Choosing a Phone System for Small Medical Offices
When you run a small medical office, one of the biggest drawing points that let you compete with larger healthcare providers is your customer service. But if your phone system is inefficient, your customer service will be impacted and business will suffer. Customers hate communications problems like experiencing difficulties in trying to schedule an appointment, having to wait a long time to talk to someone who can help them, or having to waste time repeating information they already provided you earlier. Frustrations such as this can hurt your customer satisfaction levels and drive business to competitors.
Choosing the right phone system for handling customer service issues can help equip you to address these challenges. Here are some guidelines on how to choose right phone system for small medical offices.
Small Medical Office Communications Challenges
Running a small medical office presents healthcare office managers and staff with a number of significant customer service challenges that revolve around communication:
- Customer service complaints posted online: Almost all healthcare provider complaints posted online are about customer service, which accounts for 96 percent of all complaints, with just 4 percent being healthcare-related, Vanguard Communications research found. Poor customer service can ruin your online reputation, spreading poor word of mouth publicity that undermines your promotional efforts and drives away business.
- Communications problems: Communications issues are the single biggest contributor to healthcare customer service complaints, accounting for 53 percent of complaints. Issues such as being unable to reach a representative for help, having trouble scheduling an appointment, or receiving incorrect information generate some of the most negative online reviews.
- Long wait times: The second biggest cause of healthcare customer complaints is long wait times and long delays in waiting rooms, Vanguard’s research found. Nearly one-third of healthcare patients have walked out of appointments due to long waits, Vitals research shows. One in five has switched doctors due to frustration over long wait periods. Long wait times can be intimately related to communications problems when customers are kept waiting over the phone or they are forced to remain in waiting rooms due to miscommunications.
- Rude staff: Rudeness from staff members is the third largest factor triggering healthcare customer complaints. Often, perceived rudeness can stem from poor communications workflows that leave staff members trying to handle too many tasks at once, which in turn contributes to long wait times. A University of South Florida College of Nursing study found that long wait times often reflect staff members trying to juggle multiple tasks at once, such as answering phones, answering questions from patients in waiting rooms, collecting insurance information, and checking patients in. Trying to manage all these tasks at once can stress staff out, creating tensions with customers.
- Billing problems: Billing problems are the fourth most common cause of healthcare customer complaints, and typically stem from poor communication. Eight in ten medical bills contain errors, according to Medical Billing Advocates of America. Often these errors are masked from patients because an itemized breakdown of costs is not presented. Even when bills are accurate, customers may complain because no one explained to them how much their procedure would cost. Many Americans who are new to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act are unfamiliar with basic health insurance terminology, and only encounter terms such as “deductible” and “copay” the first time they receive their bill. Consumers’ top billing complaint is that no one explained to them how much their medical procedure would cost, according to McKesson director of operations Beth Prince.
These are some of the major communications challenges that can hurt your small medical practice and cost you business.
Requirements for a Small Medical Office Phone System
While a comprehensive solution to these challenges needs to be multi-faceted, addressing issues such as workflow organization and standard operating procedures, a key component to resolving these items is an adequate phone system. When selecting the best phone system for small medical office needs, look for a number of key features that can help improve your customer communications:
- Automated self-support options: A majority of customer service issues can be handled through self-support options. Using a phone system that includes automated interactive voice response (IVR) support and integrates with other self-support channels such as chatbots can significantly reduce customer wait time, as well as reducing the workload on your staff. Allowing customers more self-service options also lowers the frequency of complaints about staff handling of support issues.
- Integration of automated and live support channels: While customers can handle many issues through self-support, a significant number of tickets will require live support, and not being able to reach a human representative can be frustrating to customers who need help. This makes it imperative that phone systems which include automated support options integrate smoothly with live support options.
- Unified communications for all channels: The best way to ensure smooth integration of automated and live support is to use a unified communications solution that uses a single interface to manage your phone and IVR channels as well as other support channels such as web chat, chatbots and email. This also ensures that representatives assisting customers on one channel will have access to information customers have already provided over other channels, reducing wait times.
- Security: An adequate phone system for a small medical office must rely on a provider who meets all applicable security standards, including HIPAA as well as PCI if you accept payments over the phone, helping you avoid billing problems that can stem from security issues.
Look for a phone solution that meets all these requirements.
Picking the Best Phone System for Small Medical Office Call Centers
Communications solutions for healthcare providers should meet all the requirements for an ideal phone solution for a small medical office:
- Unified communications support: Contact center solutions allow you to combine enterprise-quality VoIP phone services and IVR with other support channels, including web support, chat, texting, video chat, and web conferencing. You can even share documents remotely. This helps make sure that all information is available for customer communications, reducing the risk of miscommunication.
- Integrated automated and live support: The best contact center for your small business should handle all support channels from a single platform, including automated IVR support as well as live phone support. This ensures that your staff representatives have immediate access to customer information no matter what support channel they’re using, speeding up service and reducing customer wait times.
- Secure communications: The solutions you'll need should feature enterprise-quality security that meets HIPAA standards, as well as PCI standards, ensuring that your phone conversations meet all regulatory compliance requirements.
Make sure your provider has all of these qualities as you conduct your search for the best phone system for small medical office call centers.
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