As I was reviewing some advertising tracking data with a client recently, our client (a physician in a large medical group) observed how the “Internet shopper” category accounted for a high percentage of no-shows and cancellations.
His first impression was that Internet shoppers are more fickle or impatient by nature. Could it be that the immediate nature of the Internet also carries an expectation of “instant gratification” for the prospective patient?
It’s a reasonable question; after all, modern society moves rapidly and huge volumes of Internet information and data—valid or invalid, correct or incorrect—pop-up at a keystroke. But that’s not the only issue here.
Individuals who respond from Internet searches or advertising by calling the office ARE different because, at this early stage, they are still unconvinced and unconverted shoppers. Their call to the office, even an agreement to make an appointment, are initial steps in the patient’s evaluation, selection and decision process.
Moreover, this is not exclusive to healthcare advertising via the Internet. People who are responding to ANY TYPE of advertising—be it online or offline—tend to be fickle about their allegiance to the provider. The fact is, at the time they call the office, there is no allegiance to the medical office (yet).
Although some ad formats may be more (or less) compelling and convincing than others, prospects who respond to the Internet, print, broadcast or other advertising media are still prospects. And they will continue to “be fickle” until they have a convincing first appointment and benefit from the care your office provides.
The correct diagnosis...
Recognize that inbound calls from advertising or Internet searches are not yet convinced. A phone conversation is an excellent opportunity to engage the person, build rapport, provide answers—and most importantly—to make a committed first appointment.
Callers want assurance that they are making a correct choice of a provider that can answer their medical needs.
Answering the phone requires skills, training and practice. This first interaction between the caller and the office sets a lasting impression, and properly handled, the caller feels engaged and connected with what will be the right medical resources and provider.
And most importantly…
Give new callers a high priority in the schedule. Get first-time, new patients into the office for a first appointment as soon as possible. Fickle or not, prospective patients can be wary of taking any new steps, or be uncertain about their selection. Providing a quick and convenient appointment helps the patient sooner and demonstrates an impressive level of service. Often, a same-day or next-day appointment will effectively take the person entirely out of their search mode.
In effect, first-time calls in response to advertising are more fragile than fickle, and they require prompt and proper handling. And for more on this topic, see the following related articles, or see how we transform doctor marketing by generating exposure and increasing qualified leads:
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