Exponential Practice Growth
3rd March 2012
Telephone Techniques To Maximise Maintenance Patient Bookings
"Simple but effective telephone recall strategies"
By: W. J.
I want to share with you a couple of
little tidbits I have found to be very useful in getting maintenance patients to rebook. Since implementing them
the number of patients they have brought back to my clinic has increased by between 20-30%. Give them a try to see
how you get on...
When you telephone your patient to let them know their 1, 3
or 6 months appointment is due make sure you say something along the lines of:
"Hi _________, it's ________ from the ________ clinic /
practice (or whatever phrase you use to identify yourself). It's just to remind you you're now due your maintenance
appointment. Would you like to make it now - there are still some appointments available for next week, which day
is going to be best for you?"
There are a couple of very simple things you will have
noticed from those couple of sentences:
a, We weren't trying to give them an appointment immediately. This only makes you
look very pushy and desperate! It also detracts and cheapens the message you are offering - that of preventative /
maintenance care - and makes it appear your sole purpose is not their well-being but filling your appointments
b, Never ask your patients if they "would like to make an appointment now or if they
would prefer to call back later" as a large proportion will not always ring back! Unfortunately leaving them in
charge of calling to make an appointment increases the tendency for you to lose track of them and for them to slip
through the cracks and disappear. If you do remember at a later date they haven't been back in touch it starts the
whole cycle again of finding out if they would like to make an appointment or phone back later...
Some patients may tell you they don't have their diary with
them or know their work shifts etc. In these instances you can offer them a time they think may be suitable and
offer to phone them later to confirm it (or ask them to phone back if it is not okay).
If you have more than one receptionist (for example a couple
of part-time workers) you can instigate a (good humoured) challenge to see which one of them books the most
check-ups over a weekly period. If you make a game of it (and keep it fun!) with the winner getting some reward for
the most maintenance patients they book in you will keep them more enthusiastic and this will come across in their
voice and they will be more upbeat on the phone. There is not a great deal more tedious than making one telephone
call after another so if there is a little incentive involved like a certificate for 2-3 hours paid holiday, a
couple of bottles of wine or a meal out it helps to break up the monotony.
If you have some concerns about the cost involvement
of offering an incentive to your staff it may be worth looking at the figures involved and the financial gain you
will make. Every patient who makes another appointment is theoretically worth 50% or more of what you charge for an
appointment (this is your fee minus taxes, clinic running expenses etc.). Therefore if you are going to be getting
at least 15 from each maintenance appointment made you can afford to be a little bit generous!
If you are giving some sort of prize as an incentive this
also helps to keep your staff motivated and the desire to win becomes almost contagious. The more motivated your
staff the easier it will be for them to make the appointments.
Limit the amount of time your staff spends making these
maintenance calls to a 2-3 hour period at any one time. If they spend any longer than this you will notice they
will start to get a little tired and jaded (regardless of the bonus you are giving them) and this will show in
their voice. Once this happens the number of people booking their maintenance appointments will drop significantly.
Little sessions at a time will keep them alert, fresh and eager - and stop "tying" up the phone preventing other
patients from calling in to your clinic to make their appointments.
As you will know from your own experience of having people
call you (trying to sell double glazing, kitchens or investment products) cold calling (which in a way this is
isn't the most pleasant and fun of tasks and it is easy for boredom and frustration to creep in.
In my clinic when we make appointments for maintenance care
we schedule the patient in to a diary to be called one week before the appointment is to be made. So, if a patient
is due a three month reminder we will call them after 11 weeks (on the same day of the week they were last in). If
they are due a six monthly maintenance appointment we telephone the patient after 25 weeks. This way we can make
the appointment for them the following week (which is when it is actually due) and by doing a certain number of
reminder calls on a daily basis we do not develop a backlog or have to do hundreds all at once. (I tend to make
monthly maintenance appointments at the time of their last scheduled visit).
Always, always, always refer to the patient by name and
usually surname e.g. Mr. Smith, Mrs. Jones. The only exception is if you have a very informal clinic and the
patients usually refer to you by your first name and in these instances it is normal to reciprocate and do likewise
to them. You'll be amazed how many clinics do not call their patients by name and it is a tremendous mistake! Using
someone's name not only makes a great impression on them but it also makes them much more open, comfortable and
receptive to your maintenance call.
An American Management Association study revealed only
2/3rds of customers (or patients) will buy at the same place they purchased last year. This means each and every
year through no fault of your own one third of your client base will disappear (and this percentage increases
dramatically if you have a terrible reminder system in place!). Therefore you need to make sure you not only call
your patients regularly to remind them about their maintenance care but you also actively seek replacements for any
clients who fall by the wayside.
Do you know the easiest, quickest and best way to get new
patients to fill this gap? Ask for referrals! Only 12% of all businesses actively do this so if you already are you
will have a tremendous head start over most of your colleagues. Third party recommendations (or referrals) are
extremely powerful and effective and the great thing about them is you only need to ask your existing
"Who else do you know who could use our
"If you were to recommend our services to your friends and
family what would you say?"
and wait for the patient to give you all the information you
All of the above techniques are really simple to implement
and take no time at all (you are most probably doing most of them already) but by implementing them all you will
make a dramatic difference to the number of patients you rebook for maintenance
Simple phone strategies that are extremely useful in getting maintenance patients to rebook.