I’m in Summerville, SC, at my second clinic on Zem Tour (2012!). MaryMargaret and Allison do not have any paid receptionists. They have an invisible receptionist system that seems to work really well. They could probably keep going as they are, and it would be fine.
However, I truly believe that volunteers will help them grow faster than they could with their current system. First of all, even if to start, all their volunteers do is sit at the front desk and answer the phone, this will help. When people call, if no one answers the phone, they are less likely to come in. If MaryMargaret and Allison are too busy to call them back right away, they are potentially losing an appointment. SCA is located on Main St, and receives lots of foot traffic. If people look in the window, or even open the front door, but see no one, they are less likely to come in. Even having a friendly face at the desk to say, “Hello! How can I help you?” can only improve business.
Furthermore, volunteering is great for the volunteers. They are going to tell their friends about how great acupuncture is. Their friends will become new patients. They will tell their friends. See where this is going?
So, you’ve got volunteers at your front desk. Their job is fairly easy. As they become comfortable, they’re going to notice things that you don’t notice. Think about it. You’re running a business. You’re poking people. You’re juggling a million things. Your volunteers are just staffing your front desk, and believe it or not, some of them are going to have really good ideas about how to make things better in your clinic, and they’re going to do a lot of that work.
If you can afford to pay receptionists and still stay in business and grow, more power to you. I think that volunteers are perfect for clinics who want to transition from invisible receptionist systems, for the reasons that I went into above, or for clinics who have part-time paid receptionists, but can’t afford to pay any more than they are, and want someone at the front desk at all times.
Again, if you want help setting up a volunteer system, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.