Getting the Most From Your Phone System

Getting the Most From Your Phone System

It doesn’t take long for a business to outgrow its telephone system. An inadequate phone system tells customers that your business is overloaded and doesn’t have time for them. Your callers judge their customer experience in large part by how easy it is to contact you. A bad phone experience can color a customer’s perception of your business. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Have you ever called your office, pretending to be a patient, to see how easy or difficult it is to schedule an appointment or get a prescription refilled? If you haven’t, you should. What you learn may surprise you.

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. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Evaluating your current phone system

What can you do? As I suggested above, call your office. Be sure to call during busy times, such as Monday morning and around the lunch hour. If you find it difficult to get through, so do your patients.

Don’t stop there. Ask your patients about their experience calling your office. Your invitation may uncover complaints about your phone system that patients had been too intimidated to bring to your attention. You also may want to have your staff give patients a short survey to fill out while they sit in the waiting room.

Next, call your local phone company and request a busy-signal report. The phone company will monitor your incoming calls and report back to you the number of times callers received a busy signal. The report breaks out the peak busy-signal times for each day of the week. Expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $40 per phone number for this service.

If the report comes back with a high number of busy signals, such as 10 out of every 20 calls, you need to consider adding more incoming phone lines. Even if the ratio is one busy signal per five calls overall, you may have a problem –although you probably don’t have to worry if the report shows that ratio in an occasional 30-minute period.

Key Points

• The need to replace or upgrade your practice phone system can sneak up on you if you don’t evaluate it periodically.
• Today’s phone systems offer many features that may not have been available when you installed your current one.
• If your current system is inadequate, you need to decide what features you want, whether you need a whole new system and whether to buy or lease.

Adding phone lines

Based on the busy-signal report, your phone company can tell you the number of incoming phone lines you need. But before you decide to add phone lines, consider whether your receptionist will be able to handle all of the calls. Most receptionists can handle 10 lines without having to place callers on hold for more than a minute. However, this number largely depends on your receptionist’s capabilities. If your receptionist can’t handle all the calls, you may want to add a second person during peak hours. Or you may want to consider automating the phone system.

Of course adding phones lines means adding cost. You want to make sure you’re not paying for lines that aren’t necessary. One way to avoid this pitfall is to add new lines in batches. So, for example, if the phone company suggests that you add six lines, start with four at first. After they’re installed, ask the phone company to provide another busy-signal report. And ask your patients again if they have had any trouble getting in touch with your office. Use this information to decide if you really need the other two lines.

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