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Communication

by Dr. Michael Trapani

This pithy little quotation is typically attributed to Anglo-Irish playwright and polemicist George Bernard Shaw, but there is little evidence that he actually made such a pronouncement. Credit for this piece of wisdom seems never to have been communicated to Shaw himself.

Nowadays, we suffer with a plethora of communication options. Everyone, it seems, wants us to communicate on every level and on every topic with everyone. Text, e-mail, websites, Facebook®, Yelp®, Square®, Twitter®, Instagram®… Everybody is dying for us to communicate using the best possible platform, which of course is the one that earns them a living.

But do we achieve anything more than the illusion of communication? I really have to wonder. Let’s say I’m calling a phone company. My call is answered by a cheery phone robot, who takes forever to calmly, clearly, and s-l-o-w-l-y spell out the myriad of wonderful options available to me, none of which accurately address my need. Some of these robots will recite menu after menu of choices but never connect me with an actual human being. Once upon a time when we could dial “zero” to reach a real person. They disconnected that option. It’s almost as if they don’t want to talk to us!

It’s not so at my office. We WANT to talk to you! Your call is answered by a real person whose entire day is dedicated to getting you what you need. Need an appointment? What day and time work best for you? You’d like a prescription refill? Most are ready the same day. You have a question? Let me connect you with our highly trained technician. Yes, our knowledgeable, genuinely caring human receptionist really wants to help you!

And after hours, there’s recorded information and a message machine so we can call you first thing in the morning.

Nowadays it has become fashionable to avoid actually speaking to people, and my office receives electronic messages through all sorts of platforms. Some pet owners don’t understand, while it takes only seconds for them to pull out their phone and dash off a text message, the veterinarian on the receiving end has many duties and obligations. I can’t just put down the scalpel and pop back with a quick text answer. My text messages go to email, and there are at least a hundred emails every day to sort through. I can’t keep up with these messages in real time, at least, not while providing any sort of effective health care. Sometimes I’m a day or two behind on my email. Oh, I’m happy to receive email messages, but they don’t work when you have a pressing need.

Not long ago I received a Facebook® message at 10:30pm asking for help in an emergency. Sorry, I just don’t spend much time on social media. I didn’t see that message until 36 hours later. I have received detailed health care questions through Square®, our credit card processor. Again, I don’t handle every payment receipt. I’d like to help you, but I can’t be on every platform all the time. The fast, effective, easy way to communicate with me is to call my office.

Real communication is a two-way street. Your request to make an appointment is always answered with a series of questions. “What day is best for you?” “Is 3:30 OK?” The back and forth discussion that both sides require to get things right cannot be effectively accomplished using sequential, one-way messaging like text or email. Oh sure, we can communicate that way. But. It. Takes. Forever.

Besides, my office people are really nice. They know the answers to many of your questions, and when they don’t know, they can quickly connect you to someone who is able to help you without an interminable series of menus. Much of the time, they know you and your pet personally, and are often familiar with your needs because they have helped you in the past.

Now I have a Petula Clark song stuck in my head! “Caaaaall me. Don’t be afraid, you can caaaaall me…”