Phone Auto Attendant: To Use or Not to Use?
By: Kevin Cook IT Director, HealthCARE Express You need to urgently speak to someone about an issue you need resolved. You pick up the phone and a friendly pre-recorded message greets you. A plethora of “push 1 for this” and “push 2 for that” options continue, and you’re so frustrated, that before you know it, you just push 0 in hopes of reaching a real human. Congratulations, you’ve officially been annoyed by the phone’s auto attendant system. No doubt, as your Medical Practice has become busier, you’ve asked yourself more than once, “Should I use an auto attendant?” My answer, as with anything, there is a right time and place for it. All of our Medical Practices have an auto attendant system in use now, but the patient volume at each Clinic dictates the varying degrees to which the systems are utilized. Let’s face it, whenever you can have a live person answer the phone instead of a machine, people tend to be happier. They are, after all, calling to talk to someone, not to leave a message. One great thing about an automated attendant is it gives you the option to have frequently asked questions answered without using a person. For example, you might have your auto attendant say, “For directions and hours of operations, please press 1.” Instead of directing someone to a person, they are directed to a recorded message that gives hours and directions, with an option to press another button should the caller have further questions. In this instance, an auto attendant may be a great thing. Not only does it save your staff the time of not having to answer the same redundant question, it also instantly gives information to someone, instead of having them passed around the office until someone can give the best directions possible to your Medical Practice. Is There a Formula for Using an Auto Attendant? Unfortunately, there is no exact science or formula for you to use to make the decision easier to utilize an auto attendant. While it’s always easier and takes less time for your employees to go with some type of automated answering system, the decision to use one comes down to weighing the pros of the time saving benefits with the cons of the lack of personal customer service a human voice can provide. The good news is there are some stats you can use to help you make a more informed decision about switching or not switching. First, examine your patient volume and staffing for each location. Compare that to the number of calls coming in each hour. How many calls per hour is each staff member answering? If your Medical Practice is new and still hasn’t reached your peak volume goal, you will almost always have extra people on staff. In this scenario, using an auto attendant doesn’t make sense. However, once your patient volume gets so high that answering telephones actually decreases your team’s ability to provide great customer service to patients in your clinic, it’s time to consider either hiring an answering service or using an auto attendant. Basically, your decision comes down to asking yourself one question, “What number of calls can my team handle while still providing great customer service to both my patients who call in and to my patients at my Medical Practice seeking treatment?”