Those who know me understand that I don't brag much. I do my best, follow my ideas, and try to avoid being too much of a doofus. If I come on good ideas, it's usually accidental. I didn't start this blog thinking that I'd gain notoriety and become a target of Oprah's hatred. Those things just happened.
Well, I've recently stumbled on a really great way to market my practice. It was not at all planned, nor would it ever be something you'd read about in business magazines (Forbes, Popular Mechanics, or Highlights). But it has become a "thing" in my office much like the way that llamas have become a "thing" on this blog (and also like how I like to put quotes around the word "thing").
My secret? Being a goofball on the phone.
One of my pet peeves is how most medical practices greet their patients when they call. Nearly 100% of the practices I call insert the line, "if this is a medical emergency, please hang up and dial 911." The problem with this is that the doctor's office is asking the patient to evaluate their medical condition before talking to someone who can help them evaluate their medical condition. Some people are probably calling to figure out if their problem really is a medical emergency, but are told to doctor themselves before talking to a doctor.
Additionally, the phone systems are generally used as defensive weapons to keep patients away from doctors and nurses, instead leading them through a digital maze where they can leave a message and hope to speak to someone in the near future. Speech on the phones is not reimbursed (usually), and so the main goal is to get the person to make an appointment, where speech is reimbursed. This creates a very frustrating phone environment for people who have simple questions or who don't know if they really need to be seen.
In response to this, very early in my new practice I put the following on my voice message when people call: "I'm not going to tell you to call 911 if this is an emergency because I don't think my patients are morons." This got a lot of laughs and pats on the back from my patients.
And that's when all hell broke loose. I had a new canvas on which to paint my silliness, and so my phone messages became increasingly silly.
Here are some actual examples of my phone greeting:
Hi, you’ve reached the office of Dr. Rob Lamberts. Actually you’ve only reached our phone system. I’m not sure where you actually are at this moment. But don’t be scared, this is a pretty dang good phone system.
For those of you who griped about us having the Labor Day message too long, your voice was heard. Celebrate. No more griping.
Our office will be closed on Thanksgiving day and the day after, So please keep your black Friday injuries to a minimum.
Hi, this is Dr. Rob and this is my new phone message. I know there are lots of folks who enjoy listening to these messages, and frankly it worries me about the negative psychological effects I’m having on people. Anyway, you can celebrate this message in the usual fashion and listen to it for educational and entertainment purposes.
Our office will be closed on December 24 and 25 for Christmas. We will also be closed on January 1 so we can all practice writing 2016 when we date things.
Hi, this is Dr. Rob and you have either dialed correctly or you have gotten extraordinarily lucky. This is my new, and hopefully improved, voice message. If you are one of those who hate waiting through these long soliloquies, please memorize the options that follow and dial them immediately the next time you call and skip my nonsense. If you like these messages, I suggest you take up another hobby, such as stamp collecting, improv theater, or levitation.
Hi, this is Dr. Rob Lamberts and you’ve either accidentally or deliberately reached my office. Please listen to the message that follows because I worked hard on it and it would be a shame for you to miss it. Our office will be closed on Monday, July 4th to celebrate the day Will Smith saved us from the Aliens.
This is Dr. Rob Lamberts, and you have reached my office. Thanks for calling in these, the dog days of summer. If you have problems with your dog, please contact your veterinarian. If your dogs hurt, please call your podiatrist. If your dogs are hot, get your buns over here so we can ketchup. I’ll pause for a moment so you can recover from that one.
(after the election...in a Trumpian kind of voice)
Greetings. This is Dr. Rob Lamberts and you’ve reached my magnificent office, where we work to make healthcare great again. I promise to put a huge wall around disease and suffering and get them to pay for it. It’s a reasonable plan, and I’m sure they will do that.
In the meantime, our office is open to stun and impress you on Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. Our awesome fax number is 706-504-9322. Our website, doctorlamberts.org, is the greatest one ever made. I guarantee you will be awestruck by it.
(People started complaining about my long messages, so I did this)
You have reached Dr. Rob Lamberts’ office. To quiet all those who are complaining my messages are too long, I’ve put all the the good stuff at the end. Our office will be closed Friday December 23rd and Monday December 26th, as well as Monday January 2.
(Insert options here)
There, all you curmudgeons, how was that? Short enough for you? OK, you can hang up now. Go ahead.
Are they gone? Finally. Thought we’d never get rid of them. Some folks you just can’t make happy. I mean, here I have these voice messages that give people HOURS of entertainment (because some last that long) and yet they just moan, moan, moan, like I’d stolen their puppy or something. Well, I’m glad you stayed and have such a better sense of humor than those deadbeats.
Anyway, I’ve got to go now. I’ve got some puppies to steal.
You have reached the office of Dr. Rob Lamberts. Our office offers primary care service without the hassles and annoyances brought on by insurance. Some of our patients feel guilty about having such hassle-free care, and so after each visit they call Comcast customer service or go to the motor vehicle office. I understand. It is hard to overcome the shock of having a pleasant experience at your doctor’s office. Still, we refuse to hassle people just to help them deal with their withdrawal symptoms. I promise, they only last for a short time.
There are more, but I think you get the picture.
So how did my patients respond to this? They absolutely love it, and play it for their friends. I had one person tell me that when she feels depressed, she just calls my office to hear the message. I've also had pharmacies, drug reps, and even other doctors' offices tell me that they love our messages and play them out loud for their coworkers.
Which is great marketing at a bargain basement price!
I think this has another effect on my patients: it makes them feel like they are part of something special. They feel like they have something to brag about, even if that thing is their doctor's silliness. Given how disconnected people feel in our system, I think this is a very valuable thing.
Perhaps this is just an example of a broken clock being right twice a day, or the million monkeys typing Hamlet by random keyboard strokes. Even an idiot doctor can accidentally do smart marketing. It doesn't matter, really, as it proves to me that my goofiness can be used for good.
Perhaps this will keep Oprah off my back for a little while.