Have you ever called your doctor’s office only to encounter a voicemail messaging system? It can be very frustrating to say the least. I frequently encounter this at my own physician’s office. Generally, if my call hasn’t been returned in half an hour, I start to wonder if anyone has even checked the machine. So I’ll call back to speak with someone, anyone, to communicate my message. This vicious cycle is what I would like to call “Voicemail Jail.”
Not only is this erroneous practice counterproductive for the patient, but the doctor’s office as well. If you are going to establish a messaging system to take calls, you should:
A) Give the patient an expectation of when they will hear back from you.
B) Proactively and consistently follow through with a call back schedule.
If you don’t have the capabilities to adequately check your system, then you are doing yourself a disservice by even offering voicemail as an option. Personally, in the beginning, I used to tolerate the “Voicemail Jail” system that my physician's office used because I felt as though the value of service that my doctor was providing outweighed the inconvenience and frustration. But lately, since the standard of service has been decreasing in my opinion, I am no longer willing to tolerate the inconvenience of not being able to reach someone in a timely manner when I call.
"70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated." (helpscout.net)
I am not alone in this thinking either. The American Academy of Family Physicians wrote an article titled “Getting The Most from Your Phone System” which was drafted “through the eyes of a patient.” It stated: “It doesn’t take long for a practice to outgrow its telephone system. An inadequate phone system tells patients your practice is overloaded and doesn’t have time for them. Patients judge their physicians in part by how easy it is to contact them. A bad phone experience can color a patient’s perception of the whole practice.” (aafp.org)
"91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again." (helpscout.net)
Leaving patients guessing about your availability and questioning your responsiveness can damage your reputation, customer relations, and ultimately, your bottom line. Make sure that if you are offering voicemail as an option that you are adequately staffed to respond to patient messages in a timely manner, and that you are establishing operational standards that will lend themselves to a consistent and effective customer service experience.