5 Reasons No One Is Calling Your Addiction Treatment Center’s Phone Number

5 reasons no one is calling your addiction treatment centers phone number

“A call now could change your life”

“A call now could SAVE your life”

“Operators are standing by!”


Sound familiar?

No, I’m not talking about so-called “referral” sites or other patient brokering-type scams. I’m talking about legitimate websites for reputable rehabs.

I see these “CALL NOW!” messages strewn all over the addiction treatment websites I visit.

Most rehab websites these days are scrambling to get visitors to do one thing: pick up the phone and call. The phone number is screaming at visitors in big, bold, red letters from the top right hand corner of the screen.

And it makes sense—almost.

The (flawed) logic behind this thinking goes something like this: If visitors see nothing else, at least they’ll see my phone number, and that’s what’s most important. If they call, I get a chance to pitch them.

And that’s how it all starts: with a phone call. Right?


Here’s the thing. Despite what you’ve been told, phone calls are NOT the #1 “best way” to get leads to convert. That’s why I shake my head when I see marketing directors pour tons of money into an addiction treatment website that’s basically an over-complicated yellow pages ad.

Forcing leads to call you without offering other forms of contact is a huge misstep in this industry. Yes, some people will call, but hundreds of people won’t. And it’s not because they’re not a good fit for your service—it’s just that they’d prefer to begin contact with your center in some other way.

Here’s the top 5 reasons why no one is calling your addiction treatment center’s phone number.

1. People are more phone shy than ever

Many people didn’t want to talk on the phone when talking on the phone was still a thing.

Now, with cellphones and chat windows and ATMs and all kinds of self-service options in place for avoiding face-to-face conversation, the ranks of the phone-adverse are growing fast. If you look at a “top 10 most popular cellphone apps” list, the voice call app—the one that we use to make actual phone calls—is nowhere to be seen.

This disuse of the cellphone as an actual phone is linked to changes in our behavior as well. Millennials are famously phone shy, preferring texts to phone calls and avoiding voicemails at all costs. In some cases, this unfamiliarity with the phone as a voice communication device can lead to full blown “phone anxiety.” Detailed how-to guides about overcoming phone anxiety are definitely trending.

Put simply: people don’t want to talk on the phone to their mothers or even their significant others anymore, and they definitely don’t want to talk on the phone to someone who they think may try to “sell” something to them.

2. A phone call isn’t private enough

A phone call with an addiction treatment lead is a very personal moment between an intake counselor (or sales rep) and a potential patient. This may be the first time the lead has disclosed that they have a problem to anyone. If it’s a loved one calling on behalf of the addict, this may be the first time they’ve discussed their friend or relative’s problem with someone outside their family or friend group.

Either way, callers are calling now because they're in a crisis and they’re super vulnerable.

If that was you calling for help, wouldn’t you want that to be a private moment?

Depending on the setting, phone calls aren’t always a very private experience. People can overhear or interrupt. Sensitive information can be accidentally shared with bystanders.

For many, texts, emails, and chats are a much more private way to conduct a conversation. It’s a silent type of communication that can happen anywhere and no one needs to know what is being said. Leads can even reach out for help at work and not worry about a coworker snooping in. Chat and text gives the lead a lot more control over who receives the information being shared.

3. Leads are used to building relationships more slowly

Given that many people are phone shy and that the phone isn’t a very private form of communication, it makes sense that some leads would consider making a phone call to be “too big of a deal.” For those used to building relationships online and via text, a cold call can seem like a crazy huge leap to make in the early, getting-to-know-you stage of a relationship.  

And remember—this thing between your center and your lead? It’s definitely a relationship.

You don’t start off a Tinder connection by calling that match on the phone, right? No, you start by checking out their profile, maybe messaging them something and texting for a while before reaching out in a bigger way. You’re testing the waters and building the relationship slowly.

It’s the same with addiction treatment centers and leads. A phone call is a big commitment, especially when your lead is (justifiably) concerned that the call might devolve into a high-pressured sales pitch.

4. They only call once—and it’s not enough

When a lead finally does dial up your number, you have one big opportunity to connect with them and relate everything that your facility can do for them.

One opportunity!

That’s a lot of pressure.

What if you blow it on the first call?

What if they’re not ready to hear what you have to say?

What if they’re so upset they can’t remember who they’ve called and who they haven’t?

That’s not that great. You’ve missed your one and only shot at getting a new admit.

Wouldn’t it be better if you had an opportunity to reach out to your leads repeatedly and build a relationship—a trusting relationship—with them more slowly?

With the phone number being your only point of contact, that’s not possible. Sure, you can get a lead’s phone number during the initial phone call and try to follow up with them later, if they’re willing to give that to you, but who’s to say they’ll actually pick up when you call to check in tomorrow, next week or next month? (Hint: They probably won’t.)

5. They’re looking for the chat window

The truth is, leads these days don’t want to call you—they’d much rather check out your website, do some live chat with a representative and then maybe check out some emails. If they call, it’ll be for the last step in their journey towards becoming a patient, and definitely NOT their first.

Why do people prefer chat? Because it makes them feel satisfied. According to a survey completed by Zendesk, live chat has the highest satisfaction rating of any mode of communication with your business.

customer satisfaction with text and phone call comparison.png

Image credit: Zendesk

92% of people were happy with their chat experience, when given that option.

Does that mean that you should throw away the phone altogether?

No. Voice is still a strong driver of customer contentment, delivering an 88% satisfaction rate, but that’s actually not the main reason that throwing away your phone would be crazy.

Here’s the thing. For complicated decisions, investments involving large amounts of money and for sensitive issues—and deciding on a rehab falls under all three of those categories—the vast majority of folks will want to talk on the phone before taking the plunge. And that makes perfect sense.

But until leads are ready to pull the trigger on your treatment facility, or ready to get more serious about admissions, it’s likely they’ll have some questions about your program that they can’t find the answers to online.

That’s where live chat or a very prompt email response is going to shine. It’s a low-stakes relationship builder that invites leads into casual communication with your company. A chat conversation gives you a chance to show off your company’s patient-first approach. A quick response tells them that you value them and their time, and that you are here to make their life easier. Who doesn’t like that?

There’s more, too. Studies have shown that customers who see a live chat window on a website are actually more likely to visit that website again, whether they used the chat window or not. More visits mean more opportunities to deepen relationships with leads, which means more patients in the long run.

Don’t Ditch the Phone—Diversify

I’m not saying that you should remove your phone number from your website. Far from it.

Keep the phone number, but stop making it the be-all-end-all of every call to action on your website. Start recognizing that some people want to begin communication with your company in a different way. Accept that as time goes on and the trend of phone avoidance continues, more and more people will prefer text or chat as a first form of contact.

If you already have chat and a text option for your leads, keep up the good work! If you don’t, make sure you research how to offer these forms of contact without violating HIPAA laws. In fact, you may want to check out my recommendations for HIPAA compliant digital marketing, including live chat, here.

It’s time to start giving the people what they want: text and chat contact options. Offering more ways for leads to get in touch can only improve your numbers. Good luck and don’t fret that they’re not calling—get them to start chatting instead. 

As always, I'm here to help. Incorporating live chat options means tweaking your website copy, which just happens to be one of my specialties. I can also create email marketing campaigns to complement your phone and chat contact and deepen relationships with leads. Check out my services page for more information and let me know how I can help you fill up your rehab waitlist for good. 

Erin Gilday