SUMMARY: This article provides some great ideas to motivate your staff and help them make the most out of every phone and email inquiry by arming them with strategies to schedule more surgical consultations.
It doesn’t matter if your medical practice is primarily elective or insurance reimbursed. You will attract more clients and increase your caseload if your staff embraces the idea that every call, every email, every inquiry is valuable – valuable both for the time and money invested to generate the lead and for the income opportunity it represents to the practice.
I interviewed 3 of our top-performing practices to uncover how they routinely convert more than 40% of their inquiries into consults. Here’s an action plan to help you and your staff make the most of your lead generation investments.
Step 1: Hire right and pay well
While I would never suggest you walk away from the people you have, I can’t ignore the advice from our top performers. “Our receptionist is the spokesperson for the practice,” shares Dr. Stewart Wang. “I personally interviewed more than 30 people for her role. Few people have the aptitude for customer service, few people have the charisma to captivate a caller. I knew from the interview that my current receptionist was someone people would want to talk to, and I learned from the reference checks that she knew how to put the client first.”
Dr. Wang provides bonuses to his front office as a team for meeting performance goals. Stellar compensation for stellar employees is a concept also embraced by Dr. Jose Rios, who concedes that, “It’s all about hiring right. And the right people deserve solid rewards. I pay my staff in the top 5% of my market.”
Step 2: Make service a priority
pri · or · i · ty : something given special attention.
The top performing practices I interviewed had more than a few things in common.
- They hire with service in mind
- They regularly discuss how to handle calls and email inquiries in staff meetings
- They invest in staff training
- They perform peer reviews on phone skills and email message content
- They reward what works and they talk openly about problems
- They have clearly-articulated expectations
I think we can safely say that service is a priority in these practices. “Customer service comes first. We don’t treat callers like they have a broken bone.” Dr. Rios explains. “Service is a topic at every monthly staff meeting. We share cards that praise our service and talk openly when clients complain.”
Dr. Wang believes in the value of training. “We send the front office out to seminars for training once each year. Investment in staff training is critical. They learn about sales and service from seminars. And I take the time to teach them about our procedures. Karen Zupko’s seminar was one of the most valuable for me and my staff.”
Besides the big-picture stuff, what can you do today to improve caseload? “That’s easy,” says Peter Slattery, Administrator for an 8 surgeon group practice in Albany, New York, “Start modeling the importance of the client and consultations from the top down. Our surgeons will see cosmetic consults within 24 hours whenever possible, even if that means returning to the office at 6 PM after a full day of surgery. That sends a very clear message to the front office.”
The three practices I spoke with also have very similar formal policies about lead handling:
- Respond to all emails within 24 hours. Use thoughtful, customizable templates that explain the benefits of choosing your practice for a consultation and accelerate email processing.
- Use the phone whenever possible. As convenient as email is, it is still very impersonal. If you have permission from the prospect, call to offer your help and invite the consultation.
- Encourage the consultation. Whatever your process for handling lead inquiries, remind everyone who interacts with prospects that it is their job to encourage the consultation.
- Avoid screening calls and emails. “The front office never screens patients,” Slattery explains. “Every inquiry is treated like a star. Even if that individual isn’t serious about surgery, they will tell their friends about our kind and inviting service.”
Step 3: Refine your talking points and practice your presentation
Only a clear message can be a convincing message. Do your staff members know enough about you, your procedures, and the value of your consultation to clearly convey your advantages and convince prospects to visit your practice?
For starters, make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Once you’ve clearly identified the practice’s strengths, refine your message and presentation.
- Develop email response templates. Most offices get the same questions over and over again. Create response templates that can be personalized. This will allow you to create thoughtful messages while reducing email handling times. Be sure each reply ends with a call to action inviting the prospect to choose you for a consultation.
- Role play prospect phone calls. It’s awkward, but it’s essential. Work out how you will handle price inquiries. Decide where you can interject the benefits of your consultation.
In business, as in life, it’s the details that matter. The people considering your practice are paying careful attention to the details – after all, their life may well be in your hands. When you focus on every detail, it shows, and it helps your staff members to have a high-quality interaction with every patient prospect. Retain an outstanding staff, help them deliver exemplary service, and keep them educated on the benefits of your practice. It’s a simple recipe for enduring success.