Andy Crawford | Reborn in PHP

Room 101 | Doctors Receptionists

Published February 2022 | By Andy Crawford

Doctors Receptionists. Why are they so unhelpful?

Room 101

Is it just me who finds doctor's receptionists unhelpful? This is a telephone conversation I recently had when trying to make an appointment.

Receptionist: [whiney voice] Doctor's Surgery can I he-elp?

Me: Hello, I would like to make an appointment with Dr [.....]

Receptionist: Dr [.....] is booked up for the day and will be back on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

Me: OK (pause)

Me: So can I make an appointment for Wednesday?

Receptionist: No, you will have to call back on Wednesday at 8 o'clock.

Me: OK, so what you are saying is, that If I call back on Wednesday, at 8 o'clock, I will be able to make an appointment (?)

Receptionist: Well the earliest I can pre-book an appointment for is Monday afternoon.

Me: OK can I do that please?

Receptionist: (takes details) You are booked in for Monday afternoon.

Me: What time?

Receptionist: Well it could be anytime.

Me: OK, but what time should I arrive at the surgery?

Receptionist: This is a telephone appointment, the doctor will call you sometime in the afternoon.

Me: Can you give me some idea of what time? Could it be as early as midday?

Receptionist: No it wont be until about 3 (pm)

Me: And up until what time? I guess it's not going to be 11pm ...

Receptionist: No it will be before 6 (pm)

Me: OK so the doctor will call me sometime between 3 and 6 on Monday. Thank you.

Having worked in customer service (in one way of another), all my working life and dealt with some rather difficult customers at times. It seems to me that Doctor's Receptionists make things difficult for themselves. The whole conversation could have been wrapped-up a lot quicker if only the person handling the call chose to be more helpful.

When I used to answer the phone I used to say this:

[Trading Name] You are speaking to Andrew, how can I help?

I would then go on to try to help. Admittedly I was not always able to help and sometimes the customer was left rather irate as I could not (or would not) help them. But in the main I tried my best, where possible, and within the scope of what we did. If I could not help I would explain why not and possibly even apologise for not helping.

So why are Doctors Receptionists so unhelpful?