Mastering the online consultation
Bhavin Bhatt examines how dentists can make virtual consultations more efficient and effective.
As we continue to acclimatise to life with COVID-19, more of us – dentists and patients alike – will have become more comfortable with the idea of remote consultation.
Indeed, if you’ve been following the series of articles in Dentistry magazine, you should know how to build a healthy list of keen prospects who have made a commitment to a virtual or remote consultation.
But how do you nurture those prospects? There are three key areas that you need a strategy for:
- Pre-consultation – how to ensure the prospect attends the virtual consultation
- The consultation – following seven key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure we secure a future commitment for an oral health assessment
- Post-consultation – successful clients have a world-class system for ‘follow-ups’ of consults that did not attend or commit.
How do you ensure the remote consultation prospect attends the virtual consultation?
After auditing more than 300 campaigns, the trends are clear. Those with more than 87% attendance of virtual consultations get a verbal confirmation of attendance within 10 minutes of making the booking. They also send a message to follow up 12 hours beforehand.
In a millennial world of digital confidence, the biggest challenge a dental practice has is speaking to the prospect. As part of our team training process, we believe no verbal confirmation equals a DNA (‘did not attend’).
Having polled our clients, there are three common patterns that we see with the most successful clients:
- Keep calling until they answer the phone: millennials do not answer calls from unknown numbers
- Use a script: role play and practise the script. Our top clients create ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) and value for the consultation. This is the most important factor to ensure attendance
- Use Whatsapp Business to nurture the prospect/keep them warm, and also send a reminder 12 hours in advance.
During lockdown, I personally carried out more than 140 aligner consultations. We extensively tested and measured our results. Before developing the following seven KPIs to ensure we secure a future commitment for an oral health assessment.
Spend five minutes of the initial consultation building rapport and connection with the prospect.
More than 90% of communication is non-verbal. So the telephone consultation presents us with a unique challenge. We all have our words, tone and sound.
We found those dentists who report poor booking commitments did not spend enough time showing a real and genuine interest in the lives and health of the prospect.
Explain what the consultation involves and what you will be doing over the next 20-25 minutes. Make it clear your intention is to secure a booking at the practice.
Our top three clients all expressed the intention or desired outcome at the beginning. This way there are no surprises at the end. It invites the prospect to ask questions that may appear a barrier to access.
When we polled a sample of 20 prospective patients, they valued the clarity and flow of stating the intention at the beginning.
Unearth emotional drivers
Spend five to seven minutes asking about their smile and how it makes them feel.
Pre-COVID-19, we advocated the three Es to a successful aligner consultation:
- Emotional hooks and anchors – getting to their ‘why’. I have never met a person who wants a class 1 morphology. But they all want confidence to live life and smile. Patients are looking to buy confidence and assume an aligner will help them achieve this
- Engagement – successful dentists are masters at helping patients engage in a future smile and help them to see they are looking for confidence. Not an ideal morphological arrangement of teeth
- Excitement – using digital scanners or simulations is the best way to get visual excitement for a future smile.
During lockdown, there are barriers to this process. So we advise clients who are not confident at doing this to ask the following questions:
- What made you interested in this treatment?
- How would you like to change your smile/teeth with Invisalign? How would that make you feel?
- Have you seen the Invisalign video on what it is and how it works?
- Do you know approximately how much Invisalign costs?
Aligners are often commoditised in a competitive and price-sensitive market. Top providers are therefore able to articulate a ‘value proposition’. Three reasons or benefits for the prospect to have aligner therapy at your practice.
Additionally, we need to match and mirror these three points to the life circumstances and needs of the potential patient.
Education and information
We have found a Powerpoint presentation with information videos, patient testimonials and before and after pictures to be incredibly powerful in engaging and exciting prospects about the possibilities.
Role play, rehearse and prepare a list of possible objections that prospects may have. Our top clients recognise the previous 25 minutes all lead to this part of the process.
Role play involves using a script to help nudge the conversation. It ensures a commitment to a future oral health assessment with a ‘holding deposit’.
Objection handling is also crucial. Make a list of any and all objections and practise the art of discussing these with team members.
There is an art and science to securing a future appointment with a deposit. Our top providers, therefore, spend all their efforts on this activity.
A slick and efficient deposit system is critical to success. Our clients report that 60% of consultations provide credit card details to secure a future consultation. And 40% request an online link to make payment through.
Approximately 70% of our clients performed consultations at the practice during lockdown. The practice provides access to the online diary and PDQ machine. The biggest challenge for the remote consultation relates to a prospect who wishes an online link to make payment for their deposit.
We advocate an instant, easy system. This means an instant link that is ideally sent via SMS and emailed to the prospect. It must be quick and easy to make payment. The notification system must also be fast.
Our protocol for online payments is to only offer a provisional booking for someone making an online payment. This is only confirmed once the online payment is processed. This is to avoid no shows in the future.
Lockdown has consequently taught us many lessons, and given us a clear insight into the future of dentistry.
At Aligner Alchemy, we do not believe there is going to be a huge appetite for prospects wanting information and education for aligner therapy to visit a treatment coordinator at dental practices anymore.
Aligner prospects have seen and understood the opportunities for them with remote and virtual consultations.
If the remote consultation is indeed how prospects want to decide which dental practice to choose for their dental and cosmetic needs, then we believe our findings during the lockdown period will become the golden standard for remote consultations in the UK.
This article appeared first in Dentistry magazine. You can read more from Dentistry magazine here.