Thursday, May 17, 2012

Your Phone is STILL a Marketing Tool!

by Honora Lee Wolfe

Today I had a discussion with my son about the relative merits of voice mail vs. text messages. He’s right, I need to give it up and learn to use texting if I want to stay in touch with him. That said, although I am trying to march bravely into the 21st century where technology is concerned, I still believe that we need telephones and we need to use them wisely to be successful. Here are notes from a recent lecture I gave about the importance of your telephone. While it seems like a no-brainer to me that our phones should function like any professional medical office, my experience is that at least 80% of acupuncturists rarely answer their phones! When I call an acupuncturist's office during working hours and all I get is an answering machine, my response to this is always "really?"..."I mean, come on folks!"  "Can't we do better???" "

My belief is that we could do better and that the practitioners who are making the best living made a decision early in their careers to hire someone else to answer the phone for them, promptly, intelligently, and courteously between 9 and 5! If we want to have "medical parity" in terms of respect and public expectation, this would be one good way to move in that direction. are my suggestions.

Staffing your phone
If you cannot always answer the phone, create a way to get your messages as instantaneously as possible:
  • Answering service, buzzer on your belt, pager, check messages once per hour,
  • Make a short-term goal to have someone answering your phone within a year. I guarantee you will make more money and there's plenty of other stuff this person can do to help you grow and manage your practice! For a laundry list of ideas about that, see page 205 of the current edition of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists
Inbound calls: Make the number easy to find.
  • Your phone number should be on every piece of written material that goes out your door
  • You need to write down what you or your receptionist will say when people call. How do you want your phone answered? Don't let someone else determine this for you!
  • What are the most common questions prospective patients ask and how will you answer them? (This could also be used as an FAQ on your website and a handout in your presentation folder).
Inbound calls: Answering the phone
  • Speak clearly, slowly, and smile when you answer the phone (People can hear it.)
  • Return calls promptly
  • Better yet, answer your phone every time!
  • “White Crane Clinic, this is Joseph, how may I help you?” Or…“Thank you for calling White Crane Clinic. How may I help you?”
Inbound calls: Answering questions
People ask pretty predictable questions, so write down how you want to answer the most common ones. You’ll sound more intelligent and your receptionist will thank you!
• Do you do acupuncture? (Of course you do, but what other services?)
• How much does it cost for a treatment?
• How many treatments will I need?
• Can acupuncture treat my________?
• Do you have experience treating ____?
• How often will I have to come in?
• Are there any discounts?
• Can you bill my insurance?

Inbound calls:  When patients have problems
How will you answer these types of question? My thought is not to be defensive, listen carefully, don’t panic, be honest, and have a plan in advance. (Such as having them come back in, offering a liniment to help with any bruising, reviewing their chart to see if you missed something…but generally going TOWARD the problem and not stonewalling or running away from it.)
• “Hi, this is ___ and I was in yesterday. You gave me some herbs…well, I took them last night and I couldn’t sleep. So I stopped taking the herbs. What do you think I should do?”
• “Hi, this is ___ and I was in this morning. Well, I have developed a bruise where you needled me. It’s kind of painful and I need to know when this will go away.”

Outbound calls…
• Bonding call: “Hi, this is Joe from White Crane Clinic. We like to call our new patients within 24 hrs of your first visit to our clinic to see how you are doing, if you have any further questions, and what your response to the treatment was.”
• Reminder calls: A call/text message/email the day before every single appointment cuts down on patients forgetting or blowing off their appointments by 50% or more!

Outbound calls: To research the reason for a disappearing patient
• Hello, this is Joe from White Crane Clinic. We noticed that you had cancelled your last treatment and haven’t rescheduled. We were wondering…..
- if there was any problem
- if you are all well
- if there is something we could have done better
- if you’d like to try a different type of therapy that we offer

Outbound calls:  To request referrals
”Hello, this is Joe from White Crane Clinic. I recently sent you a letter about my specialty acupuncture practice in sports acupuncture. I wonder if you’ve had time to read it. At present, I have a patient who needs something other than what I offer and I may wish to refer them to you. Do you have time to chat for a few minutes, or could I visit you at your clinic later on this week?”

The Telephone is not dead!!!
•  People like to speak with a real person
•  People like to feel heard and understood
•  Really using the phone effectively is a way to set yourself apart in our profession!
•  Use the phone effectively and not jst 2 txt ppl or chk eml or whtevr.
•  Remember that many patients are boomers and they, at least, still like to talk on the phone! For most of the above uses, a real voice is better than a text message.
To check out my video on the above topic, click here:
For more marketing articles see this blog archive or check out my book, Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists.

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