Making a Difference One Call at a Time
They may be one of NorthPoint’s best kept secrets and assets. Most often, they are the first point of contact for connecting patients and clients to the care and resources they need. They serve as front-line ambassadors, offering a friendly voice and a caring attitude. They are NorthPoint’s call center staff.
NorthPoint’s call center is staffed by eight agents who handle about 22,000 incoming calls each month (264,000 per year!) and schedule appointments for the medical, dental, and behavioral health departments at NorthPoint’s main campus as well as its two satellite clinics. Its diverse and multi-lingual staff can answer call in English, Hmong, and Spanish.
Michelle Wells is a long-time North Minneapolis resident and was born and raised just a few blocks from NorthPoint. “I was a patient here as a youngster,” she says. “My mother worked here years ago as a truck driver for Pilot City!” Today, Michelle is the supervisor of NorthPoint’s call center. “The role of the call center is all encompassing,” she says. “There is so much information we need to know because we handle so many different kinds of calls.” In addition to working with complex scheduling systems, call center staff must have an understanding of the wide variety of services and programs available at NorthPoint. “We do a lot of digging around to find information,” Michelle says. Call center agents undergo eight weeks of training in addition to ongoing training. “Our role is to help get people to the right place which means knowing how to ask the right questions with sensitivity and empathy.”
Karina Lira-Mercado began interpreting for her family when she was 10 years old. “Family members would borrow me and take me to their appointments,” she says. Karina began working at NorthPoint as a Spanish-language interpreter prior to joining the call center team. “I try to be the most welcoming person possible,” she says. “The language barrier can be a big obstacle but having bilingual staff patients and clients can talk to is an awesome opportunity for them to come and feel welcome. A lot of clinics don’t have interpreters. Many of our patients have been connected to NorthPoint for many years and they know we can help them. We’ll go above and beyond when we can.”
Kim Thao is a call center agent who is bilingual in English and Hmong. She enjoys helping members of her community. “When they call, they know we will help them,” Kim says. “This frees them of worry and concern. When I tell them everything we can do here they are surprised. Elders will tell you their whole story about why they are calling. That is their way. To show respect, I may refer to them as uncle or aunt.” In turn, they may call her daughter. Kim says one of the most interesting calls she’s taken was to register a family with six children. “They all needed something different and they had lots of questions,” she says. “But we could handle everything with just one call. That’s what we do, that’s why we’re here for them.” Kim smiles. “Patience is a skill here!”