Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Converting More Incoming Calls to Appointments

The majority of consumers first enter the cosmetic dermatology, cosmetic dental or plastic surgery world with two basic fears--they fear exposing parts of their anatomy which are displeasing to them, and they fear exposing their financial limitations.

Studies show that the average individual choosing elective cosmetic surgery has a HHI (household income) under $70K. Therefore, it's safe to assume that a good portion of consumers evaluating elective procedures of any kind have concerns about revealing their income limits to their elective healthcare provider. This is not a concern in a "regular" doctor's office, as insurance covers most treatments along with the patient's small co-pay. In elective care, however, patients have only their own resources plus the potential of financing plans through Care Credit and other similar firms to cover the cost of elective procedures.

It's always our suggestion to elective healthcare providers that any prospective patient be provided with the full armamentarium of payment options as soon as possible in the relationship. Surely, most physicians are familiar with the average consumer's initial call to the office, which is usually along the lines of "What does it cost for a [fill in your procedure here]?" To the irritation of the receptionist, who has been instructed to either give out the fees or withhold them by responding with the least helpful response of "we don't quote fees over the telephone", these incoming calls must be considered an opportunity to offer financing options and engage the caller in a more in-depth conversation that will lead to a consultation appointment.

It pays (literally) to keep in mind that most Americans purchase large-ticket items by monthly payment, not by total price. Consider a car or home purchase. Most of us are more concerned about the monthly payment than we are with the total cost. Therefore, I suggest that you "run the numbers" to discover average monthly cost of your most popular procedures (when financed) and make sure the receptionist and other staff who deal with patients pre-booking are familiar with the average monthly payment for veneers, for a breast augmentation, or for a series of laser skin treatments, as examples. Then the receptionist can be more helpful to callers who, by and large, are "shopping" for the best price because of budgetary limitations. This also helps the receptionist or patient coordinator to take charge of the incoming call and steer the caller to more important issues such as the qualifications of the physician.

It saves the prospect the embarrassment of having to ask about financing and thereby exposing his/her inability to pay cash, and can dramatically increase conversions because the consumer develops a sense of trust with a practice that provides such options. It also enables the practice to "weed out" those who ultimately won't qualify for financing before staff and physician time is spent on those who cannot convert.

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