When the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) launched its new online chat service in April 2015, the Service Desk Operations (SDO) team was confident it was a step in the right direction. What they didn’t know was just how quickly it would become a wild success.
As the frontline team that answers questions about the source verification of medical credentials and the MCC’s assessment process, SDO responds to inquiries from within Canada and around the world. By simply clicking a button on the mcc.ca or physiciansapply.ca website, candidates can have a real-time text conversation with a service desk agent instead of having to make a phone call or send an email.
“We know the process for entering the medical profession in Canada can be overwhelming,” says Ms. Michelle Lemieux, Associate Director of the Repository and Registration Centre at the MCC. “We want to improve the candidates’ experience by ensuring they are comfortable requesting and getting the information they need.”
Same high quality, faster
With the chat service, service desk agents provide real-time responses to inquiries, and candidates can obtain a transcript of the chat when it’s finished.
“We pride ourselves on the quality of the services we provide,” explains Mr. Marcel Legault, Manager of Operations for the Repository and Registration Centre. “With the evolution of texting and social media, we wanted to offer a technology-enabled way for candidates to communicate with us.”
Like the exams that the MCC administers, the implementation of the chat service was carefully planned. The team started with a soft launch by adding the chat box to strategically chosen web pages to avoid flooding the system right out of the gate. The early reviews from candidates and the service desk agents were resoundingly positive.
Satisfaction for everyone
Each person who uses the chat service is invited to complete a post-chat survey to provide feedback on their experience. The vast majority of respondents have been “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their experience.
“We were impressed by how quickly the service desk said, ‘let’s add chat boxes to more web pages,’” affirms Ms. Lemieux. “It has been rewarding for all of us.”
The benefits go beyond customer satisfaction. The post-chat surveys and built-in analytics generate business intelligence that the operations team uses to improve the information that’s provided to candidates and to service desk agents. As well, staff value the flexibility it gives them to do their work.
Service Desk Agent Jaimie Broughton explains that she receives two main types of inquiries: simple technical issues like password resets that can be handled quickly, and more detailed questions about the process medical graduates must follow to practice medicine in Canada. Fully-trained agents can manage up to three chats at a time, which Ms. Broughton says is a perfect balance of being efficient without sacrificing quality.
“I like the fact that once they ask their questions, you have time to do the digging to find answers you need,” adds Ms. Broughton. For more complex inquiries, agents might have to reach out to colleagues for answers, but Ms. Broughton finds that candidates are more comfortable waiting in the chat than they are sitting on hold, and they appreciate not having to wait for an email response.
Efficiency by the numbers
That efficiency is evident in the numbers. In its first year of implementation, the service desk handled 310 chat inquiries a month. Four years later, they handle more than 1,600 per month and the post-chat survey responses are still just as positive.
“It’s a huge win,” confirms Mr. Legault. “The service really sends a message that we’re here to help, and the results show that the return on investment is incredible.”
With the increase in chat usage, the SDO team has seen a decrease in phone calls, but data shows the team is handling more chat inquiries from more candidates. True to the original goal, the chat service is helping the MCC provide more comprehensive service by answering questions that many candidates wouldn’t pick up the phone or write an email to ask.
“There’s a staggering amount of information out there,” says Ms. Broughton. “Sometimes people just need that extra little help.”