One element of medical marketing that doesn't always receive so much attention is what happens with prospective patient calls as they come in. As our agency has grown and we work with more and more clients, we have been witness to a larger and larger volume of phone calls coming through our program-specific tracking phone numbers (i.e. the result of our various online marketing programs). The majority of this call activity is new patient leads calling physician practices with some level of interest. These days, we see nearly 5000 phone calls per month (most of them recorded) pass through our tracking systems. As well, we have a small team of phone auditors that help selected clients by listening in to their calls (yes, we employ HIPAA security controls) to see how well they are answering the phones and how much activity ends up as scheduled consultations. Needless to say, we've learned quite a bit in the process;
The first lesson learned is that coverage is king. In one analysis we ran, looking at a cohort of multiple practices and 15 months of call data (thousands of calls), we identified those calls that were not answered and ended up hitting an answering machine. In those specific cases, 71% of the time the caller hung up without leaving a message. Additionally, since our tracking can look longtitudinally to see if that particular number/caller called back in the following weeks & months, we saw that 82% of those callers never called back. Although different inferences are possible, we believe (especially in a semi-competitive market) many of these callers simply moved on to the next 'available' practice. Like the real-estate mantra, physician offices should be focused on "coverage, coverage coverage". Yes, staffing realities sometimes make full coverage difficult to impossible, but you should also do what you can to insure as much coverage as possible and implement call forwarding and call roll-overs to make up the difference. At a bare minimum, someone should answer the phone during all business hours.
A second thing we've learned is the importance of your phone receptionist. In audits we've done on thousands of calls, one of the metrics we look at is 'conversion' of leads (interested prospective patients calling) into scheduled consultations. Client conversion rates range from as much as 70% down to 15%, and the difference is more in the receptionists control than one might think. It is critical to view your phone receptionist much like a key salesperson; if the quality and training of this person is high, it can be a difference that easily can translate into a few additional appointments per month (and thus pays for itself...).
Given the limited space in this blog, I unfortunately can't cover all the lessons here. To see the entire list, click here: