Consultant goes undercover

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beware: Mystery shoppers are on the loose in the HME industry.

Consultant Ty Bello has developed a customer service audit program designed to help providers put their best foot forward.

“They really don’t know what their team is saying on the phone with that referral source or customer or next of kin,” said Bello, a registered corporate coach and founder of Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Team@Work.

The Individual Customer Diagnostics (ICD) Mystery Shopper Service, like other secret shopper programs, engages employees in real-life dialogue, uncovering possible causes of low customer satisfaction.

But Bello takes the process one step further: After grading customer service and billing reps on their telephone etiquette and reactions to real-life scenarios, Team@Work coaches lead managers and staff through the report, offering their feedback.

“Our goal is to encourage them to use this as a stepping stone to become better at what they already do very well,” Bello said.

Using Bello’s service, Preferred Homecare realized its customer service reps could improve on “closing the call.”

“Sometimes you get into busy mode and you don’t say, ‘I really appreciate your business,’” said Kelly Chapman, region customer service manager for the Mesa, Ariz.-based HME provider.

Now Preferred Homecare encourages staff to emphasize good service with follow-up calls, Chapman said.

Another provider, Noah Lam, used Bello’s service to assess his staff’s reaction to a customer who becomes angry when, due to reimbursement rates, he can’t obtain a certain diaper. Now his staff meets regularly to work through scenarios like these and discuss protocols.

“Experience does help, especially with irate customers,” said Lam, vice president and CEO of Connetquot West Health Care Products in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Additionally, Connetquot has instituted its own mystery shopper program.

“If they know we’re listening and we’re calling, it keeps them on their toes,” said Allison Caprio, general manager.