The Initial Phone Call: Welcoming a New Patient

This article was originally printed in FSOMA’s Fall Newsletter, “The Florida Journal of Oriental Medicine.”
 

One of the most important moments in your practice is the initial phone call. As an old business maxim states, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

When I started my practice, the phone was not a high priority. I quickly discovered that being unprepared for an initial phone call sabotages potential appointments. In the 21 years since, I’ve developed several key steps to a good introductory call.

First, give a warm greeting and ask how you can help. Next, determine the source of referral. Then, give a clear description of your services and how those services will benefit them, and ask whether they have any questions. Finally, offer to schedule an appointment.

The following transcript of a successful first phone call demonstrates this process:

Good morning, Gaeta Acupuncture & Nutrition, this is Michael. How may I help you?

Caller: Hi, my name is Julia. I found your website, and I’m a little curious about acupuncture. I’m having some issues I’d like to treat and was hoping you could give me some information.

Michael: Of course. Julia. How did you find our website?

Julia: I Googled “acupuncture” in my zip code, and came up with your name.

Always ask for the source of referral. That’s called “tracking marketing.” It’s when we learn how people find us, and discover which marketing strategies are working.

Now you establish credibility. A smooth, concise description of who you are, what you do and why you do it, is essential.

M: Julia, we are a wholistic health care center. We offer natural therapies and natural medicine to help people with specific health problems, and help healthy people maintain their health. As you saw on the website, we offer acupuncture, bodywork therapy, clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, and other therapies to do that.

By the end of the general description, the caller has gotten the big picture. She is being treated with patience and respect, knows what you’re about. Now you can move on and answer her specific questions.

M: Acupuncture is a part of Chinese medicine, which helps to restore and maintain health, helping the body to heal itself. It also promotes a sense of well-being and inner peace, mentally and emotionally.

J: That sounds perfect.

M: Did you have any specific concerns, or areas that you wanted to address or improve?

J: Specifically, I’m having problems sleeping, I’m stressed all the time, I’ve got tension in my neck, and I’m really wanting to redirect my life. I’m interested in the bigger picture of health, starting with my trouble sleeping and stress, and eventually leading to positive life change… I don’t know if I’m asking too much, but I wanted you know a bit about my background. I think I am interested in making an appointment. What do you think?

M: Thanks for that. We have successfully helped many people with similar concerns over the past 21 years. We have a good track record helping people sleep better, reduce stress, and make positive life changes. You can feel confident that you will get the help you’re seeking here.

Ask for “concerns or areas,” because there isn’t always a problem to fix. This critical question helps to determine whether or not you should treat them, and lets you speak of past successes. Next, repeat her goals to show that you are listening. Finally, express confidence that you can help. Do not guarantee outcomes; just let them know that you expect they will get what they came for at your practice.

The last step with Julia, my favorite closing question, will be “Do you have any other questions?” By taking my time and expressing genuine interest, you offer a positive example of the level of concern that they can expect in all aspects of your practice.

Encourage the caller to ask questions, until they feel comfortable enough to book an appointment. To ensure that you are equipped to answer them, create a phone script with clear, concise answers to frequently asked questions.

M: If you have more questions I’d be glad to answer them. If you’re ready to make an appointment I can do that for you.

J: Ok. Who will I be seeing when I come in?

M: You’ll be seeing Anthony. He’s excellent, and has been with us for ten years. You’ll be in very good hands.

J: Okay, do you have anything open for this Friday?

M: Yes, we have an opening at 3.

J: That’s perfect.

M: Great. As you may have noticed on our website, the initial visit is $200, and follow-up visits are $100. At the bottom of the Appointments page, you’ll see a link called “New Patient Forms,” which you can download and fill out before you come in. It also explains what you should bring in with you on your first visit. Any other questions, Julia?

J: No, I think that does it. Thanks.

M: You are most welcome. I look forward to seeing you on the 31st at 3. Have a great week.

A lot happens in the closing part of the call. First, check to see if she has any other questions. Next, always ask for the appointment when someone calls you. You are not being pushy; they called you. Ask for time of day preference, go right to a specific time (not, “I’m wide open”), then review fees. No one should come in without knowing your fees ahead of time. Direct her to the new client forms on your website. Ask your closing question about any more questions, then repeat the appointment time and give a warm close.

Follow these steps, and you will impress your new callers with your care and professionalism, and grow your practice well.

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