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The 2018 CRM Service Elite Customers: athenahealth
athenahealth improves its prognosis with Salesforce Service Cloud
For the rest of the April 2018 issue of CRM magazine please click here

The healthcare sector is in a constant state of flux. That evolutionary nature is more apparent today than ever, and athenahealth, which manages medical records, revenue cycles, patient engagement, care coordination, and population health services for hospitals and clinics across the country, is in the thick of it. “We’re doing more things for our customers than we were 10 years ago,” says Jonathan McDevitt, vice president of operations at the Watertown, Mass.–based firm. Between the company’s expanding service portfolio, changes in the healthcare landscape, and a burgeoning customer base, athenahealth’s call center agents needed an updated platform to keep pace.

The tool athenahealth had been using proved too complex and inefficient, something McDevitt says was hindering his team’s ability to support customers. “You had an interface where agents had to scroll through 200 fields to properly resolve a case,” he explains. “There was no way to support the complexities of our business well and to create and simplify pathways that would help navigate that complexity.” 

The need to streamline the process launched athenahealth on a search that eventually brought it to Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud Agent Console.

Further complicating things was the fact that athenahealth stored hundreds of thousands of user profiles, along with their accompanying case histories, in a fairly complex relationship stack on its old systems. “We had to migrate all of that,” McDevitt recalls. 

Athenahealth went live on ServiceCloud in June 2015 but was not using it as intended. In February 2016, the company brought Salesforce back to undo the customizations and return the product to its optimal performance. A major facelift took place in December 2016. The data transfer was a big part of the undertaking, McDevitt says, but it was manageable due to Salesforce. “It was a huge [project], but the Salesforce construct made it about as simple as you could get given the scope.” 

Transitioning to Service Cloud provided an opportunity to format the data more effectively, something McDevitt says was a benefit to his team. “We were able to make some changes to the structure to position us for growth moving forward.”

And customers have noticed. Transactional customer satisfaction increased from 85 percent in 2016 to 95 percent.

Other results of athenahealth’s move to Service Cloud Agent Console have been just as impressive.

Prior to the implementation, contact center agents touched cases an average of 2.75 times before solving the problem. That number has dropped to 1.1 in just a year. Transfer rates—where agents had to bring someone else into the conversation as part of the support process—also dropped, from 16 to 11 percent. Coupled with the reduction in time and resources to address customer inquiries, the organization’s resolve rate on the most complex work jumped during the first year, from 40 percent of cases resolved within 24 hours to 85 percent. “With the Service Cloud knowledge embedded into the Agent Console, the folks helping our customers can quickly and easily deliver the right answers,” McDevitt says.

Now that athenahealth has seen the extraordinary utility of the Salesforce community pool, McDevitt says he’d like to expand on the concept. “One thing we’re sold on is communities, not only as something we rely on internally but as the customer-facing experience for support at athenahealth.” 

Athenahealth also plans to tie together its knowledge management and customer support strategies, with an eye toward being proactive and reactive in its approach to customer support. “We feel that’s the gateway to do all those things, but it’s also the gateway to help us evolve our business.” 

The organization’s customers and its internal employees stand to benefit from the ever-widening knowledge base found in these communities. It’s all part of the ongoing improvement efforts athenahealth has built around Service Cloud. As McDevitt puts it, “We have a goal project that we refer to as ‘Salesforce optimization,’ and it has no end date.” 

Since implementing Salesforce.com's Service Cloud Agent Console, athenahealth has seen the following results:

  • transactional customer satisfaction improve from 85 percent to 95 percent;
  • the number of complex cases resolved within 24 hours increase from 40 percent to 85 percent;
  • the average case touches reduced from 2.75 to 1.1; and
  • transfer rates decrease from 16 percent to 11 percent.

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