How does your practice perform with potential patients?

Mystery Shopping

Caroline Ucherek

Managing Director, CJU Medical Marketing

As a medical marketing agency, one of our key indicators of a successful practice is how that practice handles a ‘mystery shop’. We do this for each client we work with along with their competitors, so we have amassed extensive research findings. 

A ‘mystery shop’ is when an anonymous call is placed to the practice whereby a ‘potential patient’ queries costs, availability, skill set and if appropriate - types of specialised procedures.

Why are “mystery shops” important?

Current marketplace data shows us that more and more potential patients are either doctor shopping, shopping on price, or wanting to find out more about the doctor they have been referred to. Due to an abundance of online data resources and increased expectations, patients no longer feel reliant on referrals or word of mouth and are now able to take charge and do their own investigating.  To ensure you are performing well and to benchmark you against your competitors, it is now more important than ever to present your practice in the best light possible, both online and offline. Mystery shop programs are a key ingredient for this.

Could you be losing potential patients without knowing it?

Your online presence

The first thing most potential patients are going to do is to ‘Google’ you.  If you don’t have a solid online presence with a modern, professional website and a Google listing, then they tend to believe you are not credible and out of date with modern practice.  Although this might be an unrealistic assumption, it is nevertheless what market research data tells us is occurring.  Think of your website as today’s version of a business card, an essential part of your business. It can also be a 24-hour shopfront with the ability to have patients make appointments at any time of the day, 365 days a year. For GP practices and some specialist practices this is a fantastic, cost saving resource.

First contact with your practice

The next step for potential patients will be to call your practice.  This is where there is enormous opportunity to really stand out from your competitors and start building a relationship with a potential patient.

Most mystery shops we do to practices tend to deliver similar results.  The call is usually answered promptly. For the times when it isn’t, this really makes a practice stand out badly when compared to their competitors.

It can also be common for the call to be answered using the terms Surgery’, ‘Medical suites of some kind’ or a doctor’s name rather than the practice brand (i.e. Dr Youknowwho’s rather than The Central Medical Practice). 

What happens when your patient is put on hold?

Many mystery shops have had us experience elevator music rather than informative on hold messages that can tell us more about the practice.  This is a real lost opportunity as well as an effective underutilised resource for conveying important information. On hold messaging should be covering some key aspects including making your patient feel valued, letting them know they will be attended to shortly, key aspects of the practice and any update of services as well as mandatory messages regarding medical emergencies.

Your reception staff are your sales team

Although this may feel uncomfortable, in today’s medical businesses an essential part of your reception’s role is to be your sales team.

In most instances during mystery shops when we finally speak to one of the practice team and explain what we want to know based on a pre-arranged script, the responses are often similar.  The ‘fall back’ position is to provide just the bare minimum.  This includes stating the costs, how much can be claimed from Medicare and when the next available appointment is.  Although we always make it obvious as part of our exercise that we are open to being persuaded to make the destination of our call the practice of choice, it is rare for the receptionist to say anything that endorses the doctor outside of the basics of what they do.  It is also seldom that there is reassurance about the doctor’s experience or how well he is regarded and respected by many patients.

On the rare occasion that a reception gets involved with our caller, it immediately highlights the positive image of the practice. For a real caller, your receptionist’s call answering ability will make a considerable difference as to how the potential patient views the practice as a whole and by implication, the care that they can expect to be provided by the doctor.

The sweetest sound in the world…

Dale Carnegie, renowned author of How to Win Friends and Influence People tells us that the sweetest sound in the world is….

A person’s name.

The simple act of the receptionist that asks for a name and uses it in the conversation will make your practice really stand out from the crowd.  It is a delight when we are referred to by our name and demonstrates that the receptionist has interest in us as a human being.  Although a simple act, it is very powerful as it moves the conversation from being transactional to creating the start of a relationship.

Data, Data, Data

Practices that ask our mystery caller for contact details are a rarity and invariably those in a competitive speciality. They are also usually those that are already experiencing good levels of success.  This is because most medical practices unlike other businesses are still yet to fully realise the value of data capture.

Why data capture? If someone is shopping around, they may not be ready to commit right away. By capturing their details, you can then continue to communicate with them by providing useful information via email or other communication that may be just the touchpoint in helping them to make a decision to use your service.  Having your team take the time to follow them up in a positive, respectful manner will show a sense of caring and going the extra mile – again giving an insight into the type of service and treatment they can expect to receive at your practice.


Not entirely sure how your receptionist handles potential patients? 

CJU can help. Call us on 1300 941 250 or visit our website

We can discuss your needs and provide solutions that will help you with the growth of your practice.


CJU Medical Marketing provides customised strategic digital marketing plans using SEO and SEM.  Call us to arrange for a complimentary review of your website design and content and your social media presence.
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If you would like to know how your practice is performing and whether it is setup to lose or gain patients, please contact us for an introduction to Caroline Ucherek.

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