Digital communications managing director Tim Morris shares tips to enhance prospective patients’ experiences prior to their first appointment
With 53% of service organisations expected to be using chatbots within the next 18 months,1 it is clear customer service is going down the artificial intelligence-orientated route. However, I believe that although there is a place for such digital interactions, in these current times, it’s never been more important for clinics to use real people to deliver the best possible customer service.
According to a 2019 survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by business support company CGS, the top customer service scenario that caused consumers to feel the most nervous or anxious was, in fact, in healthcare situations.2 This highlights the importance for aesthetic clinics to deliver a great, personal and, most importantly, human customer service experience so both patient and professional can set realistic expectations and build initial relationships. So, here are some top tips on how you can boost business by providing the easiest, friendliest and most supportive services possible before the first face-to-face contact with patients in 2021.
In a busy aesthetic clinic, where everything seems to be moving at 100mph and patients are frequently wanting results yesterday, it can often be the case that responding to an email drops off your to-do list. However, your business relies on swift and quality response to initial enquiries.
According to statistics from SuperOffice, comprising research of 1,000 US companies, the average response time to get back to customer service requests over email is 12 hours and 10 minutes – this is far too long!3 So, when answering email enquiries, you should ensure to do so promptly. Make sure you reply with a personal introduction, as well as your standard business information, within the same working day of receiving the enquiry.
CGS found that 86% of consumers actually prefer to interact with a human agent, in customer service.2 Therefore, when responding to emails make sure that you always use a positive, upbeat, and most importantly, human tone of writing. Asking a prospect, “How are you today?” is an example of a small thing that goes a long way. Also, offer avenues of support when they make their enquiries. When giving information about your services use phrases like, “There is some other information we believe may be useful to you,” and “In addition to the information above, I’ve also attached...” It’s small personal touches like these that help potential patients feel confident about using your service. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the difference between a cheery and welcoming response compared to an automated one.
Make sure that you offer potential patients an opportunity to respond by saying things like, “I hope you are satisfied with the information above.” You can even check back in with them at a later date if you don’t hear from them in a while.
Together, these factors guarantee engagement with potential patients, giving them an individual experience. Besides, the last thing you want to do is make them feel like they’re just a number.
The easiest ways to damage your clinic’s first impression with a new customer is simply not answering the phone competently.
You only get one chance to make a great first impression. So, making sure you and your employees impress your potential patient with your first interaction over the phone is extremely important. Ensuring there’s a friendly and personable voice on the end of the line is an excellent place to start when answering a call because if a prospect doesn’t like their initial interaction with your clinic, they can easily take their business elsewhere.
When talking over the phone to a customer use their name. In my experience, using a person’s name creates a connection with that individual. It helps you grab their attention and is a sign of courtesy and respect. Another vital thing to do on the phone is to use positive language. Turn your ‘maybe’ into a ‘definitely’ and your ‘I’ll try to do that’ into an ‘I will do that’. This language lets the prospect hear that your goal is to fulfil their needs. A customer wants someone as passionate about their needs as they are. Positive language and a glass-half-full mentality will allow you to develop a healthy relationship with your customer and increase your chances of converting the interaction to a face-to-face appointment.
The next must-do is to make sure your call handlers know your services inside out. By doing this it means they won’t offer something you can’t deliver. Talk through the process of your service step by step. Once you have established this, the potential patient can’t be disappointed because they know exactly what they’re getting – particularly important when someone might not fully understand the treatments they’re asking for at the early stage of enquiry. Having an effective phone script for call handlers to use is one way to ensure a professional and informative interaction takes place. A phone script will allow you to deliver a consistent and effective message to patients, while also boosting the confidence of the operator.
I appreciate that in a busy clinic it can be easier said than done to always get to the phone. For example, an aesthetic clinic providing a popular service may receive a large increase in enquiries at certain times in the year. To manage this, you can set up an effective phone answering system and ensure your staff are diligent at getting back to patients. For those who may be overwhelmed in dealing with calls, you can also outsource this, which is explored below.
Webchat services allow patients to communicate directly with your aesthetic clinic online, via your website and/or social media, in real-time. It’s becoming increasingly popular for businesses to have a chat window on their website, which pops up as an overlay of the browser’s website page, allowing the user to type messages directly to the business. A recent HubSpot report showed that 90% of companies who used live chat found it to be a successful channel for helping customers.4
When running a webchat (which do come at a cost) it’s important to understand that not all webchat conversations have the same value. For example, one customer might want to learn how to book an appointment with you, while another may simply want to ask how to get back to the homepage. To combat this, you should provide priority routing for customers asking specific questions.
Essentially, priority routing is where you push the most important questions to the front of the queue. You can also make webchat buttons highly visible on these pages to ensure a swift and successful customer interaction.
An additional customer service enhancement would be to provide human webchat operators who are available to take queries from priority messages to speed up customer interaction. This is something that someone in your clinic could be responsible for, or again you can outsource.
A tip to provide great customer service over webchat is to make sure you watch your grammar. Avoid ellipses; those three dots may seem inconsequential, but they can actually make you sound condescending or indirect. Also avoid using all caps as they make it seem like you’re shouting at the person you’re talking to – not something a customer appreciates. You can provide fun and upbeat customer service without being sloppy. It’s important to keep live chats as personable as possible, but don’t forget to be professional, too.
Some aesthetic clinics choose to outsource their customer service interactions to companies who can manage their phone calls, webchats and even emails. These services can give the same personal feel as if they were actually in your aesthetic clinic and will also make sure that you add value to the prospective patient’s experience.
This is particularly helpful for enquires that come through out of hours. Outsourcing can be an excellent way to ensure that your communications are being handled appropriately and consistent at any time of day. It also frees up clinic time so you can get on with other important tasks, such as treating patients, in the comfort of knowing your customer service is being taken care of properly.
Naturally, there is a cost involved to outsourcing but it can often be less than committing to a full-time in-house employee and is useful for further assistance if your current employees are feeling overwhelmed. Quality support also requires an initial investment of your time if you want people to be well briefed. When outsourcing you want to ensure that you don’t lose the personal feel your aesthetic clinic already provides. To keep your personal approach, choosing a communications provider who places an emphasis on delivering a personal service and provides its staff with regular training is incredibly important.
Building a relationship with your potential patient is essential to making sure that you can convert initial enquiries to face-to-face appointments. Using real people in your customer service team not only helps your clinic deliver a great consistent customer service but also helps build a relationship that can lead to repeat business.
If a patient feels comfortable, there’s a higher likelihood they’ll come back and use your services again. This shows how real people using positive communication can lay the groundwork for building better relationships with your potential patients. The better the relationship you have with a patient, the more your clinic will benefit in the long run. Aesthetic clinics that want to ensure that their customer service is in tip-top form in 2021 must guarantee that these personal approaches are in place.
Disclosure: Tim Morris is the managing director of Cymphony, which offers client communication services to businesses.
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