Just Answer the Damn Phone
"You have reached the number you dialed. Please listen carefully as our prompts have recently changed."
UroStream has a recent post about the frustrations of dealing with the ubiquitous Automated Telephone Answering Systems that seem to have invaded businesses large and small. Not only do I agree completely with the sentiments expressed, I would go one step farther and claim that in the context of solo physicians' offices, those systems are not only annoying but an unnecessary waste of time and money.
Here's the thing: however many options, menu trees and voicemail systems you have, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PICK UP THE PHONE EVENTUALLY! Why the hell would you want to piss people off before you've even had the chance to say hello? Despite the advertising spiel by the vendors of Automated Telephone Answering Systems, they don't really allow you better control over when you pick up the phone. They merely create that illusion by putting callers on hold for you automatically, albeit with lots of other bells and whistles (read: things to drive callers stark raving mad) first.
Call my office. A person picks up the phone and listens to what you want. If there's another line ringing or on hold, or a patient checking in or out, or for whatever reason we can't help you right that instant, you'll be asked to hold. But at least we know who you are and what you want. If you're just asking for the fax number or office hours or if we're taking new patients, it's far easier to give you your quick answer and say good-bye than to put you through the nonsense of an Automated Telephone Answering System. Cheaper, too. Because we know who you are and what you want, the next person who picks up the phone is usually going to be able to help you more quickly.
I've run across far too many SOLO offices who use Automated Telephone Answering Systems, and the only reason I can think of is that they think they're supposed to. As far as I'm concerned, they're just putting on airs; trying to exude an air of "We're such important people we can't be bothered talking with you, just like all those other big doctor groups in town." It's just stupid.
Pick up the damn phone already.