Launch a chatbot to reduce the workload in the CCC. "Promise you'll be 'live' within a week, that's gutsy."

“During the peak of the corona crisis, we were facing difficulties when it came to accessibility. It takes courage, in these times, to opt for renewal and to relieve our patients and GPs when everyone was struggling. I am happy with the choices that have been made, it has certainly provided relief.” 

Madelein Leegwater

Sector director market and relations, Star-shl

Go ‘live’ in a few days to reduce the workload at the Customer Contact Centre as quickly as possible and reduce waiting times for patients and general practitioners (GPs). This was what Madelein Leegwater, Sector Director Market and Relations, had in mind when she approached Dialog Groep at a time when the corona crisis was causing the telephone to ring red hot.


First-line diagnostic centre Star-shl specialises in laboratory testing of blood, urine and stools and performs imaging and functional tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds and eye photographs. In addition, Star-shl also carries out examinations of cardiac and pulmonary functions, on-call and monitoring services and anticoagulation services. Locations for blood sampling and other examinations are spread across the southwest of the Netherlands and the 1.500 employees support and advise professionals such as general practitioners, obstetricians and care institutions. Star-shl processes 2.000.000 blood tubes annually.

Preventing the spread of coronavirus

As far as patient satisfaction is concerned, Star-shl scores an 8,6 and in general the service and contact is experienced as fast and personal. Something that became quite a challenge online due to the enormous increase in the number of calls as a result of corona, and the additional measures that had to be taken. “Preventing the spread of the virus became a priority for us. We have therefore implemented various guidelines in our services. For example, instead of walking in freely to have blood samples taken, we wanted patients to come to our locations by appointment. This was in the interests of the safety of both employees and patients: 1,5 metres, not too many people in a waiting room, etcetera”, says Madelein Leegwater.  “This of course led to a rapid increase in the average number of incoming calls and an increase in waiting times. The team of employees in the Customer Contact Centre (CCC) had to be expanded very quickly. All this under pressure, in the middle of a crisis”.

Respond quickly with extra support

How do you get temporary staff trained quickly and ensure that they are able to answer questions properly? Where changes to corona measures from the government had to be taken into account. How do you quickly reduce the long waiting times? In addition to the rapid scaling up of staff at the CCC, extra support was sought and the chatbot Sam was used for this purpose. Also outside office hours and in weekends. Questions about, for example, appointments, opening hours and available locations were categorized and standardized so that the Chatbot’s answers lead to shorter waiting times and a positive chat experience for both patients and GPs. And in the event of changes from, for example, the government, the answers can be quickly adjusted by the staff themselves.

Rapid adoption of chatbot Sam

Dialog Groep was already talking to Star-shl about improving digital self-service and better accessibility outside office hours, and offered to start a chatbot on the website within a few days. In doing so, a large number of questions could be answered automatically and the workload at the KCC could be reduced. With the promise that the impact on Star-shl employees would be low, Dialog Groep started with the first workshops. The use case was discussed together, KPI’s were determined, the chatbot was set up and after 5 days chatbot Sam was a fact and employees were trained for the live take-over functionality. They quickly mastered this. The chat was used on average 300 times a day without any promotion. Subsequently, chat conversations and statistics were evaluated on a daily basis and optimizations were carried out.

Only what can be automated

Based on the experiences of the first month, Dialog Groep developed a roadmap for further optimization of the chatbot, with the connection of new departments, implementation of new use cases and promotion of the chatbot through other communication channels such as letters, pdf’s, e-mail, social media and sms. All this was presented for a successful business case in a 4-phase plan with a turnaround time of 12 months. Star-shl’s objective from this first success is to replace no less than 10% of the incoming calls in the 1st phase with chat conversations, but ultimately to automate what can be automated. The joint ambition is to reduce the number of incoming calls by 30-40%. This will give employees more time to pay attention to questions that really require personal contact. This fits in well with the ambition to offer the same quality of service online as is currently offered offline.


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