Happy customer service employee in healthcare office with phone and computer

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Key Skills to Land a Customer Service Job in Healthcare

Navigating the Post-Quarantine Job Market

Throughout 2020 and early 2021, the healthcare market surged with uncertainty due to COVID-19-related quarantine efforts. Many healthcare sectors saw a significant spike in layoffs due to a decrease in patients seeking elective treatments. Now, as the economy continues to recover, patients are returning for regular checkups and procedures. Medicare and Medicaid also continue significant growth patterns, and ACA is expanding, adding more than one million enrollees since January. Many healthcare providers and payers are therefore investing in fostering a better patient experience.

These indicators show that key segments within healthcare are rich with opportunity, especially for job seekers looking to switch careers or industries. Aston Carter Practice Lead Aaron Herrick helps source talent for healthcare providers and insurance companies, and he advises that customer service jobs are a prime entryway into the industry.

"Healthcare employers have opened their eyes to considering a more diverse range of candidates. On top of that, most companies can now onboard people remotely, which appeals to both job seekers and employers thanks to the added flexibility" Herrick says.

This mind shift has greatly increased opportunities for job seekers who are interested in exploring jobs within healthcare. Since many companies are interested in nurturing the patient care experience, customer support professionals can be particularly optimistic about their prospects when considering a career in the growing healthcare field.

Transferable Skills for Healthcare Provider and Payer Jobs

As new job openings within both healthcare provider and insurance companies are on the rise, companies are more readily considering job seekers who don’t have direct experience within the field. Instead of solely sourcing candidates who have strong backgrounds in the industry, they’re increasingly seeking professionals who have skills that could transfer from another field. Many of these companies are currently hiring for patient-facing roles, which are the front line of customer service within medical offices.

Herrick points out, “within medical offices, there’s a growing need for patient service coordinators, or medical receptionists who are responsible for checking patients in and gathering demographic and biographic information. On the healthcare payer side, insurance companies are hiring for membership representatives, or customer care reps who provide patients with important information about their coverage. Many of these positions are call center jobs and therefore provide opportunities for flexible and remote work options.”

Although rigid experience requirements for many customer service positions are quickly becoming passé, employers are seeking candidates with an array of transferable assets, including soft skills, stress management capabilities, reliability and technical aptitude.

Soft Skills for Success

Healthcare jobs were previously more difficult to acquire and demanded specific experience and skill set profiles. However, given the current tight labor market many of the core soft skills and experience employers are seeking can be developed and are easily transferrable from other industries and jobs. General experience navigating customer-facing interactions is desirable, and experience handling sensitive and confidential information is a plus for both healthcare office and medical insurance jobs.

Other vital characteristics to succeed in these roles include:

  • Ability to accept feedback
  • Adaptability
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Time management

If you excel in these areas, many healthcare companies will consider you an asset. You’ll stand out to employers if you’re able to leverage these skills and make a connection between your previous experience and the open position. A great place to start is explaining how your transferable skills and experience improved the customer experience on your resume and during the interview.

Managing Stress in a High-Paced Field

Another key soft skill hiring managers are looking for in candidates is the ability to handle stress, which increases your likelihood of success in both customer service and healthcare. These jobs often require patience and the ability to navigate difficult or uncomfortable conversations.

Patients often become nervous or worried when seeking medical attention, so medical providers want employees who can put patients at ease with a calm and empathetic demeanor — and provide solutions in a level-headed manner. Strong candidates usually have positive and friendly personalities, so be sure to put yours on display during your interviews so employers can see that you’re a good fit for the job.

The Importance of Reliability

Many workplaces now offer work-from-home options (especially call center opportunities with healthcare insurance companies) so the number one skill many employers are looking for is reliability.

“The biggest challenge for some employees is just getting to work on time and being reliable," Herrick says. “Most employees will be able to learn the skills needed to succeed in the new industry during training, but it’s hard to teach reliability and consistency. Commitment to the job and showing up on time are consistently some of the primary traits we’re looking for in our candidates.”

As job opportunities across all industries continue to multiply, candidates are often backtracking on job offers if a better one comes along. Some workers aren’t motivated to return to work at all — with millions still unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic. Others aren't used to working consistent hours. “We’ve had to interview twice as many candidates to make sure we’re sourcing professionals who are ready to go back to work and will be reliable," Herrick says.

Some healthcare facilities are operating around the clock, so it’s vital for employees to understand the importance of their role before accepting the position. By showing you’re a person who’s reliable and will be committed to supporting crucial patient care initiatives, you’ll stand out as an attractive candidate.    

Technical Aptitude

Although not required to land a job in many patient-facing healthcare roles, computer-based and medical software expertise (or the capacity and desire to learn) are highly desirable skills employers are looking for. An industry forecast by Meticulous Research reports: “The healthcare IT market is expected to grow at 13.8% CAGR” (i.e., compound annual growth rate) “between 2019 and 2027 to reach a value of $511.06 billion by 2027.” Investing in developing IT skills can therefore set you up to take advantage of this rising momentum.

An interest in learning basic functions on platforms such as Electronic Health Records (EHR), e-prescribing or telemedicine software is a great way to show employers your aptitude for a career within healthcare. If you start with the basics, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn advanced functionalities upon hire.

Zero Healthcare Experience Might Not Matter

Since customer service skills in the healthcare industry lean heavily on personality traits and soft skills such as interpersonal abilities, stress management and reliability, there is currently less emphasis on education and experience requirements. While health administration or health sciences degrees appeal to employers, there are many opportunities available for candidates who lack these credentials.

Most employers are now open to hiring employees who come from community college backgrounds, or those with alternative education and work experience. Regardless of your current experience and technical background, pursuing a customer support job in healthcare can help you explore this high-demand industry and launch a meaningful career.

The Future is Bright for Job Seekers

Given the current labor market, it’s a great time to consider new career options, even if you don’t have the experience you’d think you might need. According to Herrick, healthcare companies are having a hard time keeping up with hiring initiatives because business needs are increasing, yet many furloughed professionals are reluctant to return to work.

"This is the most competitive market I have seen in 14 years of staffing," he says. "Candidates have a lot of options, so it’s a great time to consider a job in a field like healthcare — even if you don’t have previous experience." Ultimately, employers want candidates who can start work on time, have a great attitude and are open to feedback. Customer service roles can serve as a path into a healthcare company, allowing you to learn about the industry.

Many employers love to see ambitious and determined workers advance in the company. Starting out as a patient service coordinator at a doctor's office, for example, could lead to opportunities within medical billing or coding (but keep in mind they often require additional certification including passing the Certified Professional Coder [CPC] exam). You could also plan to become a practice supervisor who manages business operations and administrative functions of a private medical practice.

Regardless of your specific trajectory, the healthcare industry offers many opportunities to learn and explore a range of career options. If you're ready to take your career in a new direction and are interested in learning more about healthcare customer service jobs, contact Aston Carter today.