It’s imperative you know what your patients want, what they think about you and your staff and how to set expectations so the patient is satisfied. So satisfied, in fact, they return again and again and bring their friends with them.
However, due to job loss, the credit crunch, etc., patients today need to be surer than ever their investment will be worth the time, money and effort.
That means this is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Because if the patient thinks you are offering them a cookie cutter approach with no regard to their preferences, you will lose this patient as well as their future revenues and referrals.
I researched consumers personally to learn, first-hand, what they were looking for when searching for an office and physician to perform cosmetic enhancements and I compiled my results in my book called Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients are Saying.
It became apparent early on I could not generalize about patient relations, especially when it pertained to patients’ preferences. Everybody was so different and their perceptions were so varied. Here are some examples:
- (a.) While some thought an aesthetically gorgeous office indicated pride and success; others thought it was over the top and intimidating
- (b.) While some thought the physicians did not spend enough time with them and felt rushed; other patients thought too much time with them made them wonder why the physician wasn’t busier, and
- (c.) While some thought the physician was so thorough explaining the various procedures available, others felt oversold and confused with so many options and
could not make a decision.
When the patient was probed further as to why they chose one particular physician over the others, the consistent answer was the patient felt a “connection” with that physician. Their “gut” feeling or intuition was telling them this was the right physician for them. They had developed rapport and trusted that that particular physician understood them and would give them the best possible result.
Creating Rapport is Essential
You cannot (or should not) start the consultation process until you have build rapport with the patient. Rapport is that bond you build with your prospective patient so they like you, trust you, open up to you and are open to what you have to say. It’s the single most important personality skill an aesthetic physician needs to be successful.
How do you Create Rapport?
You build rapport by creating or discovering things in common with the patient. That can be as simple as talking with the patient about who referred them to your practice or learning more about their profession and their family. The point is to show interest in the prospective patient as a person first; patient second. You can easily get this information from the patient information form sitting right in front of you. Just glance at it before entering the exam room.
Another great rapport building skill is the art of listening. Patients need to be heard and understood. There is an old saying that says before you can be understood, you must work to understand and that is truly the case here. The physician who listens without interrupting, nods, takes notes and asks clarifying questions wins rapport with the patient.
Mirroring is another way to build rapport. That means mimicking your patient’s breathing patterns, posture, tonality and gestures in a discreet way. People feel comfortable with people they believe are like them and mirroring will make that happen. So, if the patient talks fast, you talk fast. If the patient talks loud, you talk loud; if the patient is meek and quiet, you slow things down. Use the same terms and phrases the patient uses and be sure to avoid any jargon that the patient won’t understand.
If the above rapport-building skills are executed correctly, the patient will feel as if they have found their perfect choice, someone who understands and who can relate to them.
Educating Your Patient and Setting Expectations
Again, when I asked the patients in my survey how they knew their expectations were being met, their concerns were being addressed and recommendations were explained, I got different answers. Why?
Because there are three different learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual people want to see the results; Auditory people want to hear about the results; and, Kinesthetic people want to touch and feel the results. Everybody have elements of all three modes but usually one mode dominates decision-making and learning processes and how patients perceive information. So, you want to present your message in a way that gets through to the patient in the way they understand it best.
The easiest way for that to happen is to include all three modes of learning for everyone – something visual, something auditory and something kinesthetic. You should show them things, let them hear things and you should attach feelings and emotions to them.
Some suggestions to use to help in this process during the consultation with the patient is using your hand, your mirror and a Q-tip to show patients facial skin lifting procedural results,
show them before and after photo albums of patients who were striving for similar results; especially those who share the same age, gender and ethnicity.
Computer imaging was overwhelmingly desired for illustrating results specific to the patient and videos of procedures and taped patient testimonials is well received, especially when explaining complex procedures. You can always have your prospective patient call former patients who are satisfied and be sure your patient information packets that are handed out to the prospective patients include any press you’ve received, articles you’ve written, your credentials, your practice brochure – anything they can touch and feel.
The Perfect Consultation
Here is a description of the elements needed to carry out a successful aesthetic patient consultation. The following is from the patient’s perspective and based on my survey findings:
1) Knock on the door gently, greet the patient by name, introduce yourself while looking him/her in the eye and shaking hands
2) Spend 1-5 minutes learning more about the patient as a person.
3) Hand them a mirror while asking, “Tell me what you would like to improve?”” or “What can I do for you today?”
4) Listen – while they tell you – nod, look them in the eye and take notes so they know you are listening and understanding.
5) Now, ask open ended questions to determine if the expectations are reasonable, the results can be reached safely and they are rational about the process.
6) Determine where they are in the process by asking “What is most important to you when picking a Cosmetic physician?” or “Have you talked with anyone else and, if so, what can I
tell you that you don’t already know?”
7) Be sure they have completely and thoroughly relayed their concerns to you before you respond to them. It can be very tempting to interrupt with your recommendations but you’ll get their attention much faster if you first give them your undivided attention.
8) Always show respect for the patient. Even though you are the expert and know more, arrogance does not sell. If you come across as demeaning or condescending, you’ll drive the prospective patient away.
9) Use words a layperson understands, be concise and keep it simple.
10) Repeat back briefly to the patient the main points you heard such as intended outcomes and the patient’s concerns. Ask them if you have left anything out.
11) Now, qualify and differentiate yourself. The prospective patient needs to know you are well qualified in this procedure.
12) Look them in the eye to let them know you are confident, skilled and experienced. You have performed many of these surgeries or treatments with excellent results and you will do the same for this patient.
13) Reassure them that you can meet their expectations. Let them know you understand their concerns and fears so they trust you and your recommendations.
14) Remember there is no room for bad-mouthing your colleagues. It puts you in a bad light and makes you look worse than your competition.
15) Prepare and rehearse a closing statement that sounds natural. Tell the patient you look forward to working with him/her to help them look their best and you hope to see them again soon.
By treating every single prospective patient as a person first, patient second, developing rapport and gaining trust, you will grow your aesthetic practice quickly as well as your word-of-mouth referrals and closing ratios.
Quote: “Just as you try to tailor your treatment to fit the unique features of your patients, tailoring your consultation to your patient’s unique personality will increase your closing ratio.”
For a free download of Catherine’s book, Visit www.YourAestheticPracticeBook.com or call Catherine at (877) 339-8833. Her firm specializes in creative patient attraction – conversion – retention strategies to drive aesthetic profits.
Catherine Maley, MBA is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on cash practice building and trains staff to be converting rock stars. | View Author Profile | Get a Free Copy of her popular book, Your Aesthetic Practice: What Your Patients Are Saying