Over twenty years ago, former inspector general of Health and Human Services Richard Kusserow and his daughter Carrie Kusserow were operating the third largest hotline service company in the country. Based on what they learned, they authored a tool kit and practical guide for establishing and managing a hotline operation, entitled “Ultimate Hotline Resource Manual.” Today this manual remains one of the best resources for compliance professionals for information on establishing, improving, evaluating, and managing a hotline program. They continue providing concierge hotline services.
While it is impractical to capture all of the best practices cited in the manual, I have selected some of the most appealing:
- Whenever possible, there should be a single hotline which addresses all areas of concern. It is better to have a single focal point for taking calls and a system to route them rather than having several hotlines with different objectives.
- While live operator hotline service is still preferred as the best debriefing method, web-based reporting is growing as a desired option by millennials. It should not be used as a replacement for live telephone reporting, but if offered together would be a best practice.
- Employees and others should be encouraged to use the hotline as the avenue of last resort, not supplanting the usual reporting up the chain of command or to HR.
- Those answering the hotline should never volunteer any information not included in written policies and procedures.
- Callers to the hotline should be debriefed with open-ended questions, not standardized script questions.
- Make sure that the hotline operators review notes of the call with the caller to assure that all points have been answered accurately.
- For quality purposes, it is advisable to make periodic test calls to the hotline at different days and times.
- Once a report is verified, every attempt should be made to resolve it first at the work group level.
- Hotline training should be a part of new employee orientation and refresher training should be conducted at least annually.
- Assure that there is ongoing auditing and monitoring of the hotline.
The above pointers are a few of the Kusserows’ suggestions for efficient and effective hotline management. A number of publications are available here without charge, discussing hotline related issues. Experienced compliance officers will likely have additional tips based on their own experience.
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