Is your receptionist losing you money?

You may have a beautiful and advanced medical practice with a dedicated and highly qualified team who all want the practice to be successful, yet you have a sense that your patient volume is low. Sometimes training the most important member of the practice, your receptionist, may be the answer. In this interview with Aesthetic Insider™, Angela O’Mara a practice marketing expert and President of The Professional Image, Inc., a national PR & Marketing Agency explains the importance of this key role to the success of a modern medical practice. According to Ms. O’Mara, the majority of prospective patients that call a doctor’s office are generally well educated, they most likely have already done a great deal of Internet research, have shopped around for information and pricing from other doctors (your competitors), have a good understanding of their procedure of choice and are looking for answers and solutions to their problem now, not next week or next year. But right NOW while they are on the telephone with your receptionist. To learn more, visit www.theprofessionalimage.com.

Do doctors realize they may never meet a patient if a call is not answered correctly, literally costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue?
Prospective patients that call a doctors’ office can become cash-paying customers who will not only be loyal, but will also refer their friends and family for surgery if they are greeted by a caring, knowledgeable receptionist who is able to book them in for a consultation. It is ultimately their responsibility to bring that patient in for a consultation, but if they end the call without booking that consult, or even worse, don’t obtain contact information or source of the caller, then they are seriously hurting the practice and losing money.

Do doctors usually have the right person answering the telephone or working at the front desk?
It has been my experience that the receptionist is generally the least paid and the least trained person in a medical office. However, she/he is the “gate keeper” and plays the most important and pivotal role to the success of a practice. The receptionist is not just answering the phone. They are the immediate connection with the world outside. This person holds the power to turn that caller into a paying patient, or lose them allowing them to seek the services of the competition for a procedure that their doctor could have performed. Also, that patient may have been interested in more than just one procedure, or as mentioned earlier, referred their friends and family for future surgery.

 Is it true that a prospective patient will never have the chance to consult with a doctor if they have a bad experience with your receptionist?
I have been in practices where the receptionist complains that the telephone is a nuisance. They complain that it is a distraction, an interruption and never stops “ringing off the hook.” The telephone is the gateway to success and a good receptionist should understand what their role as “gate keeper” truly means. It is the entry to the practice and the doorway to new patients and future practice sales and growth. It is also the welcome mat for past patients to return when they are seeking more procedures.

Do you have a protocol for patient tracking?
There are many great software programs for patient tracking such as ACT, and companies such as Aesthetic Link and Nextech, for example, offer great practice software solutions. Keeping it simple, I suggest they should at least obtain the following information:

  1. Name and address
  2. Telephone and email contact information
  3. Areas of interest (type of surgery or procedure discussed)
  4. Timeline for treatment (How soon do they want to do this?)
  5. Referral source (newspaper, magazine, TV, Internet, friend, etc.)
  6. Consultation date
  7. Notes on interesting points made during conversation

While your receptionist should be able to answer basic practice and treatment information, they should not try to play doctor on the phone. Booking the consult is the best thing they can do for a medical practice.

The receptionist should not:
1. Refer a caller to a competitor if their doctor does not offer the procedure they are requesting. They should understand how to handle this type of caller
2. Sound anxious to get off the phone
3. Give medical advice. e.g. determine the length of recovery time if a caller is planning to have surgery before a big event
4. Put the caller off the procedure by thinking they are offering good advice
5. Forget to take down name and contact info
6. Hang up without booking a consult
7. Put them on hold. If it is necessary to place a new patient call on hold, make sure it is for a few brief seconds only

The receptionist should:
1. Greet the caller with a smile
2. Ask how they can help them
3. Ask how they heard of the practice
4. Offer basic information and then suggest a consult with the doctor
5. Obtain contact information and put it on a Tracking Sheet
6. Book a consult
7. If the caller is not ready to book a consult, ask if they can send any information via e-mail or literature in the mail. Then schedule to call that patient back in one week’s time

Are there any special points a receptionist should make when talking to a patient?
It is always good that your receptionist frequently refers to the expertise and credentials of the doctor wherever possible during the conversation. They can discuss the state-of-the-art medical office, cutting edge procedures, highly qualified staff, etc. as long as the conversation allows it. Many receptionists get off track with personal and idle chatter that they often forget their true role. That role is to be an ambassador of the practice and to help caller choose their practice over any others

When should a call become a consultation?
As quickly as possible. The whole goal of the receptionist is to answer the phone and if it is a new patient calling, to turn that call into a consult. It is a learned skill so long as the receptionist wants to learn it. An experienced receptionist should know this, but even a “newbie” can learn this skill fast. The more excited they are about the practice, the easier it will be for them to make this happen. Sometimes, the receptionist may have to ask several times if the caller wants to book a consult. Asking how “soon” they want to have surgery is a great way for the receptionist to understand what time frame they are working with.

Angela O’Mara is President of The Professional Image, Inc. and has worked with aesthetic surgeons and medical manufacturing companies for over 28 years.  She is a frequent lecturer, contributor and has been a featured guest and commentator on E! Entertainment TV, CBS News and other media outlets and has worked with thousands of aesthetic surgeons over the years. The Professional Image, Inc. is a full-service national PR & Marketing Agency and Consulting Firm, with offices in the USA, United Kingdom and Mexico.  They partner with clients to deliver solutions that help solve their most complicated needs. Services are designed specifically to help aesthetic medical practices compete and grow. With over 28+ years of industry experience and hands-on expertise, TPI’s Practice Consulting goes beyond the norm to develop new insights, drive results, and help grow an aesthetic practice. To learn more, visit www.theprofessionalimage.com. 949.768.1522.