Healthcare Consultation – The weakest link in the private health sales chain
Ok, it’s my turn to play Anne Robinson for a moment…
Imagine for a moment that your private health practice is a chain that the patient needs to pull to get their hands on what you offer. The handle at the end of the chain is your practices accessibility (i.e. how easily a prospective patient can find you). Ideally, you should have several ends on this chain because this will help prospects find your chain more easily. Some of these handles could be:
Regardless, the first link in your chain is often the telephone and consequently the person answering that phone – the telephone operator. The aims of that person need to be to
- greet the prospect
- qualify the prospect on the phone
- propose an appointment to the prospective patient
This person needs to be a master of making a good first impressions, asking productive questions, and overcoming objections to an appointment. All of which is covered (and more) in my Telephone Boot Camp.
The second link in the chain, assuming the person answering the telephone was successful in converting the enquiry into an appointment, is the receptionist. Typically, the receptionist will be the first person to greet your prospective patient and will set the tone for the entire visit. It is also likely that the receptionist will have the majority of face time with the prospect, especially if you are a busy practice that makes it’s patient wait. This person needs to be an expert at “on-stage” behaviours otherwise known as customer service skills, such as
- making visitors feel special and at home
- tending to their unasked needs
- keeping them updated and involved
These are skills that I teach in my customer service workshops, usually attended by receptionists, medical secretaries and clinic managers.
The third link in the chain, is your patient advisor (or patient education consultant, or counselor). This person is proficient at
- greeting your customer
- putting them at ease
- gathering information about their needs
- confirming information
- shepherding the patient through the process
- presenting options
- asking for money, and
- setting up treatment appointments.
This person requires skills like building trust, uncovering needs, linking prospect needs to practice solutions, overcoming objections and negotiating fees and dates. These are all skills I teach in my Consultation Boot Camps.
The fourth link in the chain is usually the practitioner, or the practitioner’s proxy (a nurse, an optometrist, or a non-medical treatment specialist). This person needs to not only be extremely knowledgeable about their product, but also needs to employ the inter-personal skills to
- affably gain the patient’s trust and respect
- discern what to communicate and how to communicate it clearly
- establish credibility in the recommendation
- confirm the patient’s commitment
- answer every question fully to the patient’s satisfaction
- explain risks and benefits
- overcome the patient’s product-related or positional objections
Now, let me ask you these three questions:
- With respect to the skills that I’ve just listed, which of the four links above (the telephone operator, the receptionist, the patient advisor, and the practitioner/practitioner’s proxy) typically perform their skills worse than the others?
- Which of the four links above usually have the most to gain by becoming more proficient at these listed skills?
- Which of these four links above are, ironically, the most resistant to the changes that training expects of them?
If you answered the fourth link in the chain (the practitioners and the practitioner’s proxies), you’d be right nine times out of ten. If you’re reading this post and recognise yourself in this group, then indeed: “YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK!”
In my next few posts, I’ll be discussing the distinctions that this fourth group need to learn, a few of the reasons why they consistently resist change, and what you can do to overcome it.