Telephone Abyss: avoid advertising processes that do not work

A relative of mine in another state was recently seriously injured and hospitalized.  The hospital gave us the following instructions on how to access the status of our loved ones’ condition:

  • Call a specific hospital phone number
  • Give the person answering the phone a code and in return we would be transferred to another person who would give us a status of the patient.

This process seemed logical until I actually tried to use it.  I learned very quickly that no employee at this hospital has ever tested this process because it does not work.  When I attempted to follow this process, this is what occurred each time (I attempted these steps at different times of the day or night and on different days to rule out busy times):

  • Call a specific hospital phone number: sometimes no one answered the phone (and voice mail was not an option) so a few times the process died here at step one.
  • The person answering the phone would sometimes find the patient in the system and sometimes they would not so a few times the process died here at step two.
  • The person answering the phone would transfer me to another person. Sometimes I would automatically get disconnected on transfer so a few times the process died here at step three.  The remaining calls: I spoke with a human but the human said he or she would have to return my call, in cases like this I would leave my name and number and after two days of still waiting for a callback, and not getting one, I accepted the fact that they do not return phone calls.

The only way I received updates on my relative was when I traveled to the state and was physically at the hospital asking questions or by speaking with relatives over the phone that were physically at the hospital.

Asking users to participate in a process that does not work only creates frustration for users and a more stressful environment for those involved in the process because those involved in the process are going to receive more complaints long term instead of peace and quiet to do the job at hand.  A hospital is a busy place, if they do not have time for calls, they should not promote the process above, it is a big time waster for callers and for those trying to handle the calls.

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