Because the front desk staff in most practices are usually not sales trained and are very busy people too, the statistics are that 2 to 5 shoppers per week slip away. Usually these shoppers are calling in by phone, but it could also be a contact from your website or they might have dropped into your practice.
A shopper can be one of 5 different types:
- Someone who needs a new practice to go to and calls in and asks, “How much is it for ___?” Some will be straight forward and ask, “Are you still taking new patients?” But don’t be thrown off by the money question if they ask that first.
- Someone who is calling different offices in the area to see who is the cheapest for a certain procedure.
- Someone who doesn’t trust their own provider and feel he or she is charging too much and is comparison shopping.
- Someone who is looking for the “right” practice and is judging it by how they are handled by the person who answers the phone.
- Someone who works in another practice and they are checking to see what your practice charges for things.
What is a Shopper Anyway?
Except for #5 above, they are all people who need a new provider and you could be it if they are well handled. They are looking for someone to care for them and give them service. This is very important to always keep in mind when talking to one.
The correct way to handle a shopper:
Quoting fees to them and asking if they would like an appointment are the two things you must never do with a shopper. They may say, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” What you really want to do is ENGAGE the person and show that you are interested in them and get some real communication going.
You can ask them any one or all of the following (or other) questions:
- What is it that you need?
- Is there pain or a serious problem?
- How did you hear about us?
- Do you live or work in the area?
- When was the last time you saw a provider for this?
- (you hear a dog barking:) Is that your dog I hear? What kind is it?
- (you hear a child talking:) Is that your child I hear?
It may take a few minutes, but the idea is to show your interest and care about them. This will set you apart from any other practices they may have already called and gotten the usual fee quote and offered an appointment. It is a trust building moment and deep down, that is what most patients or clients are looking for.
Once you have all the information you can get and know whether the situation is urgent or not, you can then say (if urgent), “It sounds like we should get you in here as quickly as possible. Are you available tomorrow at 10 a.m. or the day after at 3 p.m.?” (This is what your schedule shows as available immediately.) If those two offerings are not workable for them, offer another 2 options. Do not ask, “Would you like an appointment?” … assume that they do because of the information you already got from them.
Cement the appointment
Once you have an appointment arranged with the person, ask them for all the information you need to open up a chart (i.e. name, address, date of birth, insurance, blah, blah, blah). The more information they share, the firmer that initial appointment becomes.
Time well spent
Keep in mind that the quality of care and interest in the person in that first contact is going to be the determining factor as to how many shoppers you attract into the practice to take care of. It may take a few minutes, but they are well spent if the person arrives in your practice for service.
Main watchword: Show you CARE!