What the NHS needs now is... Clarity

For the past few weeks I've been suffering with a cold, thanks to the great British weather, I'm not one for letting a little cold get in the way of work or play, so I've been soldiering on. Before a day of meetings, a couple of weeks ago, I learnt not to take the wrong cold and flu tablets before bed, yes you guessed it the ones that contain caffeine, I was wide awake at 2:30am on the Tuesday morning knowing I had a full day of meetings ahead, not good, but thankfully one of the team was driving not me!

Anyway I digress, on Saturday after a walk followed by coffee and cake with the family, I had to give into the nagging of my wife, sister and mum to finally seek medical advice. Being the weekend, the doctor’s is closed, so I took the line of least resistance... the pharmacy.  On explaining my symptoms, the pharmacist said, ‘You've probably got a chest infection; I’d advise you to see a doctor'.

Now this is where it gets interesting from a business point of view. My wife handed me her phone which was calling the out of hours GP line, I was greeted by an automated message along the lines of, ‘This out of hours phone line is no longer answered... if you’re at death’s door call 999, if it's not urgent call 111’.  

Thinking that 111 was not going to get me an appointment with a GP I drove to our local walk-in centre, and booked in. As you can imagine the waiting room was packed, not to worry I came prepared - popped in my headphones and continued listening to my audio book. 

After a 25 minute wait I was called in for assessment, the nurse did all the usual stuff, temperature, blood pressure, sats... all normal if you're interested. Then informed me it was a 2 hour wait.  

She could see my face sink, so I asked why the out of hours GP service was no longer available, to which her reply was “it is”.  After explaining that I'd rung the out of hours GP number before coming here and got a message saying no one was available she said, ‘Well did you ring 111?’ My response was, ‘No because that wouldn't get me a doctor’s appointment’. What she said next made complete sense and I can see why the PCT or whatever it's called now have made this change because it's for the better but the way they've implemented it is shocking.

The nurse explained all enquiries are now fielded by the North West 111 service, they perform an initial triage assessment over the phone to decide the most appropriate form of treatment for you, one of which being an out of hours GP appointment. This was not made clear in the voicemail message I received when calling the out of hours GP. 

I told the nurse and the receptionist at the walk-in centre, I wasn’t going to wait 2 hours and ring 111 instead.

So after a quick 10 minute call I had an appointment to see a GP in 30 minutes. Driving straight from the walk-in centre to the surgery I arrived early and was surprised to find the car park only had 3 cars in it and the waiting room completely empty! Turns out the 3 cars belonged to the 2 doctors and 1 receptionist, there was literally no one else there, so a couple of minutes later I left with a prescription having received the best service ever from the NHS... it was like having a private appointment.

Empty waiting room at the Out of Hours GP

Empty waiting room at the Out of Hours GP

Walking out I couldn't help thinking how many of the people at the walk-in centre could have been seen by a GP?  My guess is at least 70%. But because of an ill thought out voicemail message which fails to explain how to get help properly, no one knows how to access the out of hours GP! I’d like to know how many patients were seen by the two doctors at the surgery on Saturday compared to the walk-in centre. 

What's the point of my ramblings? I've got one thing to say...

In business your message, whether it's a marketing message or operational message, needs to be crystal clear. 

Effective communication and getting your point across in the simplest way possible is super important to the success of your business. 

Imagine for one second that the walk-in centre and out of hours surgery were normal businesses, that had to turn a profit. One would be overrun with customers and the other would be shutting up shop within a month due to lack of them. All because of an unclear voicemail message which didn't give me (the customer) all the information I needed to make an informed decision.

Make sure your message, whatever it may be, is crystal clear.  

PS If you know anyone at the North West PCT I’d love to have a chat with them to help improve the quality and clarity of their voicemail messages.

Is there still a place for voicemail in business?

It may seem like a dated form of technology but voicemail is really vital for your business. It can increase your productivity, communication with your customers and colleagues, you never miss a call and your callers don’t miss you! So next time you call someone who doesn’t answer, don’t immediately hang up when you hear “I’m sorry but the person you’re trying to reach is unavai…” leave a message.

Yes in an ideal world every call would be answered in person but that’s just not possible, so what are the benefits of pairing voicemail with your On Hold Marketing?

There are a number of ways voicemail can be deployed into your business to improve customer service.

Firstly every employee should have a personalised voicemail message on their direct dial/mobile, this reassures customers they have dialled the correct number and are much more likely to leave a message. Employees can record their own voicemail or have a professional voiceover record it for them.

Secondly if you take a high number of calls and customers have to hold in a call queue, give them the option of requesting a call back by leaving a voicemail message so they can get on with their day, just make sure you have a process in place to ensure customers are called back as soon as possible.

Thirdly when you finish for the day you can switch your telephone system to night mode and send all calls direct to voicemail. With a professionally recorded voicemail message callers are more likely to leave a message.

Well we recently read Giovanni Anchois’ praise for voicemail and it really highlighted how much more productive you could be in a day just by taking messages, and how much business you could retain. It’s much more convenient for you to be able to pick up messages when you have the time to devote to getting back to customers with a little bit of knowledge about their query, prior to talking to them directly.

There’s something that voicemail can give us that an email can’t, which is emotion. You can learn a lot just from a short message on your answerphone, from the voice on the other end conveying how urgent their call is, how happy they are or how annoyed they are (hopefully you don’t get any like that!).

Being able to pick up a message from a potential or existing customer will give you some information about their query. Granted this may only be a snippet but it’s better than missing a call, not having a voicemail option and losing out on business or upsetting a loyal customer.

Anchois makes a very valid point about modern life and how we connect to one another; “The most natural way for humans to interact and communicate is not the web. It’s not email. It’s not instant messaging. It’s not mobile text messaging. It’s definitely not Facebook.” Its natural conversations which only happen when face to face or over the phone.

So have we convinced you? It’s convenient, accessible, personal and productive.

If you need some advice on getting voicemail working in your business give us a call on 0800 0112 123.

Easter eggstravaganza 2015

It's only 2 weeks to Easter so we're launching our Easter eggstravaganza.

Easter Egg Hunt

Fancy winning a Cadbury's Easter Hamper packed full of your favourite chocolates? 

We've dotted Easter eggs around our site can you find them all?

We've dotted Easter eggs around our site can you find them all?

We've hidden a number of Easter eggs across our website, with a letter attached to each.

All you have to do is find all the eggs and work out what word the letters spell out, you'll find your first letter to the right. 

Complete this form on our website to enter the competition.

The competition is open to everyone and there's no purchase necessary, but is limited to one entry per person and closes at 12 noon on Wednesday 1st April. We will aim to post the prize the same day for delivery on Thursday 2nd April so you can enjoy your chocolate hamper over the Easter weekend.

Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages as we'll be posting hints over the next week

Out of Hours Voicemail Message

If you're going to be closed over Easter its a good idea to have a new voicemail message recorded to let customers know when you re-open and any emergency contact information.

Click here to order your Easter Voicemail Message

If you need any help just call us on 0800 0112 123