We have the marketing equivalent of gastric indigestion. It’s that churning upset in our gut when exceptionally effective medical practice advertising inspires qualified prospective patients to phone the provider’s office—only to be rejected at the front desk.
Here’s the disturbing little back-story that upset us recently. Keep in mind this is true and, unfortunately, it’s all-too common. We tell this tale for the benefit of other healthcare providers. There are valuable doctor-marketing lessons here.
A prominent and professionally respected specialist group put a healthy budget behind their medical practice marketing. The phone was ringing. Tons of calls from prospective new patients. But it wasn't leading to many new business appointments. It was more than simply a lack of proper training. In this case it was pure incompetence.
Based on our real-world experience, here are three sure-fire ways to destroy your medical practice marketing, drive patients and cases you want into the arms of your competitor, and damage your professional reputation. (Gastric indigestion is purely a bonus.)
Number Three: Phone calls are a distraction; dispose of them quickly. Administrative and clerical help should never put new business ahead of shuffling papers, filing charts or break room gossip. Hire a high school kid to stop all that pesky ringing noise. There’s no need for training; anyone can answer a damn phone. (By the way, when is lunch? That’s at least an hour and a half of prime business hours when we can turn off the phones entirely.)
Number Two: Have no policy or procedure regarding prospective patient calls. Have no policy, that is, other than assigning no importance to these calls and doing your best to ignore them. A vigorous “no policy” approach actively supports the “no training” and “unqualified help” dynamics of Number Three (above). It’s synergistic, plus there’s more time for the holiday party committee meeting.
And NUMBER ONE: Never offer a caller an appointment. Can you imagine what chaos would follow if we actively invited callers to make an appointment? This doctor advertising stuff is bad enough…it connects with people in need who are prequalified as prospective patients. Callers are hungry for any little signal that they might be welcome as new patients. Engaging a caller in conversation, building rapport and/or offering a convenient appointment at any time during the initial phone conversation carries a high risk of (gasp) new business.
Amusing? Absurd? In fact, we routinely find these, and other, self-damaging practices draining revenue from otherwise well intended and potentially successful physician marketing efforts. But among these three, the one quick and easy step to completely undermine your medical practice marketing effort is when a prospective new patient calls and no one offers to set an appointment.
The sobering reality is that in some situations, disconnecting the office phone line and burning cash at the front desk would be less costly and less damaging. Do you really know how well your office handles new patient enquiries? If you don’t know, you might find a churning upset in our gut.