Exponential Practice GROWTH

Marketing Strategies for Unlimited Expansion

 

Exponential Practice Growth
  3rd March 2012 

Telephone Techniques To Maximise Maintenance Patient Bookings 

"Simple but effective telephone recall strategies" 

By: W. J. Simmons 

     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 book.

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 patients:

     "Who else do you know who could use our services?"

     or

     "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 need.

     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 care.

Source: http://www.osteopathicmarketing.com

Simple phone strategies that are extremely useful in getting maintenance patients to rebook.