Contact tracing for COVID-19 and other diseases isn’t as simple as getting people on the phone, asking a few questions, and rattling off a list of scripted talking points.
Ideally, the job requires patience, empathy, diligence, professionalism, and strong communication skills.
Some contract tracers come by these traits naturally. Most, though, can really benefit from extensive coaching, training, and support.
When PubSEG originated in 2020, the company didn’t have the resources to provide this level of training, but the leadership team was determined to rectify that situation. Two years later, PubSEG is fully committed to Quality Assurance … and it shows.
“This is the strongest group of contact tracers we’ve ever had,” says Dawn Stolte, Vice President of Operations. “Our QA scores are constantly going up, and we’re seeing happier clients as a result. It’s all thanks to our Quality team really coaching our tracers through difficult situations. Quality is such an integral part of our programs—we wouldn’t be close to where we are today without it.”
PubSEG has grown from not having a QA department at all to having a five-person team that works closely with tracers from their first days on the job through the duration of their time with the company.
Here’s how the Quality team has been able to make such an impact:
Emulating our parent company
PubSEG was founded during the first year of the pandemic by Valerie Schlitt, who started VSA Prospecting two decades earlier. She knew VSA’s infrastructure, call-center experience, and healthcare knowledge gave her the tools she needed to successfully launch a separate contact-tracing organization. Everything fell into place and PubSEG grew quickly—in some ways, too quickly.
Contact tracers were receiving minimal training before being put to work, which wasn’t sustainable. So PubSEG “borrowed” members of VSA’s Quality & Training team and began to develop a QA process and team of its own.
“When I was brought over, it was essentially to create a new onboarding and training process during a time when PubSEG was hiring new people and bringing in new clients at a really dramatic rate,” says Manager of Quality & Training Jordan Chester, who performed similar duties at VSA. “Already knowing how we trained people at VSA was extremely beneficial. Lead generation and PubSEG obviously have very different goals, but being able to bring established training methods over from a tried-and-true company that had been around for 20 years really did translate well to PubSEG.”
Putting the training structure in place
Quality Assurance & Training Specialist Caitlin Tucker started at PubSEG as a contact tracer in the early days of the company, before the QA department was established. She recalls having to figure out certain aspects of the job on the fly, which wasn’t ideal for herself or her fellow tracers.
“People were nervous. They wanted to do a good job, but they might not have totally had all the tools they needed,” Caitlin says. “So it’s nice to know that we now have this solid training plan that allows everybody to get what they need right away. Having that structure, sharing the same expectations with everyone early on, really contributes to people feeling good about what they’re doing.”
“PubSEG that call!”
PubSEG’s Quality team has developed many different techniques for helping tracers improve their job performance. One of the most effective has come from Kamilaha “KK” Hudson.
“I’m always saying, ‘PubSEG that call!’ and they’re laughing because they know what I’m talking about,” Kamilaha says. “But it’s one of the things that’s really helped them implement what we’re looking for.”
To “PubSEG a call” with a positive case or close contact means to:
Personalize the conversation.
Understand the situation.
Be a detective.
Sift out the answers.
Explain the Expectations.
Guarantee an exceptional close to the call.
“If they’re doing all that on every call, no matter what program they’re on, the quality’s going to go through the roof,” Kamilaha says. “Some contact tracers at the beginning, they’re just going through the script and not really reacting to what the person is saying. I always remind them, ‘Don’t forget to be human.’
“That can really bring the quality to another level, because even if the person we’re calling is scared or not feeling well, they’re more likely to think, ‘Wow, this person really cares about me’ and they are more willing to share the information we need to best do our job.”
Reviewing the calls
The presence of the Quality team provides more opportunities for tracers to listen back to portions of their calls and learn what they can do differently—whether that comes from QA feedback or their own observations.
“What I’ve noticed with folks I’m working with regularly is the more they get to hear themselves, the stuff that they’ll pull out from the call is different than what I had planned to give them feedback on,” Caitlin says. “That has been one of the most successful practices—giving them the chance to hear what they sound like and providing them the opportunity to make decisions for themselves about what they want to focus on. Sometimes, there’s stuff I need them to improve on, but a lot of times that self-reflection is really useful, too.”
Some tracers tend to criticize their own performances unnecessarily, which is a great opportunity for the training team to emphasize what they’re doing right.
“Sometimes, I think they’re harder on themselves than they need to be,” Caitlin says. “That’s when I can say, “No, your tone sounds great here,’ or ‘No, your pace wasn’t too slow,’ or ‘You were being really clear for this person.’ Having that moment to boost them and say, ‘You’re doing better than you think’ is a great feeling.”
Never stop learning
PubSEG training is an ongoing process, with tracers receiving individual half-hour coaching sessions every other week, as well as regular feedback from their team leads. The Quality team is always looking to develop new training materials that address specific areas of concern.
The continuous learning also applies to the QA department itself. The Quality team has made an immeasurable impact on PubSEG’s overall performance, but they would never say they have all the answers.
“We’re always hoping we can take a page out of each other’s books,” Kamilaha says. “I’m learning from them, just like they’re learning from me.”
When you partner with PubSEG for your contact tracing and overall pandemic management needs, you get a company fully committed to helping you keep your campus, classrooms, and community safe and healthy. Strengthening our workforce through quality and training is a big part of that commitment.
If you’d like to learn more about PubSEG and our pandemic management work with schools, colleges, universities, municipalities, and other organizations, give us a call at 856-240-8117 or email email@example.com. We’d love to see how we can help.