Ringing phones are usually a normal part of the daily routine at most medical practices. Patients often call to schedule appointments, cancel other appointments, ask questions about procedures or costs, or simply make general inquiries. Providers, on the other hand, also call frequently to update orders or ask about payments.
But during busy days, a ringing phone can be overlooked if your staff has more pressing tasks to attend to. Unanswered phone calls can make patients unhappy; if this becomes a common recurrence, they may consider switching to a different healthcare provider with whom they can communicate more easily.
Missed calls can also make it more difficult to maintain an updated schedule, receive inquiries from potential patients, and keep your practice’s operations smooth and efficient. Here are some of the ways in which medical practices may choose to handle overflow calls, and their pros and cons:
Having your on-site staff answer all your phone calls
This is the course of action that many practices take when they start to get numerous phone calls. It may seem like the most logical choice, since it allows you to work with the staff you already know and trust. Additionally, your regular members of staff will be familiar with the running of your practice and thus should be able to easily answer inquiries from your patients.
But on the other hand, it can be easy to underestimate just how much of an added burden overflow calls can be for your staff. Staff working at a medical practice usually have to handle numerous responsibilities each day. They may have to record your patients’ information, schedule appointments, take cancellations and reschedulings, keep your inventory updated, prepare the supplies for different procedures, contact providers, and perform other various tasks each day.
It may not be complicated for on-site staff to handle calls as long as your practice only receives a few phone calls each day. But once you are receiving numerous phone calls resulting in a significant overflow call volume, this added responsibility could be excessive for your staff, since they are probably already handling many tasks on a daily basis.
If your staff becomes overworked, their work performance will likely worsen. They may become ill-humored and stressed, which can affect the quality of the service that they provide to each patient that visits your practice. They may also be unable to handle each phone call effectively, and callers won’t get the answers that they need from your practice. Even worse, your practice’s reputation may suffer as a result of bad-tempered, overworked staff taking phone calls and handling patients each day.
Hiring additional members of staff to operate an on-site call center
If your current on-site staff can’t handle all the phone calls your practice receives while still taking care of their other responsibilities, you may consider establishing a call center at your practice. This often seems like the most obvious and simple solution, since you would be able to closely manage your call center to ensure that it runs smoothly.
But this option can come with a hefty price tag. The process of advertising for a new position, holding interviews, choosing the right candidate, and then providing training and wages is a long and expensive one.
Additionally, maintaining the call center may not be profitable unless your overflow call volume is quite significant on most days. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay full-time or part-time wages to a new employee who may not be taking calls continuously each day. A call center can also still leave gaps in your practice’s customer service hours, since hiring employees to work shifts that cover your phone lines 24/7 would increase costs even more.
Transfer overflow phone calls to an automated answering service
Here’s where a third option comes in: a virtual answering service. Virtual answering services provide trained operators who are able to answer each phone call warmly and politely. Operators will ensure that your phone lines are handled by professionals who can schedule appointments, redirect calls, take messages, and communicate with providers and other contacts.
You can even customize an answering service to fit your practice’s needs, and you won’t have to worry about training each operator. Your practice will be charged depending on the amount of calls that operators have to answer, which means that you won’t have to pay unless the service is working for you.
As a result, virtual answering services have emerged as an efficient and affordable option that allows you and your staff to focus on other responsibilities without having to worry about ringing telephones.