One practice I consult with does not have a particularly attractive office and, truthfully, their aesthetic work is good but not great and yet the office is always buzzing, phones ringing, and their reception area packed with patients. Why? My observation is that they are fun, really cater to their patients, are wonderful communicators, and host great events. Net/net: I'm sure their competitors wonder how in the world they are so successful. What can they and you learn from this?
Successful practices alL have one thing in common: They excel at people skills
More than any single factor, the quality of your staff is what will give you the Midas Touch. Customer-service-driven front office staff, nurses, administrators—everyone—can make or break a practice. In any given community, word gets around when a patient is treated in an off-handed manner, or left on hold too long, or ignored when they enter the office. People talk! If you want to build a strong reputation in your community, you cannot do it alone; you must surround yourself with people who represent you well.
Even the best practitioner skills are not enough
You work hard to be the best in your field but forget about bedside manner. Sadly, many patients do not know the difference between mediocre, good, and great results. They more than likely judge the practice on their perception and how happy they felt in your office. If the experience is good…then they are satisfied. That's why it so critical that everyone treat your patients like the valued people they are. Every line of communication is as important as the others: on the phone, online, in an email or text matters as much as what happens face-to-face. Your office must be a “no gossip zone” where patients will never overhear unkind talk. Or complaints. When you hire, look for people who will make your patients feel safe, comfortable, “heard and valued.” Look for people you'll look forward to seeing each morning. And lastly, never miss an opportunity to connect with your patients. When they come in for Botox, for instance, pop your head in the treatment room to say, “Hello.”
Successful practices have developed a strong brand, well beyond their marketing endeavors
They are perceived as authentic. No hype, exaggerations, or unfulfilled promises. What they say online or in person is the truth. They educate patients about the benefits and the risks of a procedure. They may not even have the best branding materials (website, brochures, posters, mailers, etc.), but they do talk the talk and walk the walk. They project themselves authentically and are warm and engaging. They keep the environment light, where patients look forward to visiting. They play to their strengths—rather than trying to fit into a mold they are not proficient at. If you excel at injectables but not at microdermabrasion, do what you do best. Your patients will be happier and so will you. No need to be the jack of all trades. Be known for something you can be proudest of.
More than any single factor, the quality of your staff is what will give you the Midas Touch. Don't work hard to be the best in your field but forget about bedside manner.
Patients respect practices
that are community driven
These practices are seen, heard, and always doing good for others—and doing it from the heart. Having a cause also gives your staff an opportunity to do good as a team outside of the office where they can get to know each other in a new way. Shared goals encourage stronger relationships. One practice I work with holds regular fundraisers for homes for abused women and children. Another volunteers to serve food at a homeless shelter. Find what moves you and get involved.
Successful practices offer options
These are the extras that appeal to patients: financing, Saturday appointments, a wide choice of treatments. Even small things make a difference like offering a cup of tea or coffee or having healthy snacks on hand. Aesthetics is a very intimate business, one that depends on provider/patient connection. Even the small things can put a smile on a patient's face and cause them to rave to a neighbor about you.
Successful practices keep in touch
Gone are the days when a patient comes to you only for plastic surgery. If you've made a good connection with them, you can expect an ongoing relationship: perhaps a laser treatment such as Halo™ or Forever BBL…or an injectable or facial peel. Keep in touch; send regular eblasts announcing new treatments or special incentives. One of the best strategies for today's aesthetic practices is to develop a loyalty program, because just as the name implies, it keeps that patient coming back time and time again. The initial cost of setting up a loyalty program is far outweighed by the income potential. When you consider that it costs the average practice $500 to $600 to acquire a patient (marketing costs etc.), holding on to your valued “customers” should be foremost in your and your staff's minds.
Successful practices say "Thank you” for the referral
A patient told me a story that should be eye-opening. She had a facelift from one of the most respected plastic surgeons in her town. When friends were ready for their own surgery, they asked her if she would recommend him and she wholeheartedly said “Yes.” In total, she has sent this surgeon six facelift patients (at $20,000+ each) and has never received a note, email or call saying thanks. You guessed it, she no longer refers him. What could be easier than showing appreciation? It's the right thing to do and the kind of marketing that doesn't cost a dime. Make sure your staff automatically reminds you to make that personal connection after each referral has visited. Don't wait for them to schedule surgery.
Successful practitioners do not talk negatively about competitors
It's not just bad form. Talking about your competitors could be perceived by your patients as inappropriate and could be the reason they come for a consultation and do not schedule surgery. A confident doctor does not need to speak ill of others, even if the patient is coming in to have something redone by another surgeon. It's best to just talk about potential solutions, not about how the problem occurred in the first place.
Practice “reputation management”
Nothing entices new patients to contact you more than hearing good things from a friend or reading authentic reviews. Successful practices have a loyal group of core patients that love them and want to help. But often, they forget to ask those patients to post a review. Or they have the misguided idea that “My patients are so private. I don't want to ask.” Yes, asking someone to post a review must be done delicately but I do encourage you to figure out a comfortable way to do it. First of all, you the doctor should not ask the patient for a review but your practice administrator surely could. “Carol, you look beautiful. Your results are really something. I know Dr. Jones would be thrilled to get a review from you.” When the patient says they'd be happy to and asks how to do it, have suggestions ready. Using realpatientratings.com is a great way to encourage reviews because RPR sends out the request for you. Realself.com is another great place for patients to post reviews. Do ask the patient if they post reviews anywhere—Yelp, Angieslist…or wherever and suggest they go where they are comfortable.
Success is an attitude
My experience is that negative practitioners are unhappy in many aspects of their lives and that is projected in the workplace where it can do damage. Perhaps there's a divorce or illness in the family or a financial difficulty. If you are dealing with something distracting in your life (and this goes for your staff, too) leave it at home or it will be felt by your patients. Being customer-driven is what elective patients expect and demand. They want the spotlight on them, their challenges, needs and fears.
A final thought
Having The Midas Touch is possible for any practice that follows the few simple rules I've talked about here. Gather your staff and share ideas about how you can be everyone's favorite practice. Encourage them to come up with new ideas. Reward creativity, compliment people who treat others particularly well. Build that good old team spirit. It's infectious!
Dana Fox is President of Strategic Edge Partners, Inc., a consulting firm focused on aesthetic medical practices. www.yourstrategicedge.com