Editor’s Note: We asked solo practitioners to write an essay or record a video telling us how they innovate. Specifically, they were asked to answer this question: “What innovation will be most valuable to you in your future practice as a solo practitioner?” Below is the winning entry. The author will receive a check for $5,000.
The innovation that will be most valuable to me as a solo practitioner in the future is a system to integrate incoming telephone calls with outgoing voice mail messages and also allow full interaction with knowing immediate availability and scheduling future appointments. This innovation will have four main components.
The first component of this innovation will provide personalized voice mail greetings that will be updated automatically on a daily basis. Through the voice mail system, the owner of the voice mail box will record the following items in their own voice: his/her name, the months of the year; the days of the week; the numbers one through 31; and one of several different greetings for when you are in the office, out of the office, in meetings, etc. This component of the innovation will then create a greeting in your own voice on a daily basis for your outgoing voice mail message without you having to record a new greeting every day.
The second component of this innovation will automatically integrate your personalized voice mail greeting with your electronic calendar software such that if you were scheduled to be out of the office for the day, your outgoing voice mail message would automatically change to a different greeting to indicate your status.
The third component of this innovation will allow existing clients to automatically schedule phone calls or in-person meetings at your office through the integration of your telephone and your electronic calendar software. If you are not available when an existing client calls, then in lieu of them leaving a voice mail message, they will have the option of entering their client number and their passcode (which you would have e-mailed to them previously) and the system would provide them with limited access to your electronic calendar software. They could enter the date and time that they would like to meet with you along with the estimated time needed for the appointment and the system will tell them if you are available at that time. If you are not available, then the system would tell them the next available time and date, and they would have the option of accepting this appointment and then indicating whether this was an in-person meeting or a phone call. Once the existing client accepts the appointment, then it will automatically appear on your calendar with the name of the client and the time/date/length of the appointment. There will also be a full dashboard of behind-the-scenes tools and rules for scheduling clients that will integrate with your electronic contact or client software system. This third component of the innovation could also be available through a password-protected feature on your website or through a separate scheduling website.
The fourth and final component of this innovation will minimize voice mail phone tag. This component will be a new feature that will integrate into LinkedIn and similar business-oriented social networking sites along with the telephone and electronic calendar software programs that will allow you and others that you are “connected to” to determine whether they are in the office and on their phone before calling them.
I believe that the four components of this innovation will (1) give clients a more personalized voice mail greeting; (2) save time in having to change and update your outgoing voice mail message on a daily basis; (3) give clients the instant satisfaction of knowing that they have a scheduled appointment with you; (4) save time in trying to schedule meetings or phone calls with clients; and (5) reduce or eliminate voice mail phone tag.—Kirk Halpin
Kirk Halpin is a solo practitioner in Clarksville, Md.