Inquiry information is being unmasked. What happens after that? RealSelf’s Kelcy Heringer talks it out with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lara Devgan.
In 2017, RealSelf launched a new feature that let us improve connection times between consumers and providers. Our data shows that faster response times significantly increase the likelihood of consumers booking a consultation with you: specifically, RealSelf found a 76 percent higher likelihood of consumers booking a consultation when practices respond within one hour versus the industry average of two days.
In order to deliver this insight, RealSelf “masked” email addresses and telephone numbers* so that we could deliver insights about response rates and times to practices. Response times improved and so did customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, we’ve heard from you that this has made your experience with RealSelf confusing and complex, the polar opposite of our goal of making RealSelf a lot easier to use so that you can get the most out of our platform.
Kelcy Heringer, RealSelf VP of B2B Marketing, spoke with Dr. Lara Devgan, who is a board-certified plastic surgeon and our Chief Medical Officer, about bringing back transparent consumer contact information and what this change will mean for practices.
Kelcy: So what’s funny is that this topic, unmasking contact information, was the very first thing you brought up to me when met in person for the first time. We had a great conversation about all of the exciting opportunities for RealSelf and our practices, but you very firmly said to me, “First things first: we need to take a hard look at how we’re handling inquiry contact information.” You were able to speak from experience with your own practice about how this added so much complexity to your day-to-day.
Dr. Devgan: I remember very well! And it was important for me to give you and the rest of the team that feedback early and often because it’s been a top ask from my peers, and I knew I needed to be very vocal in voicing that concern for them. I spoke with Dr. Paco Canales and Dr. Dan Delvecchio about it as well and they agreed: we understand what RealSelf was trying to do, but the opaque contact information made things a lot more complicated for our practices. When I got word that we were rolling this back I was so excited to be able to share this win with my peers in the industry.
I know we integrated these changes to ensure consumers got a better experience, but from your point of view as a marketer for RealSelf, can you go into a little more depth on the rationale?
Kelcy: Adding complexity was definitely the opposite of what we wanted to do. Our goal was to reduce the friction between a consumer and doctor connection. The type of consumer who becomes impatient after waiting just two minutes for her Uber was being made to wait more than 33 hours to get a response from a doctor after sending an inquiry. We put this technology in place to help ensure there was more visibility into response times in order to help consumers and providers have a more efficient connection on both sides.
Dr. Devgan: I know we’re reversing this now because it did make things more complicated. Can you talk about the trade-offs of doing away with feature and whether it was a tough decision to move forward?
Kelcy: These types of changes are always a lot of fun to explain to our engineers.
But in all seriousness, this change represented a lot of decision making and development time to get done when we introduced it in 2017. It’s definitely not easy to reverse that level of effort, especially since it’s in keeping with our goal to be the partner that bridges consumers and practices. We also know that practices who respond to inquiries within an hour are 76 percent more likely to book a consultation than those who take two days.
Still, this is what our doctors wanted, and we take that very seriously. Response times are still extremely important, so we’re going to encourage doctors to continue to keep that top of mind—except through education instead of technology. As a partner, your feedback should supercede our sense of what’s right, and I’m very confident we made the right call.
Dr. Devgan: What does the RealSelf inquiry experience after this feature retires look like?
Kelcy: Starting January 15th, all of our practices will see unmasked email addresses and phone numbers for their inquiries. We’ll also retroactively unmask the contact details for those inquiries that came during the time period when the feature was live: October 1, 2017 through January 14, 2019.
Those masked email addresses are what let RealSelf report on response rates, response times, and the number of unaddressed inquiries, so again, that data will go no longer be available. But we think the enhancements we’re making to the platform and to training and best practices will significantly make up for the loss of those data points.
Practices that are interested in having us handle their inquiry follow-ups can also talk to their RealSelf Advocate about options.
Dr. Devgan: If my doctor friends and I and our Business Advisory Board are any indication, this will be very welcome news. I’m going to be talking to Tom [Seery, RealSelf CEO] shortly for another deep dive into 2019 priorities and to prepare for our upcoming advisory board meeting in January, where I’m sure this will be a hot topic.
Kelcy: Thank you so much Dr. Devgan; it’s been great to have such a thoughtful representative of the doctor community right on the team. I’m definitely glad we were able to do this for our practices. I want to make sure to add: if practices need help with the transition or have any questions, they can reach out to their Advocate or Advisor to help smooth the transition. They can also get specific details on what’s changing by reading our FAQ article.
*If you are a non-U.S. provider, you always received the unmasked phone number for inquiries, but did not see response rate and time data in your dashboard. We are now unmasking your inquiry emails as well.