We are a mobile society, aren’t we? “They” say (yes, I often wonder who “they” are!) that Americans move an average of 7 times in their adult lifetimes. Personally I’ve skewed the averages myself, having lived in 9 states, with 19 moves.
I know moving!
One of the big tasks we have to manage when we move is to change addresses on everything from bank accounts and bills to magazine subscriptions to holiday greeting cards.
That done, most of us think – whew! – there’s no need to change our cell / mobile phone numbers! Keeping the same number means we can stay in touch by voice and text without skipping a beat. Right?
Because, if you own a practice, you probably can’t afford a mismatch between your old number and your new location.
If you and your business move to a new location, one with a different area code, or if you are ready to establish a new practice, but your business phone number maps to a different area code, then consider – strongly – changing it to your new location.
Oh no! you say… I use a cell phone and it will work wherever I am! I don’t need to change my mobile number!
From a technical standpoint – you’re right. Your phone will work almost anywhere you go.
But – let me play devil’s advocate for a moment (yes, pun intended).
I’ll begin with a reminder that procuring a new client won’t happen until that person begins to TRUST you. That trust is based on many quick assessments he or she makes about you, which can easily be dashed if something seems even a little bit odd.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of the desperate patient who lives in your new locale. If you went online to find a patient advocate who claimed to live and work in your local area, but when you were ready to phone that person, he or she had a different area code – one that was out of your area – wouldn’t you at least pause and wonder why? And if you had other options of advocates to call, wouldn’t you (probably) move on to one of them? Because right off the bat, it seems odd that the advocate is listed in one location, but her phone number is in another.
Now, yes, granted, many people are savvy enough to realize that area codes don’t always apply to actual living location anymore. But when you are sick, and scared, and possibly frustrated and desperate, you may not stop to rationalize that. At first glance, something seems “off”, so you might move on.
Alternatively, let’s say that patient does call you, and asks you why you have an area code from a different location… If you have to explain that you have just moved, then they may question if you’ll really know the local resources that can be helpful to them. They may not trust that you are as well informed as someone who shares their own area code.
So what do you, the advocate who has moved, need to do to fix this phone number conundrum?
First – this concern only applies if the bulk of your clientele comes from your local area and your business phone number uses a different area code from your clientele. If your clientele mostly comes from outside your area (true in particular for medical billing advocates) then it may not be an issue at all.
Second, if you use an 800 or other toll-free number, then you don’t have to think about this either.
Third, if you live in a very large metro area where residents use a handful of different area codes, then area codes may not be a consideration anyway.
However! In any other case, if your business area code is not local then please change your area code to reflect your locale.
Important: this does not mean you have to give up your existing cell number! There are plenty of tech solutions out there that will let you continue to use your tried and true “old” number. Consider Google Voice with a local area code (free) that simply forwards to your existing number, or get an 800 number, or use a VoIP service (Voice over IP – uses the internet) like Ooma or Vonage. (I use Ooma for business – it’s free and it works great!)
Finally – change the number to your new one in all the appropriate places. Your website, directories, business cards, and brochures, the Chamber of Commerce – anywhere your number is used. Of course, let your current clients know how to reach you, too, no matter where they are located.
Advocates are hired because clients have begun to trust them. Don’t let a dumb thing like the wrong area code erode the possibility of establishing that trust.
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