When answering machines were “new technology,” (and I may be dating myself here), I installed one on my home telephone. The first time my mother called and the machine picked up, she hung up immediately. “I didn’t call to talk to a machine, I called to talk to you!” she scolded the next time we saw each other.
I took Mom’s message to heart. Talking to a machine is no fun. You can’t tell if your message is received, when it was received, or when you’ll get a call back. Speak to a human being, though, and you can count on an interaction than can result in the information you need, or step toward a resolution of your problem.
Put yourself in the shoes of your patient. If you get shunted to voicemail – or worse, are bounced around the system from one automated prompt to the next -- you will quickly get frustrated. A caller lost in the voicemail wilderness becomes defensive and impatient, which leads to a negative impression of your cosmetic surgery practice.
The importance of live telephone communication for your practice can’t be understated. Here’s why:
- Immediacy: While a voicemail system is OK for certain basic inquiries, such as getting directions and office hours, or checking a bank balance, other situations require a real-time response. This is often the case with a medical question. Patients who do not have their needs met within a reasonable timeframe get frustrated and upset. People who are upset may vent their frustrations online, such as on social media platforms. It is tough to recover from that kind of viral negative publicity. At the very least, that patient may move on to a competitor in the hopes of connecting with someone who can help them. Even if your phone agent is unable resolve the immediate problem, they have provided a professional sounding board for the caller with the promise of escalating the issue to the proper person.
- Personal characteristics: According to research reported on The Houston Chronicle, the three components of effective communication include body language (accounts for 55 percent), voice tone (38 percent) and spoken words (7 percent). Voice tone lends dimension and emotion to words, thereby elevating the effectiveness of the communication. Voice mail messages have none of that, and certainly don’t allow for interaction.
- Confidentiality: In some situations, only personal phone calls will do. When it comes to issues such as medical concerns callers want to speak with someone who can promise confidentiality. No one wants to leave a sensitive message on a machine that could be accessed by anyone in the office. Compliance with HIPAA laws is one reason a live phone agent is best.
While it’s true your patients have increasingly more convenient ways to get in touch with your business (email, social media, website), making a human connection via telephone is still the preferred method. We’ve seen proof of that with clients who find their patients are more satisfied with a live interaction than a cold voicemail message. That is the Dexcomm difference. We are ready to take your call at 800-252-5552