Welcome to the first RealSelf University Masters Series interview, where a leading voice in practice management or marketing goes in-depth with a practice manager or marketing expert in the field on the latest hot topics in aesthetic practice management.
In this month’s Masters Series installment, YellowTelescope and RealSelf preferred affiliate Ed Syring speaks with Christina Alves, practice manager of Maine Plastic Surgery. As one of the industry’s most effective and successful practice managers, we learn how Christina and her team are committed to responding quickly to people who inquire about their practice, and how that habit leads to strong brand, great reputation, increased patient satisfaction, and practice growth.
Ed Syring (YellowTelescope): How are things going at your practice?
Christina Alves (Maine Plastic Surgery): Amazing! We are continuously hiring, as our leads are still coming in, and we have to increase our coordinator staff to ensure that our leads from RealSelf and our other sources consistently convert.
Ed: It’s an exciting time, and an ongoing challenge to make sure we’re getting solid volume, as well as quality, and then getting the leads to convert at a high level. It’s always just a little bit about that balance. Luckily you’ve had both.
Ed: You continue to hire staff to accommodate those leads, but it’s always going to be the priority to first really maximize the capacity of your existing employees and be as efficient as possible so each individual can handle as many leads as possible before hiring somebody else to manage the bottom line of the practice.
So can you tell us a little bit about the lead intake and conversion process in your practice and how you try to keep your coordinators as efficient as possible? Maybe even a little bit about your original background and how you are now teaching what you had developed and learned over the years to your team?
Christina: Certainly. So initially I started out in the industry as a coordinator, and I received all the incoming leads for the practice. Initially I had a few dozen to follow up with over a week and then essentially had over 100-plus to follow up a week. That was in my initial role.
Currently at Maine Plastic Surgery, I did all of the incoming leads, and we had a volume easily in the hundreds when I initially started. It’s really about maximizing each lead, making sure we’re using a consistent followup process, making sure you’re taking notes each time you do follow up, and then essentially you’ll be able to be as efficient as possible.
Ed: Great. And tell us a little bit about the specific process…not just incoming leads but also patient followups. Because everyone’s got to go on a to-do list. How many patient followups on a weekly to-do list would you say your coordinators, combined, are following up with on a weekly basis now?
Christina: I would say on a weekly basis my coordinators are following up with a volume in the hundreds, and essentially what we do is we follow the YellowTelescope protocol. Each patient will have a patient profile as soon as there’s an initial contact made, whether it’s a current patient or a new inquiry. We gather basic demographic information–name, phone number, email if it’s available—and then we open a patient profile, which allows us to start taking notes, and we do this in our computer system. Then based on the conversation we have or the attempts that we have to try to reach them, we can then set a followup for the future.
For example, if we don’t reach the patient we will note that we have made a phone call, and we’ve also sent an email, and then we set a followup for the future in the appropriate timeframe.
Ed: Great. And what sort of timeframe do you typically follow up with patients? If you don’t reach them the first time, when do you try again? How many times do you try, etc.?
Christina: All patients are contacted within the first 24 hours of their initial inquiry, and typically it’s within the first one to two hours. After that, if we do not reach them, we’ll make another two attempts within the next three days, and we try to stagger those.
So we’ll try to do one in the morning and then one maybe in the late afternoon. Everybody is gonna have a different type of schedule. We want to try to reach them as soon as they’ve inquired. After that, if we still have not been able to reach the inquiry, then we’ll set a followup for a weekly timeframe, and we’ll continue to follow up with them weekly for roughly about 8 to ten weeks.
“These are all people who have taken time out of their day to request information from me and my company, and my job is more than helping them gather information.”
Ed: Wow. That’s great. Of course it’s familiar to my mind, but maybe you could tell us a little bit more about how you’re able to follow up with that many people and that many times without seeming pushy. So many practices just stop because they feel like they’re being pushy. Tell us a little bit about the philosophy, how you follow up comfortably that many times with somebody, and why it works.
Christina: Frankly, I didn’t come up with this method myself. It was through my YellowTelescope training, and these are all tested, tried numbers. I didn’t do the original investigation, but the system clearly works. So I really never feel pushy. I never feel desperate. These are all people who have taken time out of their day to request information from me and my company, and my job is more than helping them gather information. It would be a disservice if they didn’t come into my office, and I want to make sure they understand why our doctors are the best and why they need to come in and meet with them.
Life can get busy. Schedules are complicated. Each time I call or email, I simply let them know who I am and where I’m calling or emailing from. I remind them that they have requested information, that I know that life can get hectic, so I’m also sending them an email in case email communication works better, and that I will be following up again. I try to make my communication very directive but also very service-oriented.
When following up on inquiries, I really don’t have anyone who just says, “Stop calling me.”
Ed: So let’s say when you finally reach somebody…
Of course, you know, some people are just never gonna reply. Maybe they weren’t as serious as we thought. But that other additional percentage of people that you do reach between the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth attempt—what is usually their response? Are they like, “Stop calling me.” Are they like, “My gosh. Thanks for trying.” What’s the typical response?
Christina: So, great question. When following up on inquiries, I really don’t have anyone who just says, “Stop calling me.” They did reach out for information, and frankly they’re usually thrilled that we’ve been able to connect. They typically apologize and say, “I know you’ve been trying to reach me. I’m sorry,” and it’s okay. I always tell them, “Not a problem. I’m so happy we are able to connect. So now let’s begin talking about how I can best assist you.”
Ed: That’s great. And do you have any estimate of the percentage of the overall leads that you even reach? I know it varies a lot from the type of lead, from week to week, time of year and all those sorts of variables. But even just the ones you reach…over those attempts, is it half? Is it three-quarters? Is it 10 percent?
Christina: I would say it’s far greater than half. I would say it’s at least three-quarters of the leads, if not more, we reach.
Ed: We’ve seen through our testing, as well as RealSelf research, that these additional attempts are necessary and that over half of prospects that reach out to a practice are still interested even if they haven’t replied to the initial attempts. So it’s really fascinating, and it’s counterintuitive in a lot of ways, because so many people think that they’re bothering people, but the reality is they just need a few extra nudges to get the results they’re hoping to get sometimes.
Ed: Do you have any other thoughts about what’s helped your practice be successful? Any other advice for practices out there who have the wonderful problem of dealing with a growing number of leads?
Christina: I would advise practices just to manage their leads effectively, meaning the people who are immediately on the phone, calling for you, drop everything. Those are the people that you need to take, unless there’s someone standing in front of you. There is nothing more important than someone on the phone calling for you. It’s your one opportunity to grab that inquiry right there. After that, you can get into managing your followup tasks and your patient to-dos that you’ve been trying to work, trying to communicate with, but never go towards an email or not prioritize a patient who’s on the phone or standing in front of you.
Ed: Yes, absolutely. And again, that actually seems kind of intuitive, right? Somebody’s standing there. Let’s take good care of them. But often in a busy practice, you’ve got lots going on at the same time with people waiting in an exam room or a consultation room. The phone’s ringing, emails [are] coming in, not to mention your coordinators have hundreds of people that they still have to get back to by the end of the week. The communication being closer to live communication, obviously, will help.
Thank you so much for your time, Christina. It’s been enlightening for us, and we certainly hope that your experience will help many other practices.
Christina Alves is the Practice Director at Maine Plastic Surgery in Portland, Maine, the practice of board certified plastic surgeons Dr. Jarrod Daniel and Dr. Verne Weisberg. She manages the practice and oversees the team of patient coordinators.
Ed Syring is the Executive Vice President of YellowTelescope , SEOversite, and iScreamSocialMedia. He has worked with over 10,000 patients worldwide, oversees the staffing, sales, and marketing for clients nationwide and has worked with hundreds of practices throughout his career.