One of the biggest problems we face as wildlife rehabilitators is answering the phone. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of feeding a baby animal or being down on your knees, scrubbing a cage, and the phone rings. We worry that it’s an animal emergency, so we rush to pick up the phone. Then we discover it’s Mary calling for the fifth time this week to see how her baby bunnies are doing, or a man wanting you to identify this bird he half saw in his yard for ten seconds.
Landlines can screen calls with an answering machine, but cell phones don’t allow that. With cell phones, you are either picking up on unknown calls or continuously checking your voicemail.
This year with covid, we took in twice our usual numbers of animals, with one-third of the staff to care for them. People were off work, kids were home from school, and they were finding more animals. We temporarily lost a lot of volunteers and completely lost our summer intern program. We didn’t have any time for unnecessary phone calls.
This year I made the best investment I ever made: a virtual phone system with a menu. The caller hears, “PRESS ONE if you have an emergency. PRESS TWO for non-emergency calls such as scheduling a program, PRESS THREE for hours, directions, and drop off instructions. “
Option 1 is immediately directed to my cell phone. When my phone rings, I know someone pressed one.
Option 2 allows the caller to leave a message. I can call them back when I have a bit of time.
Option 3 is an announcement only and gives them various information.
The company is called SEGWAY, and the system only costs $30.00 a month, and a year is only about $300.00. The price was well worth our sanity. I was so impressed by how it helped us with time spent on the phone that I called the company and asked if I can promote the service to other wildlife rehabilitators.
Dedicated Phone Number
SEGWAY will give you a new local number, or you can port your own. If you are a new rehabber using your private number for calls, having a unique dedicated number will help you set limits with your time and keep personal calls separate.
On the other hand, Red Creek has had the same phone number for thirty years, and we didn’t want to port our number. How we solved this problem was we now forward all of our calls to the new Segway number. This way, people still call our known number, but the calls go into the automated system.
One really awesome feature is, you can listen to your messages on the phone or online. Online recordings can be paused and reversed to any point. Now I don’t have to listen to a long message several times to hear the caller’s phone number that was rapidly stated.
Another cool feature is you can upload various messages that will play at different times, like a special message when you are away or after-hours.