Customer Service Nightmares? Improve Your Approach, Get Better Results

customer service frustration

Readers who know me know that my daughter is very sick, and that I’m balancing my work on advocates’ behalf with being her advocate, too.

For the last five months, we’ve been dealing with hiccups in her major health/medical issues. As you would expect, they have been exacerbated by too-tall hurdles in trying to acquire test results, make new doctor appointments, arrange for transportation, and other problems. They are further aggravated by hearing the answer “no” when I fully expect they’ll say “yes.” Or sometimes even worse – being told “yes” by people who don’t follow through. Argh.

And then – ta da! – the universe came through! I’m an avid reader (as in – decades-worth) of Bottom Line publications. A recent issue included an article about getting better results from customer service agents. SO much good advice, that now I’m sharing it with you!

If you have ever needed a prior authorization, were asked to negotiate a medical bill, needed a correction to a medical record, tried to make an appointment with a difficult-to-see professional, or any other difficult request you’ve been assigned by a client, see if these steps help you out.

The basic advice comes from Scott Broetzmann, who is the CEO of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting. In this post, I’m providing some extra information for you. You can find the original article here.

Tailored Approach, Even Better Results

According to Scott, there are some specific steps to maximizing your chances for better success. Here are his suggested steps, reordered from the original, with my commentary for advocates and care managers:

Prepare for your call:

frustrated with customer service
  1. Scott recommends that you begin by taking a deep breath. Understand that losing your patience or venting your frustration during a call will not move your case in the directions you wish. Keep calm and carry on 🙂
  2. Remember, each time you say anything at all, you need to (first and foremost) be concise. Explain clearly an answer to a question, and add your expectation for the outcome.
  3. Before you place your call, determine (and write down) exactly what you (or your client’s) problem or need is, and then exactly what you expect them to do about it. Samples:
    • My client, Mrs. Fitzgerald, is insured by your company. I’m calling on her behalf to get prior authorization for the surgery her cardiologist has recommended. I will also need a follow up email to document the auth. What information do you need from me to make that happen? — or —
    • My name is Susie Advocate, and I’m a medical billing specialist with XYZ Billing Advocates. I’m calling on behalf of Joseph Highbills who recently spent three weeks in your facility. There are a number of discrepancies in his bills. I’d like to discuss getting those bills cleaned up, and you’ll need to send me a corrected invoice with someone who can make those changes. Where do we start?

Now It’s Time to Place Your Call

  1. Find the best phone number so you can bypass automated phone trees. Scott recommends using, a website that provides access to human beings instead of “press 1 if…” etc. I went to the site and input several health insurers and hospital systems and sure enough – real people! Give it a try.
  2. When the call is answered, explain exactly what the situation and expectations are, as you developed in Step 3. Scott suggests you limit this to no more than 15 seconds. (Yes – very concise!) Be sure to ask your question about whether you’ve got the right person on the phone at the end of your description.
  3. You’ll know right away if the agent you’re speaking to has the authority to grant your request. Understand that most/many customer service folks have specific scripts they are expected to follow. They also have limits on allowances they are able to make themselves. Don’t expect them to overreach those allowances; they can lose their jobs. That’s not your goal.
  4. If they cannot help you, then be concise about who you expect to speak to next – the person who CAN grant your request. They may ask a few more questions of you to be sure you’re routed to the right person. Answer those questions concisely and in a business-like manner, too.
  5. Wash, rinse, repeat. You may have to do this a few times before you get the answer you want. But don’t hesitate to make several calls, or to let them move you up the ladder when needed.

Bottom Line: Stay Patient, Be Concise, Manage Expectations

Often, the reason someone hires an advocate or care manager is because they are afraid they can’t handle such customer service calls on their own, they are afraid to do so, or because they’ve already tried and failed.

Once you hone your ability to succeed with these calls, you’ll not only make those clients happy, but they’ll share your success with others, too. Referrals = more business!

And a Bonus!

Being so concise will save you effort and TIME. And who can’t use more time in their day? AmIRight?

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Content Authenticity Declaration

100% of this post was written by me, a human being. When there is AI (Artificial Intelligence) generated content, it will always be disclosed.

Trisha Torrey
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