The first impression you have on a patient can make or break their hearing health journey. In fact, a recent clinical study concluded that a first impression has a strong impact on how patients perceive a healthcare professional’s communication approach and can help to facilitate or inhibit further interaction. Patients can take years to seek help for their hearing, so their trust matters. Whether it’s a phone call, appointment, or digital communication, positive pre-care engagement with a patient instills the confidence they need to move forward with your practice and treatment for their hearing loss.
Here’s what you need to know about first impressions and how to make them great:
There are Three Main Components to a Great First Impression
Kindness is the first and most important component of a great first impression. This includes showing patience and empathy. You need to see that patient’s perspective and look at things from their point of view. As providers and front office professionals, you have similar conversations every day, but it might be the patient’s very first time calling to inquire about hearing healthcare. Putting yourself in their position and having patience will help make a great first impression.
Clarity follows shortly after kindness. If a patient’s initial communications with a practice are not clear, then that can add to their initial anxiety and prevent them from completing an appointment or phone call.
- Digital Presence
Another crucial component to first impressions in 2023 is the digital communication you have with your patient before they visit your office. Video marketing solutions like Vidscrip allow you to easily introduce yourself and your practice directly on your website or through a link texted to patients’ phones. You can even let someone know what to expect from their first appointment, so they feel more comfortable coming to see you.
Effectively Handling Incoming Calls Builds Better Relationships
Inbound calls from potential patients are one of your best opportunities to begin a successful relationship. Every single hearing healthcare clinic is going to have a different standard operating procedure when it comes to these calls, but typically you’ll start with getting the patients name and contact information, especially at the beginning of that interaction in case the phone call drops. Contact information is also important so you can continue the relationship. Whether you’re reaching out right away or farther down the line, you will need their name, phone number, and probably an email. Asking about insurance information can also be important for your practice. Practice owners, providers, and front office professionals need to work together as a team to decide what information is critical to obtain from the first interaction. You do not want your patients to feel interrogated, but you do want to get the information that you need to have a smooth relationship. Once you know the information you’re looking to collect, you can focus on how to put your best foot forward over the phone.
The key to handling incoming calls is confidence. When someone is inquiring about hearing healthcare reaches somebody who is clear, kind, and confident in their communication, it sets the stage for a successful interaction. Answering call after call can feel monotonous, so think about the brightness in your voice and speak clearly. People feel most confident when they know what to expect. As a front office professional, you come to expect certain categories of calls. If you know what to expect, then you can handle that call more confidently. This often comes down to proper training and making sure that your front office team feels prepared to take calls in any scenario. Being confident, clear, and charismatic are all things that will make that first phone call a great one.
Objections are an Opportunity
Objections are typically seen as frustrating, or even scary, but they can be used as an opportunity with the right preparation. An objection means that the patient is at least engaged with you. If they have questions, concerns, or if they’re presenting a roadblock, that means that you’ve piqued their interest in some way. You can also prepare for objections and anticipate what they’ll be. Very rarely will you be posed a question or concern that you haven’t heard before, so you can establish a common repertoire for the objections you hear the most. In addition to confidently, be sure to validate a patient’s concerns. Their feelings are real and should be taken seriously. The more prepared and confident you are, the better the patient will feel about bringing up their concerns.
Message Fatigue is Normal and Treatable
Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s how patient interactions can feel, right? You get the same calls day in, day out. For some, doing the same thing repeatedly is a great thing that keeps them in a routine. For others, it can cause message fatigue. You may stop putting the same enthusiasm in your interactions and start assuming all patients are going to be the same. It causes you to get in your own way of creating a great first impression. When you feel yourself getting message fatigue, it’s time to take action. One thing you can do is go to a website like Healthy Hearing and read the reviews. Look at what patients say about hearing healthcare and how it changes their lives. You’ll find people’s personal testimonials, or stories from children about how they are so grateful that they brought their parent in to be fitted for hearing aids because now they are connecting so much more. Seeing the impact that hearing care professionals make on a day-to-day basis is not only heart-warming, but motivational. Another way to combat message fatigue is to take a complete break from the phones and computer. Stretch, move your body, get outside, or look out the window for a while. Chat with your team and ask how they are doing. Let them know you’re feeling like you’re in a rut and want to get reenergized.
Everyone Needs to be Focused on Pre-Care
Everybody on the team gets into their own routine and has a unique way of performing their job, so it’s important to have a dedicated conversation about what kind of an impression you want to make as a practice. You want to remind everyone that empathy is crucial. Patients may be waiting seven to ten years to seek help, so their first impression of your practice needs to make them feel comfortable. Think about what kind of an experience you would want for yourself if you were a new patient walking into a clinic or picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment. How would you want to be treated? Discussing these thoughts and questions with your team leads to having empathy during your initial patient interaction.
A great first impression is critical to the patient journey. Combined with a lot of noise and choice in the marketplace, stigma and misinformation creates fear and anxiety in those dealing with hearing loss. When a patient gains the courage to reach out, a great first impression will get them through that fear and make them comfortable in the choice that they made to get help for their hearing loss.