Funny thing about the Internet: despite its undeniable ability to supplant face-to-face contact, the people who use it still take their interactions on it very personally. In fact, when you think about, it may just be the medium’s depersonalized nature that makes personal interactions online so powerful.
That’s certainly the case with doctors’ responses to aesthetic consumers who contact their practices via the Web. At RealSelf, we conduct regular surveys of our user community and their comments clearly demonstrate that doctors who respond quickly and personally are more likely to convert those leads into patients.
Consider three responses to a recent survey question: “Did you receive a helpful response from your doctor inquiry on RealSelf?” (54% said “yes,” 46% said “no”):
No. She didn’t answer my question. I sent a second message, and again no answer. She just said to call and book an appointment, something I will not be doing because she doesn’t have time to read or listen.
Not really, the response seemed canned, nothing personal at all. It identified my lipoma as a “hair/skin condition”, which it is, but it didn’t address MY situation.
Yes, the doctor’s staff was very responsive. They answered all my questions (even ones I didn’t know to ask).
The range of responses takes on even more significance when you consider another survey question that asked “How many doctors have you contacted in your research?” Far and away, the largest responses were one doctor (42.9%) and two doctors (25.5%). In other words, more than two-thirds of respondents essentially handed those doctors an almost-exclusive invitation to respond, share their thoughts and lay the groundwork for the kind of relationship that leads to new business.
To respond or not to respond: ultimately it comes down to whether you’re interested in generating new business for your practice or for your competitors. The difference doesn’t get much clearer than in these other two responses:
You never responded so I went and had surgery with someone else.
I heard back from the doctor and he answered my questions. I will be setting up an appointment for a consultation.
Which one would you rather hear?
1. Respond quickly
For better or worse, the Internet has changed the rules over response times: consumers who reach out to companies expect to be hear back almost instantly. The good news is those consumers are also easily reached — they’re on their computer or mobile device, after all — which is why it’s important to respond as quickly as possible. Have a response plan in place before you need it; set reasonable expectations, and then beat them.
2. Respond personably
As the second comment above demonstrates, people don’t react favorably to generic, automated responses. Don’t have the time for a personal response yourself? That’s okay, as the third comment above shows, a personable response from a staff member can also be effective.
3. Respond empathetically
While the goal is ultimately to get consumers in the clinic door, avoid hard-selling products and procedures in the early stages of communicating. Just like others starting their research, online consumers are contemplating potentially life-changing decisions and looking for someone who demonstrates that their needs and concerns, not the practice’s, are paramount.