Penrod Blog

State of the Pharma Call Center: Solving Agent Pain

Call center agents are on the frontlines of customer service. They are often the first human interaction consumers have with your pharmaceutical brand, whether they're inquiring about product information, dosage, or side effects.

Most agents are well-equipped with the soft skills necessary to handle every case with empathy, patience, and active listening. Their performance is often bottlenecked by a non-human

If technology issues remain unaddressed, even the most seasoned agents can burn out and create poor service experiences for your customers.

Solving these issues starts with identifying them. Throughout many pharmaceutical client engagements, we’ve discovered five common challenges that most call center employees face. By eliminating these challenges, we create productive work environments that enable agents to perform. 


1. Manual, Repetitive Tasks 

Many of the questions that call center agents receive are simple and redundant. However, they’re still time-consuming due to manual processes. This leads to operational costs, poor user experiences, and agent burnout. 

Your business can resolve this problem by implementing a robust customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This provides:

  • 360-degree view of your customers
    A CRM with call center functionality offers a 360-degree view of your customers, making it easy to provide them with the information they need from various departments. This allows service agents to retrieve the information they need to assist customers quickly. 
  • Realtime information
    A CRM solution allows call center agents to gain access to up-to-date information and pass it to the customer more effectively. 
  • Enhanced collaboration between the call center and all departments: CRM platforms enable service agents to share information across departments. When a customer requires input from more than one representative, it’s easy for the agents to access the same data simultaneously. 

2. Overwhelming Call Volumes 

Overwhelming call volumes can happen for various reasons, including holidays, significant events, or promotional periods. It may also be due to public emergencies, staffing problems, system issues, or poor call routing. While these situations are challenging to plan for, mitigation starts with preparing call center employees for sudden call spikes. Normalizing an overwhelming workload for your call center agents eventually leads to poor performance, high employee turnover, and toxic culture brought about by employee dissatisfaction. 

You can effectively resolve call spikes by:

Offering Self-Service Tools to Lower Call Volume

Your business has several ways to communicate with its customers. First, consider using an omnichannel strategy that allows your customers to self-serve and find solutions without going through your service agents. 

Your options include:

  • Online self-service
    Create a portal for your customers to explore, where they can find answers to basic, routine questions. 
  • Chat support
    Chat systems are less labor-intensive to manage and still provide the personalized experiences your customers need. 
  • Social media
    Online platforms are popular touchpoints where your customers can connect with you without the high demands of a call center. 

3. Pressure to Perform Better Without Tools to Help 

Agent burnout is a common problem in call centers. It is a silent occupational hazard that emanates from the pressure to perform better without the appropriate tools. In addition, some agents may not have the proper training to handle the tasks at hand, while others have to contend with faulty technology and demoralizing work environments. These factors, coupled with continuous customer demand, fuel frustration. 

You can resolve the issue by providing knowledgebases and a CRM where agents can quickly query customers’ questions. These systems should be supplemented by adequate coaching for the agents. 

It is also necessary to implement an advanced contact center platform that allows agents to automate most of their repetitive functions. 

4. Poor Access to Data 

Access to robust data can help call centers deliver better agent experiences. However, access to too much data can be detrimental to the success of a call center. A report by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) shows that call centers often collect too much data from various sources. 

While the availability of information can help agents, it’s important to find the ideal balance between too much and too little. Bombarding the agents with too much data creates dissonance, inhibiting their ability to quickly find what they are looking for. This can lead to inadequate or inaccurate case resolutions.

On the other hand, limited data means that agents may not be able to answer questions, leading to escalations that bombard highly paid medical staff. 

This demonstrates the importance of integrating business data by providing agents with the right amount of access to organized information. A customer service knowledge base is one of the simplest ways to deliver information to customers. It should be easy for service agents to access and navigate, clearly identifying the steps an agent should take to solve customer problems. 

You should also provide service agents with standard operating procedures (SOP) that guide their responses in specific scenarios. The SOPs should be well-documented and easy to access. This prevents agents from being caught off-guard with specific questions. 

5. Poor Call Routing 

First call resolution (FCR) rate is a crucial key performance indicator (KPI) for call centers. How appropriately calls are routed to the right agent is crucial to customer satisfaction. On the other hand, service agents become frustrated when they are connected to customers they cannot help.  

A data-driven routing engine can resolve this challenge. The system identifies the caller by their phone number and directs it to the most appropriate agent based on criteria in their profile. 

For example, a data-directed call routing identifies a VIP customer and routes them to a specialized agent. On the other hand, a regular customer would be routed to the support department, while a caller with missed payments would be routed to the collections department.

Final Thoughts 

When customer service agents in a call center experience challenges due to technology, they become less likely to flourish. Fortunately, you can resolve most of their pain with virtual support center platforms that combine CRM data with call center features. 

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