Bad Phones and Weak Consultations

Have your Receptionist and Coordinator listen to these simple tips that they can implement today! Includes talk track examples on how to gather contact info and convert your consults into patients without being pushy. Give your team the tools they need to increase practice revenue easily and instantly.

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Episode transcript:

Two Deadly Sins Bad Phones and Weak Consultations

Welcome to “Beauty and the Biz.” Discover how to grow your practice with effective cosmetic patient attraction, conversion and retention advice from author, speaker, trainer and cosmetic practice business and marketing coach Catherine Maley MBA.

Hello and welcome to “Beauty and the Biz” where we talk about the business and marketing side of cosmetic practices. I’m your host Catherine Maley author of “Your Aesthetic Practice – What Your Patients are Saying” as well as consultant to cosmetic practices to get them more patients and more profits

So, today’s episode is called “Two Deadly Sins Bad Phones and Weak Consultations.” Converting new plastic surgery leads is definitely getting a lot more difficult for all sorts of reasons. Now you’re probably spending pretty hefty monthly fees to your SEO and your hosting company to keep your website up and fresh and then your digital marketing agency, you’re probably giving them money and then you’re giving money to directories that help you get found and so on. Now they in turn send you leads of prospective plastic surgery patients wanting your services, right? But that’s where the trouble starts. So, your staff complains these leads are awful and they’re not serious about moving forward and they’re wasting your time. Ever hear that?

So sometimes it’s true. I mean, some of these leads really are a waste of time. When you put your message out there into the universe to millions of people who don’t know you from Adam, it is a crap shoot what comes back to you. So, here’s the thing though, you have to take the good with the bad. So, if you aren’t happy with the leads coming your way because of the quality of them, you need to take a look at what you’re doing to attract them because the quality of the leads is dependent on your marketing message and the media used to attract new patient leads since the goal of marketing is to attract serious plastic surgery candidates to you and then repel those who are not serious.

But let’s say you know what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job marketing you. You know how to do it. You make videos explaining procedures. You post on Instagram; you answer questions online and you pay a hefty fee to advertise. So, why aren’t these leads that you’re spending a fortune on converting. What’s the problem? Well, because it’s that sheer amount of marketing messages going through all these God, we’re getting killed with messaging. I mean, it’s up to like 16,000 marketing messages a day. How are we supposed to compute all of that? And it’s a lot of confusing information about cosmetic procedures not to mention how fickle is the consumer/patient getting because they know darn well they’re in the driver’s seat. They know that they’ve got all this information to bring with them to the console and if they don’t like what they hear there, they know they can call 60 or 70 other plastic surgeons in the community and that’s how tough it’s gotten.

Anyway, that’s what is leading to a waste of valuable time and holes in your surgery schedule. But after working with plastic surgeons since year 2000 another huge part of it is what happens to that lead. Now when it comes to lead conversion, the two deadly sins really are bad phones and weak consults and I don’t mean to point the finger at staff, but here’s the good news. If it’s an issue in your practice, it’s easy to fix it. Other things are not as easy to fix. This one is, so let’s break it down.

So, here’s deadly sin. Number one, the bad phones. Now a big mistake that’s ruining your marketing efforts is having bad phones. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I definitely want to set up a scenario because I hear this constantly. So, you’ve spent a fortune redesign your website again to ensure Google and their rules don’t ban you from the internet, and then you work with a company to get your SEO in shape so prospective patients can find you online and then you’re most likely spending advertising dollars on real self, Google ad words, banner ads, directories and all of that is not cheap.

Next, you may have spent a small fortune redesigning your office to cater to cosmetic patients who have the disposable income for your services. So, you give them a nice atmosphere when they visit and then perhaps you’ve conquered the world of social media. Good luck. If you have. You’ve hired a team to blog for you write content, update your Facebook page regularly, and you’ve even been assigned an internal staff person to be your social media ambassador. Now, that’s costing you time and money but you’re sure it’s helping. So, the stage is set and you’re ready for new cosmetic patients to call and all your efforts are working. Prospective patients find you online, they learned enough about you and they’re confident you’re a great choice to help them with their needs.

They eagerly call your office with anticipation, knowing you’re a first class practice because they’ve watched your website and checked you out online only to hear doctor’s office hopefully is and then there’s a click and now they’re waiting or a disinterested receptionist with no enthusiasm or a friendly receptionist who doesn’t know anything. This was not the image or experience your callers expected. Now that incongruence between what they thought about you before the call and what they think about you now, that’s the image that you are portraying to the prospective cosmetic patient. It’s completely lost when that image is not carried through to the receptionist call and how they’re handling these new callers. Talk about a waste of time and a waste of money when you lose that cash paying patient before you even get to meet them.

So, here’s some phone fixes to help your receptionist put more callers to appointments. So, first it starts with answering the phone by the third ring with a friendly, excited tone of voice and that’s a human voice, by the way. So, I highly recommend that’d be a goal in your office. You’ve got to answer by the third ring. It’s got to be by a human being. I will tell you right now, in today’s world, if you’re going to make people automate the relationship, you’re going to be in trouble. They don’t want to talk to your answering machine. Although if you have to at least have it be a human answering machine and they certainly don’t want to deal with your phone tree. So, you’ve got to figure that out, but when you do answer the phone, it takes some voice and some personality and volume and tone and excitement to say, “Good morning, this is Dr. Smith’s office Catherine speaking, how may I assist you today?” I mean, you really have to bring it. I’m saying the receptionist. If she doesn’t start off with that kind of tone and that kind of enthusiasm, it’s going to hurt everything you’re going to say after this, so nothing’s more important than that first initial feeling that that caller gets when they call your office.

Do they feel like they’re annoying you or do they feel like, oh wow, she’s so excited to hear from me and now I’m really excited about making the phone call. She also wants to do some verbal cheerleading throughout the call. I’m telling you; enthusiasm really wins out here. So, she can say things like, “Oh, sure, I can help you with that. It’s a really very popular procedure in our practice. Did you have a question, or shall I find some time to visit with Dr. Smith to learn more?” One thing I’ve learned is we humans sure are into whatever’s popular. That’s what we’ll do too. So, I often have the receptionist say it’s a very popular procedure. What you’ve done is anchored not only the excitement of meeting you but now the patient’s even more excited about this procedure because others are really excited about it because it’s a popular one.

The next thing you’ve got to ask, the receptionist has to ask how they heard about you and I realize that’s getting more difficult to find out because they’ll oftentimes say internet and that answer can change as they get to know you more. So, what I would do is ask them right now what possessed them to pick up the phone and call you right now. That’s really good Intel and then I would check in periodically to find out if that’s still the answer as they come into the office and as they get to know you better. Now here’s a big one. I always say I love my little sayings to remind you of things. Pre-frame before price. Always, always, always pre-frame before price. Whatever you decide to do about price, whether you give them a range, whether you tell them the starting fee. In today’s world I think it’s really tough to say we don’t get pricing over the phone. I think they’ll just call somebody else, so you have to figure that out.

Personally, I would give them a range or a starting fee but not back myself into a corner and then if you have a consult fee, you’ve got us just say that as well. But before you ever say a price about anything, you first make sure your receptionist in her sleep can say three great things about you and I know everyone calls that credentialing, whatever you want to call it. I call it pre-frame before price. So, before she says any price, she has got to say, oh sure I can help you with that and just so you know, Dr. Smith has performed more than X number of that procedure so you’re in great hands. He’s trained other physicians on this procedure because his results are so great or he’s a board certified plastic surgeon with X years of experience. Please get together, decide what your three are and then you’re going to say them before the price.

Regarding the consult fee, I like to pre-frame by saying because Dr. Smith is in such high demand we do charge a consult fee and then tell them what it is. Now you’ve got to close or convert, whatever the word is you want to use. Your receptionist has to ask for the appointment. The callers are not just going to hand this to you on a silver platter and you don’t need to be pushy either. You just need to follow scripts with a process and strategies and very calmly say, “Okay, terrific. Karen, you know Dr. Smith’s books up pretty quickly, so let’s see what we can get you in here. Did you want a morning or afternoon appointment?” Just giving somebody a choice works a lot better and usually you’re just trying to hone in on are they going to book or not and that’s why you’re something like morning or afternoon. Or you could always say, “Well I see here I’ve only got two openings left this month on this date and this date. Do either of those dates work for you?” Okay, well the last thing you can do, if you can’t get them to book an appointment, you definitely have to get their contact information.

So, here’s the thing with receptionists. They have to know what their objective is. Their objective, just in case nobody told them, is to book the caller to an appointment or to at least get their contact information so they could always follow up down the road because a cosmetic patient who bothered to pick up the phone and call you is pretty darn serious about taking care of a problem that they have. So, if they’re not ready today for whatever reason, they could always be down the road because things change, life changes.

So, always get their contact information just by saying something like,” You know what, Connie, it sounds like you’re just not ready to book a full consultation just yet, but I’d be happy to send you our E-newsletter that includes some special offers. Can I get your email please?” I mean, that’s how simple that can be. Okay. So, there’s a lot more to it but we’ll just go with that and by the way, do you monitor your phone calls for consistency? To be sure what you think is being said is actually being said because I’ve worked with huge call centers for years and wow, it doesn’t matter how many times we role play and practice. If you don’t stay on it, they will go right back to the old ways that they had, the bad scripts, the winging it, the saying whatever came up to their head. You can’t take that for granted. I’ve just learned that you’ve got to train staff and then keep them trained with constant, never ending improvement, and then hold them accountable to ensure they stay professional and on scripts.

Okay. Now, here’s the deadly sin number two- weak consultations. Now, let’s say you have great front desk staff and they book the new patient consultation. Now the patient comes in and they’re greeted by that friendly front desk person and the visiting patient now goes through your consultation process of completing paperwork, having their photos taken, meeting with you, the surgeon to discuss the recommendations. So, so far so good. Now your patient coordinator takes over. Now her job is to present the numbers, answer additional questions and then book the surgery but is that what happens. Now, how often do you hear they walked out the door without booking never to be heard from again? No. When asked, doesn’t your coordinator tell you things like, oh, they were just price shopping or they can’t afford it, or we meaning you oversold them and on and on.

Now is that really true? I guarantee at least 15% of those consultations we’re lost due to your coordinator not being skilled and/or experienced enough to convert them. Now your patient coordinator can be a game changer for your bottom line. So, please choose carefully who’s representing you. I’ve been in so many practices where their coordinator, their professional coordinator left, and they put the nurse in charge of being the coordinator. I’m going to tell you right now, the chances of the nurse having the skillset to also be a coordinator are very rare. Please take it more seriously than that because this is where the rubber meets the road, and this is where the money happens in your practice. So, the art of converting consultations is kind of a big topic but I’m just going to give you three tips here to get your coordinator converting more than ever. Now, here’s the first one. A whole lot more has to be happening at the beginning before a patient ever shows up in your practice. The goal is to bond early so that patient feels more comfortable when they visit and that makes them more comfortable to say yes.

So, I highly recommend your coordinator, make a pre-consult call to pre-bond and learn a lot more about that patient. Now this call can be very simple. Some coordinators go on and on and really almost do I really want to get to know you now before you even enter. You can do what you’d like but here’s the objective of the call. It’s to prepare the call or to say yes when they get there. And how do you do that? You address the objections that they’re going to have at the consult now while they’re on the phone so they can’t say them later on down the road. What I mean by that is a lot of objections you normally get are the consult is taking too long, so they have to leave, and they just want you to email the numbers. They didn’t bring their calendar. They say that all the time, don’t they? I didn’t bring my calendar. They can’t afford it, or they have to talk to their husband. So, the pre-consult call is set up to handle that.

Now, for example, you would say something like, “Sarah, it’s Catherine, I can’t wait to meet you next week and just to help us prepare for your consultation I want to give you a few thoughts here. Number one, allow about an hour to be with us because you’ll be meeting with me as well as the surgeon and we have a lot to cover with you. So, please allow about an hour and then please bring your calendar along because Dr. Smith books up quickly and I want to be able to accommodate your schedule should you decide to move forward. Then also I want you to know that we do offer affordable pay plans, so I don’t want money to get in the way. Now the procedure you’re interested in does range between five and $10,000. So, I want you to know we’re here to make this happen for you. So, we’ll just discuss that when you’re here. And then of course, if anyone else is going to be helping you with this decision, let’s say it’s your mom or your sister or your husband, why don’t you bring them along and we can educate them at the same time and answer all their questions.” How’s that? Okay, so I hope that makes sense.

Now here’s number two tip- answer objections with other patients’ stories. You’re always going to hear objections. The funny thing is you get thrown off by them even though they come up again and again. The goal is to prepare ahead of time how you handle objections because quite frankly, 80% of them are always the same. If you look at it, they’re always the same. So, you and the coordinator should get together and decide how you’re going to answer objections. Now usually you handle a lot of them, but there are some that they’re going to wait and ask the coordinator for because they’re more comfortable but that’s why you two want to get on the same page. But rather than the coordinator or even you get defensive, the coordinator should just let your patients answer the objections for you. What I mean by that is she, the coordinator should have an arsenal in her toolbox of a whole bunch of patients’ stories, anecdotal things that they’ve heard, photos about the various topics that are going to come up.

So, for example, let’s say the patient has a problem with the tummy tuck scar. Everybody does. They didn’t realize they were going to get this smiley face and it’s a big deal. So, you have to figure out how are you going to address that. You can address it ahead of time, like you personally can dress it ahead of time, but then she might still ask the coordinator about it because she’s stuck there going, oh God, I didn’t know it was going to be like that. So, your coordinator could say, “You know what, Karen, it is a big objection. A lot of our patients have it, so let me just tell you a little bit about what they told me,” and then you back it up with the stories. For example, things like, you know what, it looks pretty bad at the beginning, but look what happens over time. It fades to a little white line and show them the pictures.

Do you see how the coordinator’s getting herself out of the defensive mode and just saying, here’s what happened with the other patients or something like, you know what, you’re so expensive, I think I better go price shop and talk to other surgeons. If you could have an arsenal of patient videos are even better or in writing that getting them to say, you know what, I met with four other plastic surgeons in the area and I ended up choosing this surgeon because… and then let them tell you why they chose you. That could be just what they needed to stop shopping and just decide. Some people like to do their due diligence, but most don’t. They don’t want to spend the time and the money because most are charging a consult fee now. They’re just looking for reassurance that you’re great and that they’re going to get great results.

Then here’s tip number three. Your coordinator has got to be trained to transition between presenting to closing. It’s subtle but vital to your coordinators success that she understand how to do this because there comes a point in the consultation process where she needs to stop presenting and start closing or converting or whatever you want to call it. So, most coordinators and I see this all the time, they present their quote and then they say, “So do you have any questions?” And then they just linger. They just leave it up to the patient to wrap things up. Now a professional coordinator has planned out the bridges that she uses to transition from presenting to closing to make it a nice smooth transition and it makes it a whole lot easier for the patient to say yes.

So, for example, she presents the quote and then turns to her computer and says, “So Karen, let’s see what the surgery schedule looks like so you can see when you can have this done.” So, if the patient doesn’t object, she is moving forward. So, keep going. There was no need to back her into a corner and say, “So are you ready to book?” That’s what’s so awkward and defensive and just feel so pushy. If you can do this without backing someone into a corner, that’s a professional transition or let’s say the coordinator can use this transition. She could literally present the quote and just very calmly say, “So Karen, did you want to go with our affordable pay plan I laid out or use your own credit card.” It can be that simple. So, if the patient picks one of those choices, they’re moving forward. That’s how you close without being pushy.

Now, by the way, this one skill learning how to transition from presenting to closing makes all the difference. It can be the difference between a 25% conversion rate and a 75% conversion rate, but like anything else in life, it’s a learned and practiced skill. So, if you’re a receptionist and/or your coordinator could use help with professionally learning how to convert, check out myconvertingclub.com for the strategies, the practice, and the accountability they need to help you grow. So, I’m just going to conclude with this idea. Just remember it’s a whole lot faster, easier and cheaper to fix these two deadly sins than it is to throw even more money at advertising that doesn’t result in more plastic surgery procedures. Just saying.

Okay, so that is it for this time. Please subscribe to “Beauty and the Biz” and please share me with your friends, your colleagues, and your staff of course, and then please review me on iTunes. It helps a lot. Spread the word and I’m just very anxious to hear about your feedback. Any other topics you want you can leave me a message at my website at catherinemaley.com or you can DM me on Instagram @catherinemaleymba. Thanks so much and we’ll talk soon.

We hope you found valuable insight on this episode of “Beauty and the Biz.” For more episodes tools and Catherine’s free book visit www.catherinemaley.com that’s www.catherinemaley.com and be sure to subscribe to get the latest practice building strategies delivered to you and don’t forget to share this “Beauty and the Biz” podcast with your staff and colleagues.

Bad Phones and Weak Consultations.