Telephone calls are a part of the daily routine for most medical practices in the world. Of course, you always try to answer each and every phone call, but it’s no secret that some calls may go unanswered — especially during peak hours or busy seasons.
Put simply, the phone calls that you miss are your overflow call volume. The term refers to the phone calls that can’t be initially handled by your primary staff, and thus need someone else to pick them up to prevent them from going unanswered.
Overflow call volume is rarely constant throughout the day. In most cases, medical practices will be able to identify specific times during the day when it becomes more difficult to make sure each phone call is picked up. This could be due to having a busier schedule at certain times, to your team taking a much needed break, or because your office has already closed for the day.
Whatever the reason, every medical practice should look for efficient strategies to handle their overflow call volume. Unanswered phone calls may not sound like a critical issue — especially for doctors who treat life-threatening conditions all day, everyday —, but they could quickly impact your practice’s reputation. And once this happens, it’s very difficult to regain your patients’ trust, even if you have already solved the initial issue.
You can miss important information if your phone calls go unanswered
There are many reasons why a patient may need to call your medical practice. A new patient may be looking to schedule their first appointment with you, or they may be inquiring about the cost of the procedures you perform.
Patients also often call medical practices to cancel appointments. There are many reasons why an appointment may be cancelled, and most of them are completely unexpected for patients. Under stressful circumstances, they may try ringing your office once or twice to inform you that they won’t be able to attend. But if the phone call goes unanswered, they will probably move on with their day and you will find yourself with an unexplained free slot in your schedule.
Missed phone calls can have an impact on your patients’ satisfaction levels
If your patients find themselves constantly calling your number without being able to get through to someone, it’s very likely that they won’t be happy about it. It’s understandable, since patients often need to communicate with their healthcare providers about very sensitive health issues.
But if this happens, disgruntled and unhappy patients could negatively impact your reputation. This could lead patients to drift away from your practice to other healthcare providers, and it could also prevent prospective patients from ever seeking your services.
In medicine, your reputation is everything. And unfortunately, once you gain a poor reputation — for whatever reason — it can be nearly impossible to shake it off.
How to handle overflow call volume effectively
A virtual answering service can help your practice solve all these issues quickly and without breaking the bank.
Virtual answering services function as a remote call center for your medical office; through these services, you’ll start working with professionally-trained agents immediately without having to go through the process of hiring and training new staff. You also won’t have to pay full-time wages — a virtual answering service will only charge you for the time that agents actually have to spend on phone calls.
You can also request that agents only handle phone calls placed during certain times of the day, or that they pick up the call only after your on-site phone has rung a specific number of times. This degree of customization ensures that your new call center will be able to adapt to cover your patients’ needs.
Virtual receptions can be completely customized to fit your office’s needs. Agents will operate using the information and instructions that you provide, and they can perform many different tasks that will help your practice run smoothly while still making sure that each phone call is taken by a friendly human voice.
Now, patients will know that they can always call your practice without fearing that their call won’t be answered. This will make it easier for them to schedule or cancel appointments, request pricing information, make inquiries, and even leave messages. Keeping an open line of communication is one of the easiest ways to maintain and improve the reputation of your medical practice, and soon, more people will hear about your practice straight from the mouth of your satisfied patients.