Imagine a new prospect calling your medical practice for the first time. If she gets right through to a friendly person who can answer her questions intelligently and put her on the schedule, she probably leaves the conversation with an appointment. If she gets a voicemail message asking her to leave a message, she most likely hangs up and calls another provider.
Healthcare businesses that fail to answer phone calls on the first attempt see conversion rates that are a whopping 73% lower than those that do.
All that time, money, and effort spent on outbound marketing efforts like paid search, organic search, and advertising is easily lost — in just a few seconds. If you reconcile the lifetime revenue a new patient brings with the cost of hiring enough staff to field all phone calls, it is easy to see that this is not an ideal place to cut corners. This is true for all healthcare companies, not just doctor offices.
But simply being present isn’t enough for today’s savvy consumers of healthcare; the person who answers the call must be have adequate medical and sales expertise to shepherd the prospect through the pipeline.
Humans answering the phone ... every time
Consumers make phone calls anywhere and everywhere, but even when they are calling from home, almost everybody uses a mobile phone. This makes it imperative for them to reach a live person if they are to convert. It is far too cumbersome to navigate IVR systems using touchscreen keypads on mobile phones, and many callers don’t have the time or patience for them. For example, take a mom on her way to urgent care with a child that just had a soccer injury and is in pain. It’s simply too difficult — and dangerous — to press all of the buttons necessary to reach a live person while driving.
Even healthcare consumers that aren’t dealing with pressing situations interpret these menus as implying their time isn’t valued and gives them a negative view of the practice. Since 89% of healthcare consumers say they use insurance providers or the internet to find providers, they have immediate access to contact information for alternative providers. It is little wonder that most of them find it easier to call the next provider on the list than wade through a series of voice prompts.
Removing conversion roadblocks at ground zero
Selling healthcare is different than any other service or product. Most companies know they are in the business of solving pain points, but consumers seeking healthcare services are often in actual physical pain. This brings compassion to the forefront of importance, and empathic selling is the process of assuring callers that they are on the right track to alleviating that pain. Attorneys often say things like, “That’s outrageous!” to clients at initial meetings because it shows the problem is understood and the firm will fight for the client to resolve it. In healthcare, “I understand and we can ease that suffering for you” accomplishes a similar task.
Establishing this trust and empathy before taking on tasks like insurance information and form of payment is absolutely key. Any potential roadblocks to care should not be raised until after the caller is ready to convert.
Analyze and segment
The first step in optimizing inbound call leads is to measure volume. Keep track of every call and match personnel capacity to ensure that you have enough help to handle all calls even during the busiest times. If this is impractical or your volume is too irregular, consider outsourcing call answering to a capable provider.
Incoming calls should also be used to measure marketing campaign efficacy. Assign separate numbers to each marketing channel so you can track where the lead came from. This will empower you to determine which marketing effort yields the highest return without putting appointment and customer service calls in jeopardy.
Handling incoming phone calls properly is a key part of building a successful healthcare company and prevents dollars spent on marketing efforts from being squandered at the final step before conversion. Transforming your inbound phone process from prospect killer to conversion machine could very well be the most important — and lucrative — investment your practice ever makes. Hire the right staff or partner with an experienced provider to give your top-line revenue a shot in the arm.