Finding innovative and cost-effective ways to attract new patients to your office can be a real challenge. There is an option, however, that requires only a modest time investment and typically produces a five-to-one return on your investment. That option is telemarketing, done properly.
I know, I know, you would never consider hiring telemarketers because they are rude, annoying, and without fail call just as you are sitting down to dinner. Maybe you have hired an outside telemarketing company with little or no success. Telemarketing done properly is polite, schedules patients when you want them scheduled, does not use automatic dialers, effectively relays office promotions to potential patients, and is cost-efficient.
So what is the “done properly” all about? Telemarketing done properly involves hiring employees specifically to be in-house telemarketers for your office. These employees use your script, the way you would like your office to be portrayed. They call during times that tend to be more convenient.
Your in-house telemarketers schedule patients when you want them scheduled, not when an outside telemarketing company wants them scheduled. Outside telemarketing companies can be effective in some areas of the country, but most charge by the hour of calling and use automatic dialers, which almost everyone these days recognizes when you pick up the phone and have just enough time to hang up before a live person comes on the phone.
If you already use an outside telemarketing company and are successful, you may be able to attract 50% more new patients using in-house employees, at a fraction of the cost.
Since our office implemented an in-house telemarketing plan, our two employees have generated between 45 to 64 new patients through the door each month, month after month. We have had as many as 21 new patients in one week, simply from a well- implemented telemarketing plan.
Say what you will about the negative stigma surrounding the word telemarketing, but many patients enter through telemarketing, including nurses, attorneys, dentists, and other professionals. Patients want to be helped with their problems, regardless of how they are referred to your office.
Now you may be interested, but you don’t know where to begin? To implement a sound telemarketing plan, your first step is to equip your practice with a dedicated telemarketing office, preferably where the outgoing calls cannot be heard by patients. You will need dedicated phone lines for each telemarketer. You can start by adding two to three phone lines. Basic desks, phones, and minimal office supplies totaling less than $500 should suffice for your equipment start-up.
Your second, and possibly most important, step is to hire a manager of the telemarketing office. Hiring a manager of the telemarketing staff will leave one person responsible for the productivity of the plan, further lessening your management involvement. The manager of the telemarketing plan should hire his or her own staff due to the fact that they will be spending a lot of time together.
Preferably, all employees hired for these tasks should have telemarketing experience. The telemarketing manager at our office sold timeshare condominiums in Las Vegas before changing careers. Look to hire a manager with experience in sales, customer service, or the like.
Training of the telemarketing manager should begin by focusing on chiropractic, what your office does, and the physical conditions you are comfortable treating. If your manager doesn’t understand chiropractic, he or she has no business on the phone convincing other people that they need it. Make sure the manager is comfortable with your script and how to deal with possible objections or questions, then begin training with the other employees. Once the script is mastered, obtain a list of potential new patients from zip-coded directories so you are contacting prospective patients in your surrounding area.
Remember that there is no “magic script.” Keep your script simple and to the point, be sure the employees maintain a pleasant demeanor, and make sure they sound enthusiastic.
Phone etiquette is so important, it perhaps supercedes even the script itself.
The following is a sample script that we have used in our office:
“Hello, Mr. or Mrs.____________, my name is Jane and I am calling from Dr. Walker’s office, Walker Chiropractic. How are you today? The reason for my call is that Dr. Walker is having an offer for patients suffering from back, neck and shoulder pain, pain in the arms or legs, and headaches (etc.). Do you or anyone you know suffer from any of these symptoms?”
If “yes”: The telemarketer can go into greater detail regarding the prospective patients’ problems, and inform them about any promotional offers your office might be having at the time. If patients are interested in setting an appointment, they are scheduled into pre-arranged blocks of time the doctor has available, and given directions to the office. Interested patients are then sent out a confirmation letter with an office brochure and other pertinent information about their first visit or about the office. All appointments are confirmed the night before the scheduled appointment.
If “no”: The telemarketers thank the people for their time and ask them to keep your office in mind should they need a chiropractor in the future. We have had several patients call us back months later to schedule an appointment, so it is important for the telemarketers to retain rapport at all times.
If “not right now”: The telemarketers should find out why these prospective patients may be interested later but not now. Usually, their reasons include vacation, a new job, they might be getting insurance soon, and the list goes on and on. These patients are placed in a “call back” box and re-contacted at a more appropriate time. If the prospective patients request more information, they are mailed the same materials as the patients who make appointments, excluding the confirmation letter.
You should modify the script periodically. This keeps the telemarketing office working on fresh material, and it’s a great way to promote office anniversaries, patient appreciation days, and patient reactivations. Although your script may change, the basic procedure and follow-up will always remain the same. The keys to a successful telemarketing plan are follow-up and respectful persistence. Patients who do not arrive for their scheduled appointments are called the same day to reschedule, but are never rescheduled more than two times. Follow-up on “call-backs” is also very important, as some prospective patients may be very interested at a later date.
How do you know if telemarketing is worth the investment? Statistics will give the answer. Figure your case average for each patient and how many new patients are required to meet your monthly investment for the telemarketing plan.
Experts generally recommend a four-to-one return on your investment, but you should evaluate the potential return against the additional overhead. Our two marketers typically book one appointment per seven to eight phone contacts, 42 appointments per 35-hour work week, and have 12 new patients show up per week. Our office manages to retain 65% of those patients on average. Be sure to track your statistics and chart the retention and case averages of your telemarketing patients to continually evaluate the efficacy and cost-efficiency of your plan.
Telemarketing done properly can be a low-risk/high-return investment. In the current new patient marketplace, telemarketing can reach large numbers of people relatively inexpensively. Many telemarketing plans fail because they are set up incorrectly or are subcontracted to outside firms – not because telemarketing is ineffective.
If your practice and bottom line could use a serious adjustment, don’t hang up on telemarketing.