Productivity

How To Create The Ideal Outgoing Message

 June 9, 2021

By  Uriah Guilford, MFT

minute read

Hello and welcome back to the podcast!

Today, I’m talking about crafting the ideal outgoing phone message. For some quirky reason. I just love getting into these kinds of details, especially when it comes to creating efficient systems with tech. It’s just fun for me, and I hope it’s really useful and practical for you as well.

So the goal here really is to give callers clear guidance on how to accomplish what they want while providing great customer service and hopefully limiting their frustration.

So quick note that I have to add in here is that to make this happen, you will actually need a virtual phone system like Phone.com, Telzio or TalkRoute, to name just a few. If you’re using your cell phone for your practice or even a regular Google Voice number, that actually won’t work because there’s no phone tree system.

So here’s the simple format for the ideal outgoing phone message: it’s basically just a warm greeting, some instructions, and then a positive and friendly closing comment.

So you want to start out with a warm greeting and then next up, you want to set expectations for response time. I think this is really critical.

For example, we return calls Monday through Friday within 24 hours and often much sooner. So they know right up at the front what to expect.

And then you get into some details like ‘Press one for new clients, press two for current clients with billing or scheduling questions,’ and you can map those out in your virtual phone system to go to certain extensions. That’s usually the way to to do that.

And then you also can mention that they can dial their therapist’s extension if they know it – if existing clients call their therapist on a regular basis and they know the extension, that’s easy: they can go ahead and dial that.

And then it’s helpful to give instructions on how to use the Dial By Name directory. And what I usually do is map that to option nine AND zero, because sometimes people don’t listen to the outgoing message and they will just press zero because we’re all used to pressing zero to try to get somebody on the phone! And if that goes to the door by name directory, that’s just helpful so they can hopefully find who they’re looking for.

And of course, as therapists in our industry, we almost always want to give instructions about how to handle a psychiatric emergency, local emergency contact numbers and/or your 911 as well.

And that’s basically it! And then wrap that up with a positive and friendly closing comment and they can then leave a message, hopefully in the right area, and then get a call back within that time frame.

OK, so I’m going to actually play for you two examples before I tell you a couple of optional bonus things you can add.

So first of all, I’ll play you one from Primrose, which is a practice that we support through Productive Therapist. And then I’ll actually play you the one for Guilford Family Counseling, which is my practice.

And quick disclosure: I haven’t actually listened to that message in a long time! So probably after recording this podcast, I will go and make some changes to that.

So the first one here is for a practice here in California that we support:

“Hello. You’ve reached Primrose Healing & Wellness. We are a holistic psychotherapy practice in Burlingame, California. We’d really like to speak with you. To leave a message or to find out more about our services, press zero and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it now. To use our Dial My Name directory, please press nine. If this is a psychiatric emergency, you may call the County crisis line at 650 5790350 or call 911 or go to your local hospital emergency room. Thank you, and we look forward to speaking with you soon.”

So there you go! Overall, just a really nice message. I thought it’s really warm and approachable, and there’s clear guidelines and instructions, and it’s also not too long. So that’s a good example.

I will also play you the one for my practice, which I actually wrote and then had it recorded by one of my virtual assistants, because Lydia has a much better voice than me, in my opinion! OK, here we go:

“Thank you for calling Guilford Family Counseling. If you are a first-time caller, press one and leave a message; our awesome assistant will get back to you and help you find the right therapist. You can also press eight for a directory of all our therapists extensions. We return all phone calls Monday through Friday within 24 hours, and often much sooner. If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911 or go to your local emergency room. We look forward to talking to you soon. Have a great day!”

OK, there you go. Actually, I like that; it’s pretty good! I don’t think I’m going to change anything about that except for – actually there are two things that I will probably change, and this goes that falls into the category of optional things.

The first one here is ‘Press…’ you know, whatever number you want to choose, but let’s say ‘Press four for directions.’ Some offices are more challenging to get to, and you don’t necessarily want your intake coordinator or yourself to have to call people back and give them directions if they’re simply coming to their first appointment and they got lost.

So that’s an option. You can also share your current Covid policies if there’s things that you want people to know or you want to remind them about before they come into the office.

Or getting ready for a telehealth appointment – that could also be appropriate.

This is one that I’ve been thinking about changing for a while – and I’m actually going to do it soon – is giving people directions to go to your website and use an online scheduler. That’s what we have on our contact page for them to actually schedule that first intake call. So I think that would be a good change for us because that process seems to work really well. A lot of people still call – maybe about 50% of people still call – but if we can direct more of those folks to the online scheduler, I think that would be even better.

And then lastly, you can add a tagline to your greeting. On the Primrose example, there was a nice tagline there, but I think I’m going to do that for mine as well.

And soon we’re going to be actually changing and rebranding Guilford Family Counseling to InTune Family Counseling. So maybe on the outgoing message, I might say – or have Lydia say – ‘Thanks for calling InTune Family Counseling, where families go to find their rhythm.’ So I think that would just be a nice touch.

So there you go! Those are some tips for the ideal outgoing phone message. I hope you found these tips helpful. And thanks so much for listening!

Hope you have a great day!

Uriah Guilford, MFT


Uriah is a group practice owner and the creator of Productive Therapist. He is a technology nerd, a minimalist travel packer, a rock drummer and business development enthusiast.

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