Caroline Ucherek, CJU Medical Marketing, talks about their extensive research findings and key indicators of a successful practice through a ‘mystery shop’.
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 and every client we work with, so we have amassed extensive research findings.
A ‘mystery shop’ is an anonymous call to the practice whereby a ‘potential patient’ queries costs, availability, skill set and types of specialised procedures, if appropriate.
Why a “mystery shop”? We do this because 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 patient expectations, patients no longer rely on referrals or word of mouth and are now able do their own investigating. As a result, it is now more important than ever to present your practice in the best light possible, both online and offline.
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presence with a modern, professional website and a Google listing, then they tend to believe you are not credible and out of date with modern practice.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, nevertheless it is what market data is telling us is occurring. Think of your website as today’s version of a business card, an essential part of your business.
First contact with your practice
The next step for potential patients will be to call your practice. This is where there is so much opportunity to really stand out from your competitors and start building a relationship right away.
Most mystery shops we do to practices tend to be similar. The call is answered promptly if we are lucky often with a name other than what we are expecting such as ‘Surgery’, ‘Medical suites of some kind’ or a doctor’s name rather than the practice brand. If we are put on hold, then we may 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.
When we are finally speaking to one of the practice team, after explaining what it is we want to know based on a pre-arranged script, the responses are often similar. The ‘fallback’ position is to just provide the bare minimum. State the costs and how much can be claimed from Medicare and when the next available appointment is. Although as part of our exercise we make it obvious that we are open to being persuaded, very seldom does the receptionist have anything motivating to say about the doctor, other than the very basics of what they do - at best. Seldom if ever is there reassurance that the doctor has been in practice for x amount of years, is well respected and has many long-term patients. The receptionist can make a considerable difference at this point as to how the potential patient views the practice as a whole and by implication, the care that they expect to be provided by the doctor.
Even harder to find is the receptionist that asks for a name and uses it in the conversation. It is a delight when we are referred to by our name, and the receptionist shows some interest in us as human beings. This is very powerful as it moves the conversation from being transactional to being the start of a relationship.
The practices that ask for our contact details are a rarity and invariably those in a competitive speciality - and those that are doing well. This is because medical practices are still yet to realise the value of data capture. Potential patients are often not ready to commit right away, so having the opportunity to continue to communicate with them by providing useful information via email, or a letter with the doctors biography may be just the touchpoint that helps them to make a decision to use your service. Taking the time to follow them up in a positive, respectful manner will be seen as caring and going the extra mile – again giving an insight into the type of service and treatment they will receive at your practice.
‘Mystery shop’ your practice
Not entirely sure how your receptionist handles potential patients? Then get a trusted person or a good marketing agency to mystery shop your practice. After all, this is your business and you want to ensure a patient’s first experience of your practice is a positive one.
Marketing solutions for medical practices
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.