Customer service is the new word of mouth, so spending a little time being more accommodating to different types of patients can pay off in big ways. Join Michael and Scott as they share simple ways to improve your practice’s interactions with patients that can make a huge difference when those patients decide whether they’ll recommend you to someone else. From improving your scheduling process to making it easier to pay your bill, your practice can become remarkable without gimmicks.
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone, and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans. And many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys, and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together, and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts, here today with my co-host, Scott Zeitzer. This show is focused on the many ways healthcare is changing, and how the consumerization of healthcare is affecting practices. We talk about this topic on a regular basis at p3practicemarketing.com, and we invite you to be a part of that conversation there.
Today, we’re taking another look at word of mouth marketing. In episode 89, we talked about some about what word of mouth marketing looks like for practices today, and we reviewed some of the, like, foundational marketing efforts to reinforce word of mouth, such as your website, your social media, online reviews, and organic search. Today, we want to continue discussing what it takes to truly create a word of mouth engine for your practice. And the question we want to really start with is, how can your practice be remarkable? How can it earn a spot in someone’s conversation with their friends, with their family members? What does it take to get there?
Scott: Yeah. You know, this is a very important and critical point. Whenever we work with a practice, I have a similar conversation. I mean, you’re about to spend money to “advertise.” This whole concept of all we need to do is just advertise, then more people will find out about us, etc. It’s like, well, yeah, they will. But if you’re not taking great care of them, and for all of the doctors and surgeons listening to this, I do not mean, what is your skillset regarding how you apply the scalpel, the surgery itself. That’s not what we’re talking about here. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite of that. It’s everything surrounding that actual care. So, I just want to kind of jump in with that. I mean, 92% of consumers trust word of mouth more than any kind of advertising, that’s according to CrowdRiff, which I think is a great name, CrowdRiff. And generating real word of mouth, okay, that requires a continual act of effort. Okay.
So, let’s kind of parse this down, Michael. I mean, there’s a guy named Marshal Steele, orthopedic surgeon, that did quite well for himself, and he was one of the first people to talk about this on a regular basis. Like, guys, you know, you really need to take good care of your patients. And if you take great care of your patients, that’s going to bring in a ton of revenue. And he was talking about this way before any kind of online advertising. I think Marshal Steele ended up creating an entire system out of it, selling it to Stryker, etc., etc. And he then wrote an article in JOEI about it, which I’ve mentioned before about how he actually went to a different surgeon because they weren’t taking great care of them. There’s so many components to that. It’s like, if you want to be remarkable, Michael, we talk about this quite a bit with people who are interested in it. What are some ways that you talk about with practices about that remarkable side?
Michael: I think just that component of it being remarkable. We’ve talked about this in a few different ways. So, right, we’ve talked about, like, what’s differentiated about the practice? What helps the practice stand out? What is going to cause a patient to choose this surgeon over another, especially one that’s just down the street, you know, when you do have such a high level of competition in an area? So, what are the things that a practice can do to really stand apart? And this concept of being remarkable, there’s a couple of different marketers that talk about this quite a bit. So, I definitely want to give credit where it’s due. There’s a guy named Mark Schaefer that I read quite a bit of his stuff, but he talks about customer service being the core of that word of mouth. And that’s kind of what you were talking about there with basically everything that surrounds the surgery.
Scott: That’s right.
Michael: So, it’s all the different patient interactions that happen. We use different language, but really it’s customer service. That’s really is what it comes back to. Schaefer had an email where he was talking about how much turmoil, I think for lack of a better word, turmoil so much of the service industry is going through right now. We’re in this phase where people are kind of coming back to the office, coming back to various hotels, and airlines, and all of those different kinds of areas. And to say that the experience is uneven would be a kind way to put it. So, there’s such a variety of things going on there politically, economically. So many different things that are kind of happening outside there. So, that’s not what we’re here to talk about and we’re not here to solve, but within that environment, what is your practice doing? What experience is your practice creating in the midst of that?
Scott: Yeah. You know, think about this, Michael, and I always tell all the surgeons, like, call the front line. Do not call the back office. I know that you can get through to whomever. So, we’ve talked to office managers about how they’re really running around with their heads chopped off, right. And guys and gals, if you are running your practice and you’re the office manager or you are the physician, and you hear that someone’s running around with their head chopped off more often than not, it’s not possible for that person to provide good customer service or remarkable service. Actually, just getting the day done is remarkable, but that’s not remarkable for the patient. Right?
So, I go back to that story I tell all the time about the sports medicine surgeon who couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t get any sports medicine cases. And the front desk was saying, “Sir, they do orthopedic surgery, not sports medicine. That’s for medicine. That’s for doctors.” It’s like, well, you know, actually shame on the practice for not training that person. I mean, I get it. Maybe they didn’t hire the right person, etc. But did you empower that person for success? Are there enough people on staff? Now, there are some people right now going, “I just am trying to get back to normal.” That’s what you were talking about, like, with hotels, restaurants, etc. It’s like, “Hey man, I’m just trying to figure out how to make it work.” It’s like, it’s okay. You don’t have to hire everybody today, but you better make sure you got enough people on staff, and you better make sure they’re trained well, they’re empowered to be good at their jobs. This is basic stuff. Right, Michael?
Michael: It is, and there are some different ways to handle that. Right? So, like, one way is hiring. We have some friends over at Care Sherpa that actually helped out with this kind of process as well. So, that experience of just getting an appointment booked, right. Just getting that process, like, solidified and making sure that the patient feels confident enough to go through with actually meeting with the doctor, potentially having a procedure, all of that kind of stuff. There are just so many drop-off points. And we’ve had just gone the show before the head of that company to kind of talk through some of these things. But sometimes that is a remarkable thing to have happen, just that the appointment was easy to book. And then, somebody, like, answered all your questions for you, and you were actually able to get in to see the doctor in a timely manner. Today, that’s actually remarkable, which says a lot about where we’re at.
Scott: It says a lot about customer service in healthcare. And, you know, a long time ago, customer service in healthcare was kind of pooh-poohed. It’s like, “I just need to take good care of them, and that’s that.” It’s like, yeah, that’s just not the case, especially nowadays. And Michael, I know Jay… Is it Jay Baer?
Scott: Right. He’s the Talk Trigger guy. If you don’t mind…
Michael: He is the Talk Trigger guy.
Scott: The Talk Trigger guy, I don’t know if Jay Baer wants to be called that, but…
Michael: I would bet that he would.
Scott: I bet he wouldn’t have a problem, right. But go ahead, walk us through what a talk trigger is. All we need to know.
Michael: Yeah. So, talk trigger, you know, this is what we’re talking about, like being remarkable doesn’t just happen. And Jay really, like, dug in to that concept, and he’s written a book about it, probably written several books about it at this point. But what are the things that are going to help create that remarkability about. I don’t know if that’s even a word. But you were making sure that your practice is remarkable enough to talk about. So, one thing that he’s mentioned before is, as an example is CVS. So, if you’ve been to CVS, and you’ve gotten the mile-long receipt, you know, and you can… He even had an example of somebody that basically used CVS receipts to, like, function as blinds, vertical blinds in their apartment or something.
Scott: Sure, sure.
Michael: But it is something that does create conversation. It’s something that is memorable about them. Like, why the heck did I get so much paper from this one purchase? I only bought toothpaste, and now I have, you know, 17 coupons on this one receipt. And so, that’s a good example of being remarkable, but practices don’t have to look at that and look for a gimmick.
Scott: No need to gimmick.
Michael: I think that’s the big thing to take away. Yeah. Like, we don’t have to be tricky about this. He has an article that he wrote on the Convince & Convert website, and where he was going through and he was talking about… Actually, one of the examples was a practice.
And one of the things that he talked about that particular surgeon doing was that on the weekend, he would call all of his patients that had procedures coming up that week, and just say, “Do you have any questions? Is there anything that I can talk to you about that’ll help you feel more confident and more comfortable with this procedure?” And just that alone, which is no small feat. I mean, that’s definitely a lot of, like, empathy there. It’s a lot of, like, forethought. It’s a very intentional practice, right? But that activity has created a completely different experience for the patient, and it’s one that they want to talk about. So, this is the remarkable nature of this particular practice is just this demonstration of we care, and we want to help answer your questions,
Scott: You know, along those lines, like, and it doesn’t even require the surgeon to make that call. It could be someone on the staff. It could be…that call could happen pre-surgery, could happen post-surgery. If you’ve got staff in house that does OT/PT, it could be one of those people post-surgery, like, “How are you doing? Is everything okay? Do you have any questions?” That kind of thing. This again goes back to, like, it wasn’t the performance of the surgery itself or the procedure, you know, whatever. It was that somebody pre or post has a good conversation, and that care and that desire to make sure everybody’s okay really comes across in that case. We’re just giving an example. But again, like with Care Sherpa, you didn’t hire, like, a full-time person. You outsourced that so to speak, that conversation, that intake. There’s a lot of ways that care can be accomplished. It just it’s about taking the time to step back, you know, and think about what to do, if that makes sense.
Michael: Yeah. And I’ll use a different field, you know, just for an example, to just to talk about like something that was remarkable enough to get my business or to get my, you know, experience as a patient, like the dentist that I’m working with right now, the dentist that I go to and now my entire family goes to, has really convenient appointments. They last beyond 5:00 in the evening. He actually has some weekend appointments. I mean, like this is, like, above and beyond anything that I was finding, you know, in the area. So, finding somebody…and the other thing was that you could actually book an appointment online. Wild, crazy features, but I’m in a different part of the city than you’re in, and a lot of the dentists in the area, man, if they had a website, they were way ahead of the game. They were really showing how modern they were. So, not only does this practice have a website, but I can also book online. And they actually have convenient times. That was enough to get me started.
And that was something where I have told people about this practice. Like, “Hey, you know, it is a pain to get to the dentist, whomever.” And I’m not saying this is obviously the right fit for everybody, but it’s something that in a competitive market, this guy was able to differentiate and was able to set his practice apart a bit there.
Scott: There are some things that dental practices do that work very well to mimic, and there are some things that may not work as well. I mean, if you’re an orthopedic practice where you really are trying to get the right vetting, perhaps an appointment request isn’t online. But an appointment request is a good idea, but not automatically make the appointment because, you know, honestly, you don’t want the patient with sciatica to go see the hip surgeon, etc.
But that being said, you know, that vetting process of, “Hey, I requested an appointment and somebody called.” Who’s making that call? Right. And how hard are they making that call? And what I mean by that is part one is if somebody making the call has no idea whatsoever other than they’re just trying to book the appointment, but right off the bat, that’s, like, that’s the first day, right? Like, you requested an appointment and somebody basically who’s responsible for intake, the first handshake, shall we say, is someone who’s saying, “Two o’clock on Tuesday is fine.” And it’s like, well, that’s not…you know, I’ve got questions. I’m nervous. And it’s like, “Two o’clock on tue. What about 2:30?” You know, but there’s no conversation occurring here. “The doctor will talk to you.”
If you know in your heart to hearts that’s the conversation occurring, that’s a rough start right off the bat, right? So, who’s making the call? We talked to one practice that had a very intelligent person making the call. It was a registered nurse who happened to “move up the ranks,” if that’s what you want to call it and become the office manager. And we were talking with that person about, “Hey, you know, they’re scared. So, take enough time to kind of walk them through it and explain why you’re vetting because a lot of patients get angry on the other side.” They’re like, “Why are you asking me all these questions? I just want to be seen at 10:30.” It’s like, “I really want to make sure you see the right person. I don’t want to waste your time.” Not the doctor’s time is important. The patient’s time is important.
Michael: Everybody’s time. Yeah. For sure.
Scott: Everybody. There you go. So, I think that kind of critical kind of stuff.
Michael: Let’s take a quick break for your P3 pro tip for the week. A lot of practices collect patient testimonials but don’t do much with them beyond collecting them on a single page. Often, there are a lot of really impactful patient stories that go unread by most of the patients looking at your website. One way to draw attention to some of your best testimonials is to place them on relevant procedure and service pages. This not only draws prospective patients to testimonials that are highly relevant to their needs, but also punches up current content by providing glowing feedback in the words of your actual patients. It’s one thing to say that you’re great at what you do, but it’s even better when you can prove that patients think so too.
If you’re just joining us, this is the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” I’m Michael Roberts joined here today by Scott Zeitzer, and we’re talking through what word of mouth looks like for today’s practices. And one of the big ways that we’re talking about is just showing enough customer care, enough customer service to be able to make the process as frictionless as possible. We’ve all been through those experiences where we’ve experienced plenty of friction along the way. So, you know, we’re talking about vetting our patients more effectively, making sure that we’re getting the right people, reducing that friction, just whether you’re using a team that helps answer a lot of patient’s questions as they’re calling, somebody that calls back enough. I mean, we certainly have talked to situations… We’ve talked to certain practices where the process was, you call back the one time, and once you’ve called back the one time, that’s it.
Scott: It is pretty standard operating procedure for most practices to essentially shut down for lunch, between 12 and 1. So, if you’re running the practice, you’re going, “What do you want from me? People have to eat.” And the answer to that is, well, not everybody needs to eat at the same time, because remember the patients that you’re hoping to see probably can only call you between 12 and 1. Right? So, if you set up this idea that, well, they’ll just have to call me when they call me. If that’s your answer, that’s a warning sign that you’re not being remarkable. You’re actually being poor. And you could still take good care of your staff by basically just saying, “Hey, who wants to take, you know, 12 to 12:30, you know, and who wants to take 12:30 to 1 and rotate?” It’s not that hard.
And we bring up another point about that. You know, if somebody left a message and I’ll start with, “Why did they have to leave a message?” Well, you know, maybe you’ve got busy. Maybe there’s not enough staff answering the phone. So, if people are on hold for eight minutes, you don’t have enough staff, or you need to come up with a different system. So, “Hey, I can’t afford to hire somebody.” Okay. Well, what does it cost for a callback system, you know, where people can call back. Whatever that is, we can walk through the different options for that cause it’s tough. You know, I get it. Not everybody has a ton of money just to go hire people, and then train them. But those first conversations are so important.
Michael: One of the things that we’ve seen…one of the tools that we’ve used is one called CallRail. I think it’s fairly common within…
Scott: In the compliance system, yeah.
Michael: Within the healthcare stratosphere, and there are others that are out there.
Michael: We get no endorsement from CallRail. But one of the big things that I liked about that particular system is that you could measure week over week. You could measure, like, a real time period to say, like, where are the peaks at? Where are people making a lot of calls? And then, where are they waiting a lot? Because maybe we didn’t have enough people on Mondays at 2:00, and the wait times jumped up to, you know, 10, 15, 20 minutes because they just had to get through, and that was the only way that they could do it. So, there are a lot of different ways to go after this and tools that are out there to help make this process easier as well.
Scott: Yeah. Along the lines of the tools, you know, we can talk about like, “Hey look, make sure the person who handles billing has that right balance of making sure you get paid and making sure the patient feels comfortable that, you know, etc., because you don’t want to be mean in any way about that. But there’s a lot of, say, outbound, personalized “conversation.” I put conversation in quotes. I know no one can see me do that, but outbound, personalized conversation that can be programmed via the EMR. You know, if you get their phone, their cell phone and/or their email, there’s a lot of conversation that can occur. Like, “Hey, you know, your surgery is going to be in two days.” So, if you don’t have somebody who has the time to make the call, you could at least just say, “Hey, your surgery is in a couple of days. And if you’ve got any questions, why don’t you give, you know, our PA a call or, you know, we’ve got a frequently asked questions page, which is always very helpful.” That kind of thing can be extremely reassuring.
And so, that’s a kind of a minimal thing, right? Like, you don’t even have to direct. It’s like, I’ve got…I’ve taken the time to create frequently asked question pages on my site. I’ve taken the time to have a handout or something. Those kinds of things can be remarkable in itself, so you didn’t have to hire another person. Right. But you took the cloud to put some stuff online.
Michael: And there’s so many practices that they’ve already got the Xerox of the Xerox of the Xerox of the post-procedural, you know, like, information that you need to know. It’s cool. I had a procedure done not all that long ago, and keeping up with a sheet of paper is ridiculously difficult. More, like…it’s like, well, it’s fine. I’ll just go find this information online. No, you won’t. You won’t find it from that particular practice. So, like, at a minimum, look for some of that low-hanging fruit. Can you put these kinds of pages on your website? Can you do something like have some sort of automated reminders that go out to people?
Scott: That’s right.
Michael: These are things that are very doable. One other thing that I’d like to talk about in our show today, as we’re talking about these various ways to be remarkable and to stand out is really working with particular patient communities. And this is something that we talked about a little bit in a recent episode, but one of the clients that we work with, in particular, performs bloodless surgery and…
Scott: Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Michael: Right. Really focusing on that particular audience and really accommodating that audience as best as they can. And so, I think that doing that makes it easier for the patient, yes. But then, you think about how much more likely somebody that is Jehovah’s Witness is to be able to recommend this person. Hey, I was able to go see this person and that was a big help. And there’s other communities that are out there, and I really want to kind of, like, paint the spectrum here in terms of the different types of communities that exist. Because, you know, we’ve got a physician that’s here locally, and we’re in the deep south, and so, you know, faith is a big part of a lot of people’s lives. And part of his patient reviews that we’ll often see have something to do with, “This doctor prayed with me before my procedure.” That’s a major, major component to a certain group of people feeling safe.
Scott: For that particular group of people. Right.
Scott: And to that surgeon, Jehovah’s Witnesses who if you are in fact concerned about that, this particular surgeon doesn’t like not having blood transfusion available, but learned to figure out how to handle it and worked with the patients and came up with, again, a methodology that worked for both the patient pre-surgery, like the conversation about, “Are you willing to die on the table if that happens? Let me walk you through what I’m going to do. Let me walk you through how experienced I am at that. But if it comes down to this, I just want to know ahead of time.” Those are good conversations to have. Praying with your patient if that’s…if you’re…that helps. And if that’s a part of your life, that’s great.
Trans-friendly care. We talked to a friend of ours who, basically, I think there was a barbershop, a barbershop where people who were trans could just feel more comfortable. And, man, that barbershop, it just took off because, yeah, they didn’t have to answer a lot of questions about their philosophies or about who they are and what…and feeling safe at a practice as well.
Michael: Absolutely. And the big thing that’s exciting about today in terms of getting that sort of information out there is that there are systems that help do this. Right? Like, if you were particular community and you’re trying to find somebody that respects your beliefs, somebody that can accommodate what you feel and what you think about that. Like, there are different ways now of signaling that kind of information. So, I’ll definitely give credit where it’s due here. So, cause I give Google a lot of little little jabs, but…
Scott: A lot of jabs, a lot of jabs, many jabs.
Michael: But they really are being very progressive and very active in trying to make it easy for people to be able to find. So, they have on their maps listing services, you can go in there and indicate if you’re a black-owned business, if you have LGBTQ-friendly areas, a transgender safe space. These are things that you can put on your map listings. And again, if it applies to that patient, great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.
Scott: I don’t think it bothers anybody. Correct.
Michael: Right. But you’re just giving people an opportunity to show how you can take care of that community in a way that not everybody does. Right. Like, there’s…it’s just…it’s where we’re at. So, regardless of…
Scott: Well, no, and I say that in positive way,. When you say it’s where we’re at, it’s like, look, everybody’s got a different philosophy, everybody’s got a different set of core values and beliefs, and that’s okay. And knowing that there’s a place where you can share that and feel more comfortable is great. You know, so we gave examples that “would be easier to talk about on the progressive side of things and easier to talk about in the more conservative side of things,” because we weren’t trying to stay apolitical here. The point is and in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses requiring bloodless surgery, that’s nothing really… I mean, I get that it’s religious based, but this is, again, an area where, hey, it could be as simple as like, “Hey, I’ve got three Spanish-speaking. I’m Spanish speaking, and I’ve got two people on staff that are so that if you’re Spanish speaking,” like that’s a big deal and can certainly help.
So, there’s a whole spectrum of places where this can occur where you can utilize Google. I don’t think Facebook has an equivalent to this. It’s not easy to tell with Facebook. But that being said, you can actually get the word out, like on your site, right? Like, you know, Michael, you made the point about, like, I am now a coming on 59 and I’ll be soon at 60. Of course, I had a colonoscopy to just to make sure that I was a healthy guy, and, thankfully, I am, a while ago. And I knew the gastroenterologist pretty well. His joke with me was that the good news is you don’t have to see me here anymore for the next 10 years, when I woke up. I apparently asked him three times because propofol does that for me.
But that being said, he had that Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. Now, colonoscopy, guys, is very easy. So, if anyone’s listening and you’re nervous about it, just get it. It’s so simple, and it saves so many lives. I’ll put that aside for a second. But that being said, his thing was the Xerox of a Xerox of Xerox. And I called him up because I had a question about something about when I could eat or whatever it was afterwards cause I was… And he was like, “It’s on the sheet of paper.” I’m like, “Who can read the sheet?” My goodness, you know.
Michael: Kind of crooked, and then you can see the edges of where the previous one was.
Scott: It was so gray and crooked. It was, like, mind boggling to me. And I was like, “Don’t you have a website?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “It would take you 20 minutes to type this up and put it up online, 20 minutes.” “Well, I don’t know how to do anything online.” “Okay, great. Then call your person and tell that person to put it up online.” I mean, this is easy stuff, man. And that’s that low-hanging fruit kind of stuff, right? It really does go back to that.
Michael: Customer service is the new word of mouth, and we talk about different ways that you can reinforce it. There is your website, and there’s online listings and reviews, and all of those different things that when you have a solid core, when your service is remarkable, all of those things reverberate. It really is, like, throwing a pebble out into the water and just watching those waves of kind of go out. And so, these kind of small tweaks that we’re talking about will have these reverberations. Maybe not in every single review, maybe not in every single experience, but it will make a difference.
So, we thank you for joining us today. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to visit our website at p3practicemarketing.com. We’ve actually set up a short quiz there to help practices think through their approach to word of mouth, and what next steps might look like for you. You’d find that quiz on our homepage. Until next time, thank you so much. Have a great week.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning into the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” This program is brought to you by Health Connective, custom marketing solutions for MedTech and pharma. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.