Hi, I’m Rod Solar of Livesey Solar, and we’re on a mission to help you build the practice that you love. Now, how do you engage in the telephone in order to double your bookings? It’s a question that we’re commonly asked: “How can we just improve some of our phone service? How can we get more patients to book in appointments?”
But if I could tell you that you could in fact double your bookings just by simply utilising the phone more appropriately than you do right now, I’m sure that’s probably something you’d be very interested in. How we do it is this:
Hire the right team
First of all, we hire the right people. Those are people who truly believe that what they’re doing for you on the phone is instrumentally valuable to your practice. They really, really have to believe that what you do is a good thing, that what your patients are going to get is a life-transforming thing.
They have to do everything in their power to engage on that phone properly in order to book that patient in. Only after they identify what they need, what their motivations are, and ask them questions in order to make a relationship with them.
The question here is: “How do I build trust? How do I do so within 15 minutes, 12 minutes, 10 minutes of a telephone call, where often the patients are calling and just simply asking about price?”
The key thing here is to take control of the call. Hiring the right people allow[s] you to do that. Because those people then have to be trained. Training is instrumental in getting people prepared to do this job properly. This is not a job that you can simply allow to be done off the side of a desk. This isn’t a job where somebody is doing something else and then is interrupted by a phone call.
It’s a job that requires dedication, and it requires a certain knowledge about how you do what you do. It’s not only knowledge about your product, or their service, or the medical terms that people are going to ask about.
But rather, it’s the knowledge of how to take somebody who, perhaps, is a little bit afraid of being sold, a little bit afraid of what they might be looking at in terms of pricing, afraid of what a procedure might feel like, afraid of going to the doctor for anything at all, and taking that prospective patient and guiding them through a process that enables them to generate as much excitement and trust the individual, who’s answering the phone, to take their leadership so that they can take the next logical step, which is to book an appointment.
Now let’s get into the phone call proper. How do you actually handle a telephone call in order to generate that booking?
Now, the very first thing that you have to do is…
Number one: be completely prepared to convert the telephone caller into a booking. That requires a certain mindset. What I like to invite people to do is actually even stand up so that they have the energy to engage the caller in such a way that it really makes them feel valued, and it makes them feel listened to. I find that when you’re standing up as well, your energy, your personal demeanour changes. So I often encourage people to stand to answer the phone, or at least when the phone rings, to stand, pick it up, and engage on the phone while they’re standing. The energy is completely different.
Perfect a warm welcome
The very first thing you have to do is obviously welcome the caller in greeting them. So it goes as simple as: “Good morning,” or, “Good afternoon (My clinic name), Rod speaking. How can I help?”
So it’s a nice four-part introduction in order to invite the patient to know that they’re calling the right place. Now the patient is going to potentially ask any question. Typically, that question involves, “How much does your service cost?” Or, “Do you offer this or that service?”
Now, whatever question they ask, what’s super important here is for the person on the receiving end of the phone (your employee), to take control of the call right from that point forward. Whatever question is asked, invite them to say something like this: “I appreciate it. That’s a really good question. I can answer that and many other questions for you. But if that’s okay, I’d like to get a few details from you first so that I know who I’m speaking with, and so I can understand what it is that you need most. Then I can provide you the answers that are most suitable for you.”
With that, you’ve taken leadership, and that’s central. Because it provides the caller with a sense that, “Okay, I’ve called somebody who actually knows what they’re doing. They’re in control. They have a plan.” As soon as that happens, that vacuum of leadership is sorted out. Because then the caller doesn’t feel like they have to take leadership and drive the phone call to its logical conclusion. It prevents them from feeling the need to ask all these questions.
Usually what happens is that the caller feels like: “Well, I have to ask all these questions. I’ve got to prepare in advance.” Then they’ll fire questions off at the person handling the phone. I don’t want that to happen. Instead, what I’d like to happen is for the call operator to take control of that phone call and then have them ask the questions.
Gather the minimum data set
The next thing you have to do is you now have to get the minimum data set. The minimum data set is typically, what’s their name? What’s their phone number, in case you get disconnected? And how do they hear about you? Those are the three points of data that you need in order to initiate the phone call. Most of the time, if you ask with confidence, they will provide that information. So you take all of that down. You ensure that you write those notes in the file, because you’re going to use that information throughout the call, and potentially after the call after you book them. Then you simply start off by saying: “Well, thanks very much for calling. My name is Rod. I’m one of the patient liaisons here. Would it be okay if I ask you a few questions in order to understand your needs better?”
Next, ask your question clusters
With that, you’ve effectively structured the agenda for the call. What is the caller going to say? 99 times out of 100, they’re going to say, “Yeah, please.” Who doesn’t want to get their needs known in order for you to answer their questions better? That’s what we’re after. Then, once the caller gives their permission to have questions asked of them, you begin asking your questions. I propose a series of 10 questions. But really, what they are, are question clusters. You have to think about it in that respect, that if I say: “Ask this question,” I’m also thinking about follow-up questions. I’ll give you an example.
The very first question you want to ask is: “Tell me a little bit about what issues you’re calling about.” So you’re asking about their ‘before’ state. The before state is essentially what the patient has, whether it’s a condition or a problem they want to fix, how they feel about that problem, what daily impacts they experience, and how others see them, and how they see themselves in the overall story that is going to get them moving through the journey that you’re trying to help them along.
But really, what I want the telephone operator to do is just simply ask, “Tell me about the issues that are concerning you.”
Secondly, once the patient answers, then ask: “Well, how do you feel about that?” That’s the second part. So first, you have the ‘what’, then the ‘how’.
The last part is, after the patient answers that: “Tell me about the impacts that’s having on your life.” That’s the ‘why’. Why is this a problem? When you structure the questions in that way, you effectively are peeling the onion. What you’re doing really here is pulling down the levels.
Channel your patient’s emotions
First of all, we’ve got a problem. Second is, how we feel about the problem. Third is, what impact does that have on their life? What we’re trying to do here, the meta-message behind all of this, is we’re trying to get the patient emotional.
Why? Because emotion is what gets people to make decisions. Emotion is what gets people to say, “Yes, I want to fix this. This is a problem. I need to address it.” Facts don’t do that so well. Facts are used in order to justify emotional decisions.
The first thing we do is we ask them about their past. What’s happened before?
Get them to recall their past motivating incident
Secondly, we ask them to tell us about a specific incident that occurred in their past. I call it the past motivating incident. In that, what we’re doing is we’re getting the patient to relate a story, something that happened in their past that was significant enough to get them to move past the point where they are now, compelled to make a change. Of course, it’s related to their problem. If we’re talking about, say, an eye problem, and they wear glasses that they don’t like, they feel unattractive in their glasses, and it’s having a major impact on some of their social opportunities.
“Well, can you tell me about a time when that caused you distress? Okay. Can you tell me about a time that caused you distress?” That’s the second question. Ideally, they will answer with, “Well, yeah, there was this one time where I couldn’t get my contact lenses in because I had an eye infection – so I wore my glasses. I went out for a date and I really didn’t feel comfortable at all because I hate the way I look in my glasses.”
Establish you’re trustworthy
Then you’ve got to ask: “Well, how did that go? How did that turn out?” Now, you’re probably thinking right now, these are really personal questions. But in reality, people are very, very keen to share what’s very important to them with somebody that they trust. If they trust you enough, they will share this with you. You need to be able to provide that kind of leadership and that kind of confidence that enables people to trust you.
People will do business with people that they trust. This is a trust building exercise, so you do have to go there. You do have to ask these questions, and you do have to get them to answer. The key to this is getting the answers. If they’re telling you anyway, then you don’t have to ask the question.