Does Telemedicine Reduce Emergency Room Congestion? Evidence from New York State.

( Information Systems Research (2020) )
Overcrowding in emergency rooms (ERs) is a common yet nagging problem. It not only is costly for hospitals but also compromises care quality and patient experience. Hence, finding effective ways to improve ER care delivery is of great importance. Using a large dataset covering all emergency visits of New York State from 2010 to 2014, we investigate whether telemedicine enhances ER care delivery. We show that, on average, telemedicine availability in the ER significantly reduces average patients’ length of stay (LOS), which is partially driven by the flexible resource allocation. Specifically, the adoption of telemedicine leads to a larger reduction in ER LOS when there is a demand surge or supply shortage. Furthermore, such improvement is not a byproduct of other widely adopted health IT applications and does not come at the expense of care quality or patient cost. We also replicate the analysis using annual U.S. hospital data and find that ER telemedicine adoption significantly reduces average patients’ waiting time, which suggests that the LOS reduction partially comes from the reduction of waiting time.

The Value of Humanization in Customer Service.

( Under Review )
Recent advances in information technologies have put customer service, especially text-based ones, at the forefront of a new wave of service automation. As algorithms become increasingly capable of handling customer service queries, customers are often uncertain whether they are served by humans, and managers are left to question the value of keeping human agents once the technology matures. The current paper studies this important and timely question by quantifying how a simple policy change that enhances customers’ perception of them being served by human agents affects customer service interactions. Our identification strategy hinges on the abrupt implementation by Southwest Airlines of a signature policy, which requires the inclusion of an agent’s first name in responses to customer queries on Twitter, thereby making the agent more humanized in the minds of customers. Various empirical analyses consistently show that customers are more willing to engage, and upon engagement, more likely to reach a resolution, when agents are perceived as more humanized. Furthermore, we find no evidence of elevated verbal aggression from customers to more humanized agents, hence humanization seems to incur no additional cost to agents. Therefore, our findings suggest a readily available and almost costless strategy for customer service provision on social media: signal humanization through a signature of each agent. Despite the increasing trend of automating customer service, our study reveals the importance of humanization, which can at least be partly interpreted by our bias in favor of humans when it comes to customer service.

Chronic Complainers or Increased Awareness? The Dynamics of Social Media Customer Service.

( Under Review )
Despite that social media has become a promising alternative to traditional call centers due to its low complaint handling cost, managers hesitate to fully harness its power because they worry that active service intervention may encourage excessive use of the channel by disgruntled customers. This paper sheds light on such a concern by examining the dynamics between brand-level customer complaints and service interventions on social media. Using a large data set covering details of customer-brand interactions of 40 airlines on Twitter, we find that more service interventions indeed cause more customer complaints, accounting for the online customer population and service quality. However, the increased complaints are primarily driven by the awareness enhancement mechanism rather than by chronic complainers. Specifically, customers learn about the social media service channel from their friends and thus are more likely to use the channel for future redress seeking. Furthermore, holding everything else fixed, high-quality care leads to fewer future complaints. The finding is notable for managers who worry that social media service interventions encourage chronic complainers, which was coined as a downside of social media customer service provision in the previous literature. The managerial implication is clear: firms shall implement a more active, prompt, and effective strategy, which can redirect customers to this cost-effective service channel and ultimately reduce customer churn.