Is Your Staff Failing to Convert Inquiries into Consultations?

Vein care is a low volume … high margin specialty. What I mean by that is you see a smaller number of patients than a primary care practice in a given day, but your average revenue per patient treated is significantly higher. While some vein practices are better than others at converting telephone inquiries into consultations, the best of the best would probably still admit that they have room for improvements.

Many vein practices commit $75,000 to $150,000 annually to market their vein practices. When they fail to achieve the desired number of expected new patient consultations, they usually blame the company doing their marketing. I would suggest looking at this in a different light … a marketing campaign’s job is to make the phone ring, nothing else. The practice has a fiduciary responsibility to have highly competent staff answering the phone and converting inquiries into consultations. Long gone are the days when this critical component of a vein practice was staffed with $12 to $14 per hour employees. Look at this position from the perspective that inquiries that fail to convert to consultations and subsequently seek treatment from your competitors cost your practice $3,000 – $4,000 in lost revenue, each occurrence!

Practices that convert a high percentage of initial patient inquiries into consultations most likely are focused and committed to allocate time and resources into properly training staff to identify and meet the needs of first-time callers and get them to commit to an initial consultation. It is essential that practices know if their staff is being properly trained in conversion techniques and components. The only way to properly evaluate your staff is to record inbound marketing calls and inspect what you expect from your appointment schedulers.

Implement Best Practices

    • Make every patient feel like they are the most important patient you will talk to that day. Demonstrate genuine respect for the patient. Patients want you to treat them with kindness and respect and feel as if you truly value their selecting your vein practice for care.
    • If your front desk staff is overworked, your call volume is high, or your systems are not set up to handle phone calls, patient arrivals, and staff interactions all at the same time, you’ll need to evaluate your processes.
    • Answer every call before the second ring. If you have to put a caller on hold, introduce yourself first, ask their permission, tell them approximately how soon you can get to them, and ask if they would prefer to hold or have you call them back.
    • If a patient arrives when you’re on the phone, look the arriving patient in the eye, give a warm, welcoming smile, and let them know you will be right with them.
    • Take charge of the call, gently directing it toward your desired end result – an appointment. Acknowledge the caller’s reason for calling, empathize with their emotional state, and express compassion for their situation. Ask the questions you need to guide the call toward the right solution or end result. Do they need to schedule a consult with the doctor? Do they need to get in right away or can they wait a few days?
    • Create a good first impression. A prompt, personal response to a telephone inquiry puts the practice in immediate good favor with potential patients. Therefore, a better first impression is possible when the phone is answered within one to two rings and is answered live versus an automated system.
    • Establish rapport. The process of establishing rapport with inquiring callers is essential to conversion and begins when staff members ask who they are speaking to. This allows the nature of the interaction to shift from a question-and-answer session to more of a conversation. By taking a genuine interest in the caller, the staff member differentiates the practice.
    • Engage the caller. Successful engagement of the caller allows staff members to gather more information about patients and better understand their needs and desired outcome. Most patients ask about price at the onset of the call because they don’t know what else to ask. Therefore, it’s important for staff to always answer a question with a question in order to engage the potential patient and understand his or her needs.
    • Tell Your Story.  In today’s direct-to-consumer competitive environment, it is important that patients understand why they should make their decision based on more than just a low price. Each practice needs to carefully consider its value proposition and understand why and how it is different from competitors. Staff members continue to miss the opportunity to articulate the “why”— why a patient should choose their practice over another. Script two to three talking points that staff members can routinely convey to patients to help them understand why they should choose your vein practice.
    • Educate staff about vein disease and treatment options. An acceptable assumption of a patient calling the office to schedule an appointment is that the person who answers the phone will be able to answer basic questions about a vein procedure / treatment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. While the expectation is not that the appointment scheduler should be able to diagnosis or make recommendations over the telephone, nor would we want them to, all staff should have a basic understanding of all practice procedures and treatments and be able to respond to general, frequently asked questions.
    • Insurance coverage‐ Front desk staff should know which insurance plans you accept, coverage & referral policies, and take steps on behalf of the patient to pre‐certify or pre‐authorize a visit or procedure.
    • Staff need to be trained to schedule an appointment rather than waiting for the patient to ask for an appointment. Surprisingly, a significant number of staff members never invite potential patients to make an appointment with the practice. Once the patient stops asking questions, the call promptly ends, and the prospective patient is lost. While it cannot be assumed that all patients are ready to make an appointment, it is critically important that staff members not lose the potential opportunity to schedule the appointment at some point in the future. If an attempt to schedule the appointment is declined by the patient, staff should respect the decision-making process of the potential patient and add, “We understand this is a big decision. I would love to add you to our newsletter so that you can receive future communications from our office. May I get your email address?” Capturing the caller’s email ensures that the practice’s name continues to be top of mind when the patient is ready to make a future appointment.

Remember that your response should show that your office is competent, knowledgeable, and compassionate. This extends beyond the clinical care team to the staff answering the phones and making the appointments. Each employee is a representative of your brand and can create a memorable first interaction—whether it’s a phone call, email, or social media post.

David Schmiege is the President and CEO of Vein Specialists of America. Your ideas for future articles can be submitted to David via email at [email protected] or by phone at (630) 455-4528.

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