As a call center representative for Mayo Clinic Health System, Kari Lawrence answers about 100 phone calls each day from patients calling in the southwest region. Combined with more than 40 others on her team based in Mankato, they collectively take between 20,000 and 25,000 calls each week.
“The majority of the calls are people calling in to schedule appointments,” Lawrence said. “Sometimes they have questions or concerns and if we can’t answer them, we make sure we get them to the right people. Sometimes that means messaging doctors, sometimes that means talking to nurses.”
With more than 20 clinics in the local district, Lawrence needs to be resourceful and have a broad knowledge base to do her job well. When she started her position last summer, the first month was a challenge.
“As everyone says, for the first month, you’re completely overwhelmed,” Lawrence said. “You think you can’t do this, I’m going to quit tomorrow. Everybody says if you just hold on there will be one day where it clicks. Even if you don’t know the right answer, you know who to go to for the answer, and they were right. About a month in, it just kind of makes sense.”
To complicate matters, the call center started using a brand new computer program just as Lawrence had gotten comfortable with the old one.
“By knowing both systems I could see the advantages to the new system, but yet I had the knowledge base to figure out how this compares to that,” Lawrence said. “It turned out to be a good thing. At the time it was frustrating, but I think it actually worked out well.”
Because of the large number of clinics supported by Lawrence and her co-workers, the call center is broken up into four different teams.
“One team does the specialty schedulers, my team does Mankato – both Northridge and Eastridge,” Lawrence said. “Internal medicine and pediatrics, those are our focuses. But because of all the different phone numbers that come in, I get questions about all of the different clinics.”
Lawrence credits her success to her supportive team and a corporate environment that encourages working together.
Everybody’s been so supportive,” Lawrence said. “Everybody’s great about helping each other out. We Skype each other all the time with questions and answers. I think teamwork is one of our biggest strengths here.”
But great teamwork doesn’t alleviate all of the challenges of the job, like when Lawrence has to talk with upset patients.
“Back in college I had a job as an AT&T call center operator,” Lawrence said. “My job there was in the recovery department, which means people were calling in to cancel their plans and my job was to talk them back into AT&T, so I think that helped with dealing with our more frustrated customers.”
When she started her call center position, Lawrence said she didn’t have much medical knowledge, and credited Mayo for providing helpful training. Lifeworks also provides periodic job coaching support, giving her another outlet.
“We just talk about how things are going,” said Lifeworks Job Coach Amy Bach. “We haven’t had any issues or anything because she’s doing great. She’s picked up this role wonderfully. We talk about work. We talk about life. Just make sure things are going well.”
Lawrence’s supervisor, Holly Stauffer, said there is a lot about Kari that’s good.
I’ve seen a lot of growth and strength in Kari that she brings to our team,” Stauffer said. “She’s got a huge heart, an open heart. Very friendly.”
For Lawrence, the same is true of Stauffer and the rest of her team.
“From top to bottom, everybody has been so supportive here,” Lawrence said. “I just really have enjoyed getting to know everyone. Everybody was so helpful, especially when I started. Even now, if I have problems or questions, I feel free to go to pretty much anybody.”
As she continues to grow in her position, Lawrence has agreed to be part of what’s referred to as site champions, a committee designed to improve patient care and experience across Mayo Clinic sites.
“Kari, along with two other team members, are going to be working on this committee to see how we can help support and bring that positive experience to the patients as well,” Stauffer said.