It’s one of the ironies of the socially-connected, Internet-driven times we live in: Aesthetic consumers may take months or years to decide on a procedure but when they send an email to a doctor they expect an answer damned near instantly.
That double standard is arguably unfair, certainly challenging and, unfortunately, a fact of life as more people spend more of their time — and conduct more of their cosmetic surgery research — online. The problem is compounded because those inquiries, aka Internet leads, have an exceedingly short shelf life.
How short? According to a landmark MIT study conducted in conjunction with InsideSales.com in 2007, the odds of calling a lead and connecting with them decrease by over 10 times in the first hour. The odds of qualifying a lead — essentially having a meaningful discussion with them — decreases by more than six times in the first hour.
Given the proliferation of high-speed Internet access and Wi-Fi since then and Internet users’ concurrent expectation of instant, always-on access, it’s likely the drop-off is even steeper today.
When a prospect contacts you, they’re thinking Amazon, not the operational constraints of a doctor’s office, says Tom Seery, CEO of RealSelf.com. You need to do your best to meet this cyber-expectation by responding in the shortest amount of time possible.
Of course, no doctor worth his or her board certification should be expected to answer every email instantly. Rather, doctors need to realize that the short shelf life and unique nature of Internet leads mean that the answer is to have a plan in place before the first inquiry comes in.
1. Understand the unique nature of Internet leads
If a consumer contacts you via the Internet, you know they’re not only potentially interested in your services but you know exactly where they are. (They’re on their computer or mobile device!) At the same time, there’s a good chance they’re posing the same questions to other doctors, so he or she who responds first is the most likely to convert that consumer into a new patient.
2. Set reasonable expectations, then exceed them
Whether it’s dedicating a staff member to monitor Internet leads or using an automated response form, every email should be acknowledged. Let them know you appreciate their inquiry, set an expectation about when you’ll follow up — and then beat the clock. Think about it: If you’ve ever had a vendor or business respond in less time than they promised, you can’t help but feel positively toward them.
3. If they’re not ready to commit, get the micro-conversion
Simply put, a micro-conversion is anything that indicates an Internet visitor is considering your practice. It could be almost anything — signing up for a newsletter, watching a video or responding to an online poll — but the key takeaway is that it represents an opportunity for subsequent follow-up and the kind of low-key, no-pressure interaction that leads to trust, an ongoing relationship and, quite possibly, new business.