Scripts are the prepared responses the front office staff use to answer callers’ recurrent questions in consistent, reproducible ways, providing the greatest amount of information in the most succinct way possible. These scripts can make the front office staff’s job easier, while providing callers with the information they’re seeking. A couple examples:
Script scenario #1
Caller: Is the doctor board certified?
Receptionist: Yes, the doctor is board certified by the Board of <insert name of board>, which means he/she has undergone extensive training and has taken written and oral examinations and continuing education to maintain their certification.
Script scenario #2
Caller: If there’s a complication, what will happen?
Receptionist: While complications are rare, we certainly want to be prepared for that eventuality. In that scenario, your doctor will be available by phone or email. They also have privileges at the hospital so if you need to be admitted, your doctor will still be your doctor. As for the cost associated with a complication, we also include a specific type of cosmetic insurance in the fees paid for your procedure. This cosmetic insurance is not a replacement for your regular insurance, but the cosmetic insurance will cover your deductible and other out-of-pocket expenses before your regular insurance kicks in.
And then there are questions and scripts that are designed to keep patients in the dark or at least test their patience.
Script scenario #3
Caller: How much does the procedure cost?
Receptionist: (deep sigh followed by a prolonged…) Well… a procedure includes many associated costs. The physician or administration fee, the OR fee, the anesthesia fee, the cost of procedure and post-procedure supplies and medications. Every patient is different because some procedures may take longer and some fees are associated with time. The doctor will need to see you first before providing an estimate. Blah, blah, blah, blah.
Eventually, maybe the office staff will provide a quote. But in most circumstances, it will be a quote with such a wide range as to be completely useless.
Why prolong the inevitable?
My question is, if the purpose is to give the patient an estimated cost, then do it. Don’t waste their time. And don’t force your front office staff to spend so much time beating around the bush. I understand the staff is trying to “build value” and improve the “value proposition” to the patient rather than distilling it down to a price.
But today’s patient is different. If they’re calling, they probably already know the value proposition. They’ve seen the doctor or med spa on social media, on YouTube or listened to a webinar or podcast about the provider in question. And if after all of that online education, if the patient is only concerned about the price, you’re not going to change that. If they can’t afford it, they’re going to hang up the phone.
While I’m saying it’s best to give them the price and not beat around the bush, I’m also not suggesting give them the cost without leveraging that information to the practice’s benefit. More on that in a moment.
Why cost is the ultimate pain point
While cost isn’t the only pain point, it is the ultimate pain point. It’s the sine qua non of a procedure. If they don’t have the funds (or can’t get approved for financing), they’re not getting the procedure.
Time off? Someone to help with the kids? These are pain points that are surmountable. Cost is not. Again, if it’s not in their budget, your charm offensive won’t change that. It may be enough to get them to leave a deposit but 2-3 weeks prior to the procedure, when your office staff gets takes on their bounty hunter role1 to collect the balance, the patient won’t have the remaining funds.
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow
Put yourself in the caller’s shoes. If you were calling to determine the cost of a procedure (or car or house, or any pricey good or service) in an attempt to know whether it’s worth coming in for a consultation, how aggravated would you be that the front office staff wouldn’t give you an answer? If it would irritate you, it’s safe to say it would irritate your prospective patients. Since when is giving the patient the run-around considered good customer service?
No doubt there are many marketing and customer service “experts” within the world of aesthetics that would tell you not to provide quotes over the phone. If giving a quote is followed by a ‘click,’ ie the caller hanging up the phone without providing their name and contact info, I would agree that’s not beneficial to the practice. However, if providing a quote over the phone captures a name, email address and phone number, I would argue that’s a reasonable exchange.
But even if you can capture contact info, discussing pricing over the phone requires a great deal of time. There’s a better way.
Automated price estimators and chatbots
When I provide my consulting services to practices across the country and highlight the benefits of price estimators2 or pricing chatbots3 on a website to provide automated quotes in exchange for contact info, I’m always told the front office has scripts to address those questions. Sure, reading a script to a patient is a possible way to address pricing questions. Similarly, having sex in a hammock is possible. It’s just not the easiest way to do it.
if a consumer wants your pricing information, they have no choice but to get it from you.
The first line of defense it to avoid the pricing discussion over the phone entirely by having an automated price estimator or chatbot on the website that offers pricing info in exchange for the consumer’s contact information. This way, you’re leveraging the fact that if a consumer wants your pricing information, they have no choice but to get it from you. Who else are they going to get your actual pricing information from?
Certainly, if someone calls the office asking about price, don’t tell them to go check it on your website. That would also be terrible customer service. But you need to have a streamlined way of sending a caller an estimate via email so, yes, you guessed, you capture their contact info in the process. To be sure, the preferred route is that most consumers will find the information on your website so you’re passively building your email database for future email marketing.
But will they enter their contact info?
Worried you’ll scare off consumers with the requirement to enter their contact info on your website’s price estimator or chatbot? From our internal data, only 13% of consumers stopped when presented with a contact info “firewall.” That’s right, 87% were so desperate to get pricing information that they proceeded and entered their name, email address, phone number and ZIP code.
Some scripts may benefit the front office staff. But pricing scripts waste time. During this era of employee burnout and the great resignation, why not find ways to streamline the front office processes and minimize employee aggravation. Automate the answer to the question: “how much does it cost?” Your staff will thank you for it.
Dr. Jonathan Kaplan is a board-certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, CA and founder/CEO of BuildMyHealth4, a price transparency-lead generation platform. You can watch him operate and educate @realdrbae on Instagram5, Snapchat6 and TikTok7.