8 Ways to manage phone call volume smarter
Based upon the studies of my own veterinary group post-Covid, 25% of clients hung up the phone because they had been placed on hold for too long. The wait was an average of seven and a half minutes—and when they did get to speak to customer service, they couldn't get an appointment because we were booked out two to three days. Hang up, call the next hospital, rinse, and repeat. Our clients were frustrated.
Clients typically don’t have many ways to reach you, which contributes to high call volume—and that can cause your practice many problems if you’re not routing calls and clients as efficiently as possible.
We started troubleshooting our own practices by tracking inquiry types: How were clients making contact most frequently and which of these inquiries could be outsourced? From that data, we were able to come up with several strategies.
8 Steps to more efficient client intake
Find the bottlenecks. It’s important to reduce transaction time on your end so there’s less lag time for clients.
Make a flow chart of steps from first contact to exam room. Start with how clients contact your hospital and map out each step they must take and each person they interact with from the moment they make the appointment until their pet is in the exam room.
When I did this for my own veterinary group, I identified a huge bottleneck. Ninety percent of clients were calling us, which, based on my discussions with DVMs and managers at conventions, is pretty standard across the industry.
Create more ways for clients to reach you. Text messaging and email save time and ease stress by keeping the communication lines open in between appointments. Templates and auto-replies mean once the system is set up, there is little staff time needed to remain in touch with clients.
Create a marketing campaign to incentivize clients to go online. Our marketing campaign called “Save time and money by booking online” gave our clients discounted rates on certain services when they used the website to schedule. This migrated 40% of our clients online in three months—and we were serving them better.
Try a phone tree. Do you have a phone tree that you could implement to route calls smarter? As a hospital seeing a lot of hospitalized pets, we know clients are going to call in to check in on their pets. So, our phone tree says: “Press 1 if this is regarding a pet within the hospital (tech); press 2 to book an appointment (reception),” etc.
Customize on-hold messaging. Do you have on-hold information in a recorded message while clients wait on the phone? We found this an effective way to let clients know they can get pricing and book online for less by taking advantage of our special promotion.
Aim for client scheduling transparency. A lot of calls are about schedule availability, so we are making a push to create more schedule transparency for the client. Can scheduled openings be posted on your website or app?
Don’t fear virtual reception. Surprisingly, a lot of inquiries and bookings can be outsourced to virtual reception. By outsourcing some of the phone call volume and online requests, like general inquiries or future/forward bookings, we’ve been able to reduce transaction and wait times. Alternately, you don’t need to hire from outside your own practice if you can train your current team to use telehealth tools from home.
These are some strategies I implemented within my group to manage phone call volume (the bottleneck) smarter. The overarching strategy was to migrate clients online and route them in the most efficient ways to get them what they need while reducing stress on our team.
As clients transitioned away from the phone to online booking, we saw some interesting results: Our abandoned call rate dropped to 15%, client satisfaction increased (they were thrilled they could text us and get a fast turnaround time), transaction times were reduced by three minutes, and our CSRs got to focus on tending to clients throughout the hospital rather than being on the phone.
Sachin Trivedi owns and operates So Cal Vet Group and Pet Pit Stop. He enjoys leveraging his knowledge and experience as an operator to help veterinary hospitals make life just a little better at work.
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