beneficiaries it could be a great place to work but right now it's a nightmare. I really must say there are some great Supervisors there and they helped me alot through out the time I did work there. Some go to bat for you if you get dinged on a monitored call especially if you were trying to do everything you could for the caller. I have my faves there and I know they will always be good friends of mine even though I have left. As for the ones that were real ... well I will keep this a nice comment... some of them have no business working in that type of environment. They get away with some things that would never be allowed in another business but only @ Vangent can you be an idiot and keep your job as well as advance even. WHEW!!! this is like much needed therapy... thanks to all that have allowed me to vent and thank you Vangent for not suggesting removal... at least not yet anyway lol

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