We’re hearing early anecdotes from aesthetic practices that some patients have actually been taking advantage of the remote work arrangements brought about by COVID-19 to have aesthetic procedures done.
But we’ve also gotten wind of a number of practice closures, and with lockdowns of all “non-essential” businesses burgeoning in counties and municipalities across the country, it remains to be seen how many locales will be affected by forced shutdowns of their physical locations.
At a moment when consumers are spending more time online and will very likely, based on how the COVID-19 situation is evolving so far, be forced to put off having procedures done even if they’re willing to come in, it’s incredibly important that you have a system for managing inquiries that are not quite ready to turn into booked patients, whether by choice or because of mandated business closures.
Here are three things to consider.
First, Remember That All Inquiries Are Created Equal Until You Know Better
Making sense of where your inquiries are in their journey is critical for following up with them in an effective way, whether now or when your practice, if currently closed, returns to normal business. But you risk sabotaging promising patient connections if you make assumptions or jump the gun at the inquiry stage.
Your practice should prioritize following up with all of your email inquiries as quickly as possible. Take no more than two days, but RealSelf recommends following up within an hour if possible: our data reveals that this single habit can increase conversions by 76%.
But you should not attempt to divine which inquiries look like “hot leads.” Here’s why: after analyzing 20,000 calls, RealSelf found that no matter what stage a consumer said they were in, they were equally likely to book an appointment.
Instead, watch inquiring consumers’ behavior to determine where they are in their decision making by taking them as far through your onboarding/consultation/closing process as possible. Yellow Telescope recommends a three-conversation approach: start with an initial intake call, do a deeper dive with your patient coordinator, then a consultation with the aesthetic surgeon to close the appointment.
If you’re in a scenario where external factors (including mandated local business closures) prevent ready-to-book patients from scheduling a procedure in the timeframe they otherwise would have, be vigilant about capturing this fact so that you can schedule a followup with when you’re ready to perform procedures again.
Identify Consumers Who Need More Time—And More Information
Some of the inquiring consumers you engage with during this process—again, even those who seemed early-stage—may actually be ready to book a procedure with your practice. How they respond to your patient intake process will flush this out.
For those who aren’t ready, the conversation will reach a natural endpoint sometime short of a booking. One of the most important insights you can have at this stage is why the conversation has stalled, and the best way to know is to ask. Learn what questions they need answered—or external factors they need to address—before they ultimately book a procedure. This information should influence the nature and timing of followup outreach from your patient coordinator.
As we grapple with the fallout from COVID-19, you should also note whether the virus is one of the externalities mentioned above, and how the situation is influencing the timing of their decision making. If your office remains open but consumers are uncomfortable given the climate:
- Underscore that you are, in fact, open for business.
- Make sure they know what your safety procedures are.
- Maintain a healthy share of voice by sending educational content while they wait.
- Follow up when things get back to normal.
You should also ask inquiring aesthetic consumers outright whether they decided to book with another practice. Maintaining a “clean” list of eligible candidates will help focus your efforts on consumers who are truly in play.
Use Content to Fill In Gaps
It’s recommended that you follow up with inquiring consumers who have been non-responsive for eight weeks after your staff initially cals them back.
Content should not replace this type of consistent followup from your patient coordinator, but it can maintain your relationship with the inquiring consumer and keep your practice top-of-mind so that she has an effective reference point as your team executes (or recommences) personalized telephone or email outreach.
That content can include articles you’ve written, videos you’ve recorded, questions you’ve answered about the procedure on RealSelf, and a collection of RealSelf reviews written by patients who you have treated previously. You can even share an article written by a third party.
Think about the areas of focus for your practice and pull together thoughtful, helpful, and interesting content that can keep conversations warm with inquiries who are not quite ready to book a consultation. And while COVID-19 might naturally be in the subtext of your communications, remember: you primarily want to satisfy their information needs about the procedure itself.
Having a consistent plan for inquiry management helps you extract the highest return on investment from marketing activities you have already planned and paid for. They also smooth out the booking boom-and-bust cycle that can occur if you only pursue inquiries who are ready to book now, an especially important consideration at a time when COVID-19 might defer patients that are otherwise ready to have a procedure done.
How are you responding?
We’re in this together. Tell us how you’re talking to and servicing patients online in the wake of COVID-19 so that we can share best practices with everyone.