Aesthetic surgeons allocate countless dollars on advertising and promotion with the goal of getting the phone to ring. But the ringing phone itself doesn’t equate to success. The goal of that first call is not only to turn “prospects” into “patients” and schedule a consultation. The patient relationship starts with the first phone call, which means we have to do more than simply answer a few questions and book the appointment.
Here at KZA, we consider ourselves mystery shoppers extraordinaire. We regularly place inquiry phone calls to offices and then give specific written feedback about various aspects of the phone call experiences. This feedback is shared directly with the practices to drive improvement.
These calls most often yield ample opportunity to enhance the caller’s experience and improve the scheduling rate. Try these seven proven strategies to master the inquiry phone call.
1. Answer the call by the 3rd ring with a smile in your voice.
You’ve heard the saying: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The phone must be answered promptly by a real live human being who oozes positive energy. If the busy receptionist is trying to check-out a patient, enter them into a loyalty program, and sell retail products all while answering the phone, it would not be a surprise that she comes across as brisk and uninterested. That’s not exactly the lasting impression most surgeons want to create.
Some surgeons have had tremendous success in shifting phone calls to the patient care coordinators. Not only does it free up the front desk to give their full attention to the patients in the office, but it also ensures that the most knowledgeable staff with the highest level of sales skills are answering the phones.
2. Introduce yourself, ask for the caller’s name, and use the name in conversation.
It never fails to amaze me when I make a phone call to express interest in a cosmetic procedure and the person on the other end doesn’t even care enough to ask for my name. When meeting an individual in person it is the social norm to exchange names. This exchange of names and a few pleasantries casts the foundation of the relationship, and it is equally important in a phone call.
Using the caller’s name is an easy way to personalize the experience. Dale Carnegie taught us in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Research confirms Carnegie’s advice proving unique brain activation occurs when hearing one’s own name. So, look for ways to weave in the caller’s name throughout the call.
3. Ask more questions.
The single greatest missed opportunity we find is when the call turns into more of a “tell” than an “ask.” In other words, the staff may politely and accurately answer questions and give information about a procedure, but there is little to no engagement to find out more about the prospective patient. Asking questions demonstrates interest in the caller as a person and not just a task to handle. And the answers help you to understand where a person is in their process of researching and selecting a surgeon.
Two key questions to ask during the first call:
– How did you hear about us? Or Who referred you to Dr. Wonderful?
It is incredibly valuable to know if the prospective patient is referred by a past patient or if they simply found you in a Google search. A referred patient is typically more informed, less likely to no-show, and more inclined to book surgery with you.
– What time frame do you have in mind for your procedure?
Patients with a time frame are typically “buyers” and not “shoppers;” they most often are farther along in the decision making process.
4. Track the prospect in the practice management or CRM system.
Not only does the relationship start with this first phone call, but so does the database. At this point you’ve gathered a name and referral source; entering the information into the practice management system or a CRM system like MyMedLeads or MedicalPRM allows the doctor or manager to run reports that measure the return on investment of marketing activities and track referral patterns. Moreover, logging the call kicks off the internal tracking and follow up protocol. (You are following up with callers who haven’t scheduled, right?)
5. Introduce the unique elements of your practice.
Successful practices are prepared to differentiate themselves from others who offer similar services. In a previous blog post, we reviewed 4 Steps for Developing a Unique Service Proposition. A savvy receptionist or patient coordinator will have carefully crafted and rehearsed phrases that highlight the surgeon’s and the practice’s unique offerings – and it won’t hinge only on the fact that the doctor is board certified.
6. Be prepared to discuss fees.
Starting the fee discussion on the phone prevents sticker shock at the end of the consultation when the quote is presented. Help patients know if they are “shopping in the right store” by providing fee ranges over the phone. And remember to introduce financing options equitably to all prospective patients, and encourage them to apply before the visit.
7. Ask if the caller wants to schedule.
This might seem too obvious to some, but you wouldn’t believe how often we speak with an office for several minutes and get to the end of the call having never been asked if we’d like to book an appointment. Always ask the caller if they’d like to schedule a consultation.