Our recent post, How to Destroy Your Medical Practice Marketing New Business in One Easy Step, was a hot-button topic for many readers. So think of this article as the next installment for medical practices and physician advertisers who are losing business for the lack of good front desk phone skills.
For a doctor or office administrator, the first red-flag warning sign is when the office phone is ringing, but the inbound inquiry calls are not converting to new patient appointments. The practice was not prepared to handle the calls properly and opportunity was lost.
For one practice, with a typical case size of $9,000-$12,000, it was a huge problem. Fortunately, they saw the symptoms and acted quickly. (Their story, posted here, has a happy ending.) Many healthcare advertisers—about 90 percent—lose money on the phone with advertising generated inquiries.
In fact, we encounter this problem so frequently that we use a comprehensive rating system to chart and report the effectiveness—or lack of it—in handling initial inquiry calls. We’ll gladly tell you more about how this works, but in outline form, successful practices train employees around a proven process from inquiry to new patient appointment.
There are five core components to the system that are critical for success. Think of these as stages in a process that begins when doctor advertising causes the phone to ring.
1. EFFECTIVE GREETING: There’s a lot more to it than simply saying “hello.” The key component is “effective;” a call can easily be “DOA” without a proper start.
2. INFORMATIVE ANSWERS: Surprisingly, staff members may not be prepared, and unscripted and incomplete answers to caller questions erode confidence.
3. CONTROL OF THE CONVERSATION: A prospective patient probably does not know what to ask or how to progress to the next steps. Guiding the conversation delivers useful information and leads it in the direction of a first appointment.
4. CAPTURE AN APPOINTMENT: Knowing when and how to “close” and set an appointment is a critical step. (Simply failing to offer an appointment is the number one killer of opportunity.)
5. FOLLOW-UP: Questions about the patient and their needs and interests help secure the appointment or provide background for a subsequent follow-through with an unscheduled caller.
What’s the score in your medical practice? Are you using a systematic approach that includes these five components? If you are one of the many healthcare providers that is converting only one in ten prospective new patient callers, your physician marketing and advertising dollars are being squandered, and worse, your new business opportunity has the sound of a deeply annoying busy signal.