12 Healthcare Practice Owners Share Their Number One Tip For Growth

12 Healthcare Practice Owners Share Their Number One Tip For Growth

There’s a lot of information online about how to build a successful medical practice. 

But what about healthcare practice owners who aren’t physicians? What healthcare practice tips can you get that aren’t the same ol’ generic responses?

This article answers that question. We created it specifically for you by pulling insights from 12 non-physician healthcare practice owners, including insights from a survey we sent to Smiledog’s customers. Side Note: Our customers shared their advice anonymously so any thoughts we share from them won’t include their names. 

Here’s what we’re not telling you….

We’re not telling you to work seven days a week consistently looking for new ways to bring in clients. That’s an unsustainable (and very draining) process. Instead, the advice we’re sharing will help you achieve work-life harmony while running a successful healthcare business.

Let’s begin!

1. Be clear on your boundaries, goals, and who you serve.

boundaries illustration
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

One of the chiropractors who participated in our survey has over 100 patients per month and achieved that success through implementing good systems. Here’s what he had to say about healthcare practice growth, “Be clear on your boundaries, goals, and who you serve.” 

We’ll discuss boundaries in the next point. For now, let’s dissect his suggestions for implementing good systems, being clear about your goals, and being clear about who you serve. 

  • Good systems for your healthcare practice include clear processes for onboarding new patients, following up with existing patients, and providing the best possible standard of care to all your patients. These processes should be clear to all members of your team so that all your patients have consistently good experiences.
  • Be clear about your goals. One of the most popular goal-setting strategies is SMART goal setting where goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Work with your team to create SMART long-term and short-term goals for your practice that align with your brand’s values. You can also use a goal-tracking app to monitor goal progress, break goals into manageable daily tasks, and assign tasks to specific team members.
  • Be clear about who you serve. You should be as specific as possible about your target audience. Specificity helps you attract the right patients and charge premium prices for your services.  We’ll discuss this further in the tip about reframing how you position yourself to potential patients.

2. Although your patients are your priority, it’s important to protect yourself from burnout and compassion fatigue.

It’s in your very nature to give your patients 100% at all times, even if that means extending yourself outside of office hours. You feel deep compassion and empathy towards their circumstances and want to do everything you can to help them. That’s what makes you a great healthcare practice owner but it’s also what allows compassion fatigue and burnout to start creeping in.

Zachary Lui, leading expert in Eastern metaphysics and owner of Wuji Xuan Life Wellness and Spiritual Performance Center, shared some interesting thoughts about compassion during a podcast interview,

healthcare practice growth tip

You aren’t giving your patients the best standard of care when you overextend yourself and have few, if any, boundaries. You’re overworked, tired, and not being present with your loved ones. Here’s what you can do to begin establishing boundaries without jeopardizing patient relationships.

  • Go on vacation and be present with your loved ones. Pass the baton to colleagues you trust. You need time to enjoy rest and relaxation just as much as anyone else. Trust that your patients will be in good hands while you’re away.
  • Remember that you’re not responsible for your patient’s response to the boundaries you’ve set. Your responsibility is to communicate your boundaries in a clear and respectful manner. 
  • Set emotional boundaries. Strike the balance between being supportive and empathetic towards your patients while not becoming overly involved or taking on their problems and pains. Honor the fact that you’re a separate person with your own emotional needs.

3. Make patient satisfaction an ongoing process.

happy patient

Patient satisfaction relates to the systems you have in place and how well you try to understand your patients’ perspectives. This is a particularly important consideration since 68% of patients believe their healthcare providers need to improve how they interact with patients.

Katie M. Owens, President of the Healthcare Experience Foundation, shared this important tidbit.

“Healthcare leaders must remember that they walk into any situation with a perspective (their own) which is tremendously filled with bias. Being vigilant to seek to understand affords the opportunity and humility to take the perspective of another individual. It allows you to make better decisions, demonstrate empathy, and build trust.”

Here are some tips to help you remove bias and better understand your patients.

  • Take the time to understand the culture and background of your patients. But avoid stereotyping them. Treat them as individuals who are impacted by their cultures and unique backgrounds.
  • Be conscious of any biases you may have so that you can make a deliberate effort to remove them. 
  • Don’t make assumptions about your patients. Listen carefully to what they say during your conversations with them without judgment. That information is what you should use to build your treatment plan. Patients want to feel understood, not judged.

4. Know your networking tribe.

Word-of-mouth referrals are good for the growth of your healthcare business. But networking can lead to greater opportunities. 

Networking isn’t limited to events. You can find your networking tribe in the most unlikely places. Practice what Karen Alladin, owner of an acupuncture healthcare practice based in Lousiville, calls natural networking where you connect with other people through things you already do. 

Alladin explained the process during a podcast interview. Here’s what she said:

“I kinda made it a goal to get to know people at our local LuLu Lemon because I was familiar with the brand. I knew they worked with people who were yoga teachers, fitness instructors, or people who work in health and wellness. They have a lot of foot traffic and like to talk to customers.” 

Dr. Jacintha Romer, a therapeutic massage, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine specialist based in San Diego, also recommended joining networking groups.

Healthcare practice growth tip

Here are some tips to help you make the best use of the networking experience.

  • Networking is about building mutually beneficial connections. Be genuinely curious and interested in the other person. During the conversation, identify things you have in common and use that as a springboard to build a long-term relationship. You’ll find ways to help each other as time progresses, possibly through a referral agreement. 
  • Understand what you want to gain from the networking experience. For instance, Dr. Romer wanted to meet people outside of her niche so that she had a broader network of contacts.

5. Upgrade to the latest healthcare practice management software.

Hundreds of healthcare practice management software tools are available that cover a wide range of healthcare business needs. But it’s important to know what to look for in healthcare practice management software. Any practice management software you use should have patient scheduling, insurance claims process, and reporting capabilities. This software should also securely store patient documents. 

Here’s a list of some healthcare practice management software you can try based on your healthcare practice niche. As a side note, Simple Practice, Power Diary, and Better Clinics are three healthcare practice management tools that can be used for any type of healthcare practice. 

Acupuncturist

Massage Therapist

Chiropractor

Psychologist

Dr. Charmain Jackman is a psychologist who has used Therapy Notes. Here are her thoughts on how this healthcare practice management software can help a healthcare business.

Healthcare practice management software makes it easier for you to automate business processes and manage your business. There are many options available and your aim should be to choose the option that works best for your needs. 

6. Expand your business outside of your healthcare practice.

decorative photo
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

The internet provides many opportunities for you to expand what you offer outside of your healthcare vertical. Dr. James Neilson-Watt, chiropractor and Founder of The Patients & Profit Club, only works in his practice 3.5 days per week. He has created another business where he helps other healthcare professionals get clients in the door. 

As Dr. Neilson-Watt said during his interview with James Kemp, “You see a lot of practitioners doing not just what they need to do in practice whether it’s coaching teams, running retreats and workshops, or doing business coaching.” Taking this approach gives you more time to spend with your family and do things you enjoy. 

The trick here is to find something that works for you. That’s something you’ll only discover through introspection. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to guide the process:

  • What can I do really well outside of patient care?
  • Are there enough people who struggle with this one thing?
  • How can I reach these people?
  • What type of product or service would they most benefit from? 
  • How much time and resources would I need to commit to developing this product or service?

7. Reframe how you position yourself to potential patients.

Yuri Elkaim, a holistic nutritionist, shared an interesting story in one of his Youtube videos. There was a physical therapist who, like many other healthcare professionals at the height of the pandemic, wasn’t sure what to do. 

He was losing patients and getting into a financial wormhole. After consulting with a healthcare practice growth specialist, he realized he needed to reframe how he positioned his brand. He repositioned himself as a work-from-home specialist and soon wound up with thousands of patients who he trained virtually. 

Don’t put yourself in a box. Be okay with adapting to the needs of your specific audience. 

“Look at the current pain points in the marketplace and figure out how you can solve them.” ~Yuri Elkaim

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a specific group of clients who bring in the most revenue for my practice?
  • What’s common to this group?
  • What are the specific problems this group faces?
  • How can I attract more people who match the features of this group to my practice?

As one of our Smiledog customers said, “Market a unique service so that you can provide a smooth patient experience. Really listen to every patient to understand their goals, not your goals for them. Provide individualized patient care.” 

8. Build your team strategically.

team
Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

One of our Smiledog customers, a naturopathic doctor with more than 10 years of experience and more than 100 patients monthly, said that his number one tip for business growth is doing what others won’t. He shared that the systems he’s established and his team have helped him achieve great success.  

Hire staff who will help you achieve the growth goals you have for your healthcare practice. A healthcare practice manager and virtual receptionist are two team members who should be with you from the get-go.

 

9. Have consistent hours

This may seem counterintuitive but having consistent business hours helps your patients know when they can reach you and when they can schedule appointments. In fact, “70% of patients want their experience with healthcare providers to be as easy as brand interactions in other industries.” 

One of our Smiledog customers suggested having consistent hours based on either early morning or evening appointments. The hours you choose depend entirely on your schedule, though. Just remember to be consistent.

10. Hire a virtual receptionist

A chiropractor who gets 51 to 100 patients monthly said that hiring a virtual receptionist has helped her operate in three locations with minimal interruptions. Other survey respondents also mentioned that hiring one of Smiledog’s virtual receptionists has helped make automation and patient onboarding seamless.

But should you choose a virtual receptionist or a full-time receptionist? Both answer incoming calls, schedule appointments, process payments, sort and distribute mail, and assist clients. The main difference is that a virtual receptionist works remotely while a full-time receptionist only works in-office. 

But there are also other differences to consider. Let’s look at cost. A full-time receptionist costs far more than a virtual receptionist because you have to cover all the costs associated with having a full-time employee (regular salary, vacation leave, benefits, employee insurance, etc.). 

Then there are the demands on a full-time receptionist. There’s so much for a full-time receptionist to do that she’s likely to miss some of the calls that come to your office. It’s different with a virtual receptionist since her only focus is on answering calls — an important point to consider because “62% of patients prefer to call and talk to a person when communicating with their providers.” Missed calls lead to missed opportunities that can negatively impact the patient experience. 

But you’ll have to consider a few things before hiring a virtual receptionist. Virtual appointment setting success depends on how well you know your phone system, the ease of your booking procedures, the web-based booking software you use, and how well you and your team communicate with your virtual assistant. Get these four things right and your virtual receptionist will be a great asset to your team. 

Wrapping up: The success of your healthcare practice is in your hands

There’s so much to learn about building a successful healthcare business. You’ve read the suggestions presented in this article. Now, it’s time for you to act. What’s one thing you learned from this article that you’re going to implement in your healthcare business in the short term? Identify that one thing and get it done!

Smiledog provides virtual receptionist and appointment setting services. Learn more about what we offer and let’s help you create the best possible patient experience. 

From One Business Owner to Another: How to Ensure Your Business Survives Any Curveball Thrown Its Way

From One Business Owner to Another: How to Ensure Your Business Survives Any Curveball Thrown Its Way

Our company is by no means a massive success or a silicon valley unicorn, but we have learned a thing or two in the fifteen years we’ve been in business.

Owning a business is difficult on an easy day because quite frankly there are no easy days. For me, it is the constant worry outside the office that makes it so hard. Did I do enough today? Was that really the right call? Are my staff okay; are they happy? Is this really what I want to do in life?

Those thoughts and doubts never really go away, but as you grow there are those moments that you can only look back on that make it all worth it. Rewinding back to March 2020, the beginning of the pandemic was one of those moments we couldn’t see until now. It had been about two or three weeks since the mass shutdowns began and we had lost 50% of our business. Thirteen years building it to have half of it gone in a month. We were completely lost and had no idea what we were going to do. You see, for us, Smiledog is a family business we all depend on to support our families. 

So, we did the only thing we could do. We doubled down to ensure its survival and make sure we would come out of this pandemic thriving and never in that situation again. We are now happy to say it was the right move. 

At Smiledog, we believe in a bottom-up approach to leadership, which is the opposite of the traditional top-down approach. We support our leadership and our leadership supports the team who then supports the customers.

So with this approach in mind, we put all of our energy into creating a vibrant culture that our team was proud to be a part of. We built a sustainable financial model that will help prevent us from ever being that unstable again and created a content engine to stimulate new growth and establish our digital brand. These three things have been the key to our success throughout the pandemic, and they have truly changed the shape and future of our business. Creating these things in any business is no easy feat, but I can say confidently that it is so worth the effort as the results speak for themselves.

Create a Culture with Purpose

This sounds cliche but culture is the most important part of every business. A company without a culture is a company without a heartbeat. There is no way to survive without one. 

The misconception about culture is that it happens organically and comes from your people. Yes, they can help inspire you with ideas but in no way should you rely on your team to create the culture you want for your business. Company culture should always come from leadership, and it should always be implemented with purpose. A thriving culture doesn’t just happen, it is a strategic choice that is made. It’s a choice to make an impact on the lives of your team.

If there is one thing you can do that will have an impact on your culture, it would be to read Worth Doing Wrong by Arnie Malham. 

At Smiledog, we’ve been using ideas we’ve learned from his book for the past five years, and it has completely changed our company. We have implemented: 

  • The Better Book Club: we pay our staff to read.
  • The champion program: staff take a leading role in organizing birthday events or planning our annual Christmas party.
  • New employee onboarding checklist: a full day of culture before training even starts.
  • Propfuel: a software program that allows us to give kudos and shoutouts to everyone as well as track it all.
  • Bonuses: A robust performance-based compensation plan that is on top of the team’s regular pay.
  • Monthly coaching program: designed to help our team achieve their goals outside of work.

The 3 key takeaways we have learned over the past five years of building a great culture within our company are: 

  1. You are never finished. Culture can always be improved and worked on. Never take your foot off the gas.
  2. Rip-off, recycle, and reuse. Don’t try to invent a new wheel. Take ideas from the best and adjust them to fit your business. It will save you a lot of pain, time, and money in the long run. 
  3. Fail Forward. That is our way of saying “worth doing wrong”. Some things will not work for you and some things will. However, it is always worth trying because you will learn something from the experience. 

Create a Sustainable Financial Model

Having solid financial information is crucial to the longevity of your business. Sustainable growth is a strategic move done ahead of time by knowing your company’s past. Flying in the dark may work initially as you have the momentum behind you, but in the long term, it will become one of your biggest pain points. 

Building our financial model took us the better part of the past three years but we now have a working version in place that helps us make great decisions each and every month. It is not complete and we are always working on it, but I can tell you that we now have a full financial view of our business and such a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. 

These are the two main takeaways we have learned from creating this style of financial model:

  1. Cutting a business’s fixed expenses is not where the difference in the bottom line will come from. 
  • Becoming more efficient within your company’s variable expenses is where you will see the biggest impact.
  • Shifting your mindset from cutting costs to improving efficiency within your largest expenses will actually have more of an impact on your daily operating costs.
  • For us last year, 71% of our expenses came from the variable side while only 18% were within our fixed, so it’s easy to find where you can make the most impact on your bottom line. 
  1. Our second key learning from building out this financial model was a simple one that created a huge “aha” moment for our leadership team.
  • We learned that comparing percentages of total revenue versus hard costs numbers has allowed us to lessen the rigidity of our numbers.
  • What I mean by this is that we can now plan to have our wage expense as 40-45% of total revenue each month versus defining it as a hard number. When looking at the hard number, you give yourself no room for error and we all know in business, things change every day. 
  • Continuing to look at this wage example, if your company is growing, so should your wage cost. When looking at it as a percentage of the total revenue, you’re allowing room for growth. Whereas the hard wage cost number will not account for this and eventually put too much pressure on your team and cause burnout. That will end up being much more costly to you from an operational perspective than an additional 1-3% of revenue spent on bringing in new staff to alleviate the workload for your team.

Create a Content Engine for Growth

This one was scary for us because it was so far out of our realm in the beginning. We had never allotted such a high spend on our marketing efforts before. To do that for any business owner is scary because marketing is never a guaranteed thing. 

After almost two years of consistent effort, we can now confidently say that content-based marketing is the only way to go. We use a company called Foundation. Check them out, seriously. It is one of the best decisions we have made in the past two years.

The thing about content marketing is that it takes time, as anything worth doing should.

We’ve been able to start building the identity of our brand in the digital space the way we want. Like everything else in business, it is always evolving and being worked on but we have never been more seamless from a digital perspective. All of our social, website, blogs, advertising, and any other work we are doing is synchronized and consistent. 

Our two biggest learnings from implementing a content strategy are:

1. Ensure you have a platform or system in the background that you can build everything off of. 

  • We use Hubspot and love it. We started with their free CRM and expanded our account into their marketing hub option, which allows us to post social content, build landing pages, and keep high-quality analytics on everything. 

2. The second thing you want to do is ensure you have a content team that holds themselves accountable.

  • Your content team needs to be consistently sharing the results with you about all your efforts. That is the best part about working with our team at Foundation. We can look back on everything we have done and see the results. Everything we do is organized and tracked. The data we have on our company now has never been easier to access, and it allows us to make the right decisions for our company’s growth.

Wrapping up

Our journey of growth at Smiledog is not a tried and tested cookie-cutter formula. Every business is different, but the one thing I can guarantee is that by focusing on at least one of the above you will see an improvement in your business. 

We just had our highest grossing quarter with our largest profit margin of any year we have been in business. That isn’t even close to the best part. We have had the ability to increase our team lead pay by 20% and our receptionists’ pay by 15%. For us, that has been the most rewarding thing. We love our team and just having the ability to give back to them has been the most fulfilling part of all of this. 

If there is a decision in front of you that seems way too daunting because you’re unsure of the results, it is always worth making the leap. You may not succeed in the end, but you will have the new experience to take with you to the end and that is the most valuable thing you can have as a business owner. 

Stay safe and thanks for reading my two cents!

A Medical Professional’s Guide to Virtual Appointments: 9 Steps to Get Started with Virtual Care

A Medical Professional’s Guide to Virtual Appointments: 9 Steps to Get Started with Virtual Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people access healthcare. 

At the height of the pandemic, patients couldn’t get most of their basic medical needs met in person. That led to a boom in virtual healthcare.  In fact, “telehealth use has increased 38x from the pre-COVID baseline.” 

Video chat forms the core of virtual healthcare. So, it’s not surprising that there’s been a 300% increase in the number of consumers who prefer video chat over phone calls since the pandemic began. Your patients are expecting video chats that are secure and professional, lead them closer to a diagnosis, and provide empathetic care.

As a medical professional, it’s necessary to adapt to the new norms of customer service and experience. Virtual appointments are here to stay (even in the post-pandemic world). 

But it’s critical to learn the best practices and legal requirements before incorporating virtual care into your practice. 

Here are some key considerations.

Before Getting Started

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Medical privacy is a major concern with virtual healthcare. In a Deloitte study, 33% of physicians expressed low enthusiasm for virtual healthcare particularly because of security and privacy concerns. A Zoom, WhatsApp, or Skype call isn’t the way to go because those platforms aren’t set up to follow Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines. 

Sure, those platforms are familiar to patients and, therefore, are more convenient to use. But they expose your patient’s sensitive medical information to security risks.  So, it’s important to find a HIPAA-compliant video chat tool.

If your practice is based in Canada, you must comply with cross-Canada virtual care licensure requirements. Simply put, you have to follow the licensure laws of the Canadian province where you’re licensed and where your patient is located. It’s also best to get insured with the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) so that your practice is legally protected. 

Now that the legal aspect is covered, let’s dive into the 9 steps to get started with virtual care. 

9 Steps to Get Started with Virtual Care

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

1. Choose a Virtual Care Solution for Your Practice

There are many virtual tools on the market. When choosing a virtual care solution, you ultimately want one that’s going to cause minimal disruption to your current workflows and minimal disruption to your clients’ lives.

How do you know which virtual care solution is right for you? The best virtual care solution for your practice should meet five criteria. Assess the options you have based on these criteria and you’ll find a solution that suits your needs.

  • Provide top-tier data security and protection for you and your patients.
  • Follow clinical protocols despite being in a virtual context.
  • Be easy-to-use so that patients aren’t frustrated by the experience.
  • Have a future-thinking outlook with a design ready for future virtual care applications.
  • Have built-in electronic health records and interoperability with other patient information management systems you already use.

Once these five things are in place, it’s time to inform your team and patients about your virtual care service. 

2. Notify Your Team and Patients

Proper training is important for your team. They should understand your virtual care process, how to answer patient questions, and how to offer the right support depending on the patient’s needs. 

Patients who are calm under normal circumstances can become easily annoyed and frustrated when their health is at risk, so your virtual appointment process should be as seamless as possible. 

Let your patients know you’re offering this service. But also provide them with resources that help them better understand what they need to do. A FAQ sheet is one of many resources you could provide. 

3. Create a FAQ Resource About Your New Virtual Care Service

Before providing your patients and team with a FAQ sheet, you should first get answers to your burning questions about virtual healthcare. Some of these questions from a provider’s perspective are answered in this FAQ sheet from the US Department of Health and Civil Services.

It’s important to make everything about your virtual care service crystal clear from the beginning. You know your patients and already have a sense of the questions they typically ask your receptionist for in-person visits. Start there. You can reframe those questions within the digital context.

Also, your FAQ sheet should include answers to these questions:

  • Will our conversations be recorded?
  • How are recorded conversations protected?
  • What medical issues are covered in your virtual care service?
  • How do I know whether I should set a virtual appointment or go to the hospital?
  • How will I get my prescription? 
  • What technology will I need to check my vitals etc.?

There’s something else you should do before fully launching your virtual care services. Get your patient’s signed consent. 

You already know that data privacy is a major issue in the virtual world. The number of patient records that were breached in the second half of 2020 increased by more than 180%. Those breaches mainly came from business associates, not the virtual healthcare providers themselves. 

Scary, huh? The legal impact of such breaches could greatly affect your practice, so consult a lawyer for help with creating a digital patient contract. All your patients should sign that contract before you work with them. Sign Now is a HIPAA-compliant electronic signature provider that would work well for this purpose.

But can all your patient’s medical issues be covered virtually?

5. Determine What’s Suitable for Virtual Care 

This is a delicate issue. Some jurisdictions have laws that govern the medical issues that can be treated virtually, so it’s always best to first look at the laws of both your patient’s region and yours before outlining what’s suitable for virtual care.

Generally, medical professionals use virtual appointments to treat common illnesses, such as colds and rashes. Clinicians, such as psychiatrists and therapists, can also easily have virtual one-on-one sessions with their clients. Patients also have the option to schedule ongoing care (or a follow-up visit) if necessary.

So, what’s the best way to schedule virtual appointments?

6. Schedule Your Virtual Appointments 

Virtual appointment setting requires more than a Calendly link. There are 4 steps to creating a successful virtual appointment process for your team:

  • Get full control of your call forwarding.
  • Organize your information in a way that makes it easy for your virtual receptionist and patient to understand.
  • Use an appointment-setting service that sets patient appointments in real-time and adds them to web-based booking software, such as JaneApp
  • Keep your virtual team up-to-date with what’s happening. 

Now that the virtual appointment is set, how can you prepare for it?

7. How to Prepare for Your Virtual Appointment

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your virtual appointment:

  • Ask your virtual receptionist to ensure the patient has a signed contract on file. If not, ensure one is signed before the appointment.
  • Create an intake form that provides you with all the information you need about the patient’s medical information prior to the appointment. 
  • Ensure the patient completes the intake form at least an hour before the virtual appointment.
  • Review the intake form before the virtual appointment and jot down a list of follow-up questions you want to ask during the call.
  • Set the tone for the appointment by minimizing distractions. Both you and your patient should ensure that all of your focus is on what’s happening in the appointment. Both you and your patient should close the extra tabs, put your pets and kids in the other room, turn off your phone, and leave the snacking for after the meeting.

The next step is providing your patient with the best quality care during (and after) the call.

8. Demonstrate Virtual Care Etiquette While in Virtual Appointments

Virtual appointments feel very different from in-person visits. Your patients are already very intimidated. Your aim is to help them feel as comfortable as possible so that you can share the next best steps for them.

Here are some things you can do to make your patients more comfortable:

  • Be warm and friendly.
  • Show empathy towards their situation.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Ensure the patient feels heard and understood.
  • Be as clear as possible about treatment options.
  • Offer opportunities for the patient to ask questions.

Regardless of the illness, it’s good to follow up with patients to see how they’re doing.  

9. Schedule Follow-Up Appointments

Your virtual receptionist can use your appointment-setting service to schedule follow-up appointments with your patients. Whether it’s for in-person treatment or another virtual consultation, these follow-up appointments will ensure your patients get the treatment they need. 

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

Wrapping Up

Virtual appointments will continue to increase moving forward. An easily accessible and well-structured virtual appointment process helps you provide quality medical care when your patients need it most. It’s important now more than ever for you to embrace virtual appointments as part of your medical practice. 

Smiledog helps small businesses scale by freeing up their time and improving their overall customer experience with a reliable, specialized team of experts that handle booking your patients’ appointments and answering their calls. Reach out to us to learn more about our appointment setting and virtual receptionist services.

Appointment Scheduling: 3 Benefits to Businesses in 2022

Appointment Scheduling: 3 Benefits to Businesses in 2022

According to Forbes, 75% of consumers say they would be more likely to visit a business in person if they have an appointment than without one. 

This means that customers today want the convenience of picking a time that works for them to visit a business. So as a business owner it is crucial you give your clients a seamless way to connect with you. The pandemic has been the biggest accelerator in shifting to this type of personalized service and companies need to adapt in 2022 to ensure survival. 

The days of clients popping in during your office hours are over.

Appointment Setting: 3 Benefits to Businesses in 2022

Customers are now much more reluctant to give away their time. They want the certainty that when visiting a business someone is already scheduled to take care of them. This is simply the reality of what today’s consumers want. Quick and efficient customer service, on their time. 

A great way to help deliver that as well as relieve the pressure on your team is for your business to have a professionally trained receptionist answer the phone. So that when clients call they get a friendly welcoming voice who can answer all their initial questions then book an appointment with a specialist on your team. 

How can a business owner implement such a thing when hiring front-line staff has never been harder?  

That is where virtual appointment setting can be a huge asset for your business. It can give you the ability to provide quick and efficient customer service and eliminate the worry of hiring and managing new staff.

Let’s get into the 3 main benefits we at Smiledog believe virtual appointment setting can have for your business.

3 reasons your business needs virtual appointment setting

  1. Deliver quick and personalized service to your customers

The demand for quick personalized service has never been higher and the ability to maintain that with reliable staff who want to work has never been more difficult. A virtual appointment setting service solves both of those problems for you and more often than not, for less cost.

When your clients call they expect a person to answer and be able to help them. If you don’t, you’re putting your company’s reputation at risk every time a call goes unanswered. 

Having a person at the other end of the call gives your customers the personalized service they want. Someone who can quickly answer their questions and book them in is essential for building a trusted reputation for your company.

Appointment Setting: 3 Benefits to Businesses in 2022

A virtual service ensures that you always have a friendly welcoming voice who can help, delivered by a professionally trained team member

  1. Improve productivity while reducing costs

Book appointments while you’re in appointments. A virtual service gives you a full team of highly trained and skilled receptionists that are available on your clients’ time.

You no longer need to worry about calls going unanswered while you’re working with another client. The stress of realizing you’re losing customers by simply taking care of another is no longer a problem. You can now dedicate your time to the client in front of you and drastically improve your productivity.

In fact, answering phone calls yourself throughout your day severely hinders your productivity. You need someone to help handle and prioritize those calls to make sure you spend more time on activities to grow your business. What better way to help spark your company’s growth by freeing up your day and reducing the cost of your front-line staff at the same time.

Appointment Setting: 3 Benefits to Businesses in 2022

With a virtual appointment setting service pay for what you use and nothing more.

Let’s break this down on how it works exactly for us at Smiledog.

Our pricing is simple: your monthly base fee plus your minute rate. Completely pay as you go.

So if you used 116 minutes over the course of a month then this would be your cost breakdown: 

  • 2.29$/minute
  • monthly fee 149$
  • (2.29 x 116) = 265.64 + 149 = 414.64$

***an average booking call takes 2 mins***

There you have it, pay for exactly what you need and nothing more! If you would like a more detailed pricing list get in touch with us here

Now that you have a better understanding of how the pricing works for a virtual service it is easy to see how cost-effective it can be to implement a high level of personalized level of service for your clients without the heavy cost and time investment of employing a new full-time team member.

  1. Increase new revenue opportunities

Because a virtual receptionist is integrated with your booking software you can see how they are performing by simply checking the number of bookings made vs the number of calls they are taking. This allows you to keep them accountable and ensure they are making an impact. 

Appointment Setting: 3 Benefits to Businesses in 2022

Speaking about impact, you now have a fully professionally trained team of virtual receptionists at your fingertips to help you with customer service and manage your schedule. That is invaluable for a business owner who is trying to grow their business. Your virtual team will help you increase new revenue opportunities, improve customer satisfaction and reduce front-line admin costs, all in one go! You can now breathe easy knowing that your customers are cared for, the first time. 

No successful business owner has done it all alone and it has never been easier to get a great customer service experience behind your business. Your virtual team is waiting for you!

Wrapping up

Personalized virtual appointment setting is the way of the future because it allows you to deliver quick and personalized service, improve your productivity, reduce costs and achieve results to grow your business.

Outsourcing your reception and appointment setting to a virtual service expert is a much more tangible and cost-effective option for business owners in today’s market. It is quickly becoming the norm for many small businesses and it will continue to become more crucial in delivering the human voice back to our ever-increasingly digital world.

We would love to chat more about how we can help so get in touch with us today to schedule your free virtual appointment setting assessment  or learn more about our service here

5 Predictions on the Future of Customer Service

5 Predictions on the Future of Customer Service

We owe a lot of the comforts we take for granted to the First Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. Developments in coal, the steam engine, electricity, and petroleum took off quickly. 

All of these products had customers. Customers who had to walk to factories or write letters when they had complaints

But what if the complaint wasn’t immediately resolved? What if the customer forgot a document they needed? A long walk would have been for nothing. 

And the letters? Customers had to deliver them without certainty of getting a quick reply. This customer support process was largely inefficient with no foreseeable solution because technology was still in its infancy. 

Fast forward to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and we see that customer service has made giant strides. We’ve evolved from writing letters to automated and digital ways of handling customer inquiries, all thanks to progress in artificial intelligence (AI), video chat, message bots, virtual receptionist services, and many more.

But advancements in customer service technology usually come with a learning curve and incur costs. Nevertheless, they are usually worth it. 

Why? 

  • They improve the effectiveness of customer service professionals
  • They allow for better customer service delivery
  • They help customer service teams to retain clients, thereby increasing revenue. 

There’s no question that customer service technology will continue to grow and make support teams more efficient. And in this post, we’ll explore five predictions on what we believe customer service will look like in the future.

Let’s go.

5 Predictions on the Future of Customer Service

1. Omnichannel customer service will become a norm

These days, customers don’t rely on one single method to engage with brands. In fact, 67% use at least three different channels. While some of your customers are on social media checking out your services, others could be on review websites trying to decide if your services are right for them.

And these customers don’t want switches between channels to feel jarring. They want a seamless experience as they interact with your brand.

It’s no surprise, then, that a report by Adobe shows that companies providing strong omnichannel customer experiences enjoy 10% year-on-year growth and a 25% increase in close rates.

But why is omnichannel customer support so effective? 

Good question. 

Omnichannel customer service allows your business to eliminate communications silos that can harm the integrity of your brand. For instance, a customer could discuss a challenge through your website today. If they aren’t satisfied, they could communicate again, maybe via social media. Instead of making the customer repeat all they said during their web chat, an omnichannel experience helps you pull the previous customer interaction from your website, social channels, email, and more into a single view. In other words, you start conversing from where customers left off, which makes their experience smoother.

2. AI and bots will assist customer service reps, not replace them

Recent developments in machine learning-based NLP mean that AI can now understand sentiments in open texts. For instance, negative customer feedback on a review website can be turned into a support ticket automatically with AI. By responding swiftly, customer service agents could turn negative feedback into positive experiences. 

And bots? They function when humans can’t, like while the customer service team is asleep or unavoidably unavailable. They also improve self-service for customers and reduce expenses for business owners. How? By providing a repeatable and inexpensive method of addressing similar customer requests.

Advancements in AI and bots will continue. But this hasn’t come without fears among customer service professionals worried that their job will become obsolete. “Will customer service roles no longer be useful?” Of course not. They will remain useful as ever, adapt to technological changes, take on customer success roles, and help clients succeed with the product or service they sell.

3. Social media will become a standard customer service channel

Do you know that 54% of people had a more favourable view of brands that responded to customer service questions or complaints on social media? That’s huge. And since many people like getting responses on social media, customer service professionals will continue to adapt to meet this need. 

Going forward, businesses won’t rely on social media just for ads. Active social listening will take center stage, and rapid responses to customer inquiries and challenges will become the new viral ads.

The results of such publicity? Happy customers start talking, other customers start liking and commenting, and the brand gets free visibility to new prospects who spend 144 minutes daily on social media and messaging apps. Customers now live on social media, so meeting them where they spend more than two hours of their day will be the norm in the future.

4. Customer service will become increasingly personalized

Customers give a lot of their personal information to businesses. In return, they expect businesses to use their information to provide them with personalized experiences. Research by Epsilon proves this is true as 80% of customers want personalized services

Personalized service is a trend that will continue long into the future, especially as customer support tools become smarter. Advancements in these support tools will allow customer service reps to access a customer’s recent interactions and provide a personal touch when interacting with them. Personalization is markedly different during online and offline interactions. 

Online, support teams can personalize a customer’s experience by using the browsing history of customers to know and display their preferences. Offline, this could be a customer support rep who uses live voice messages to communicate with clients instead of automated messages that are impersonal. An example would be a wake-up call in hotels. 

Providing personalized services seems like a good idea. But how does it impact your bottom line? 

According to Econsultancy, 80% of companies report seeing an uplift since implementing personalization. Also, companies using advanced personalization report a $20 return for every $1 spent.

5. Customer support specialists will be in high demand

As technological advancements continue, customer support reps will start carving niches for themselves. New roles will emerge, and reps with specialized skills and knowledge will provide better support. For instance, customer support reps that are excellent in handling social media inquiries could become social media support specialists. Those who know how to take customers through a sign-up process could become onboarding specialists. 

How about those who are great with answering calls and scheduling appointments? They have their place as well. At Smiledog, we have many of these niched customer service team members who prioritize excellent customer experience above everything.

Ready for the Future of Customer Service?

The future of customer service is bright, especially for business owners who want to use technology to drive customer retention and revenue. Technological advancement and specialized customer service teams provide greater efficiency. This allows business owners to worry less about daily administrative tasks and gives them more time to focus on their customers.

Smiledog is a team of professionally-trained receptionists who are dedicated to providing your clients with a positive customer experience — even when you can’t be reached. We handle answering your phone and scheduling your appointments so you can focus on maximizing reach with marketing, provide quality service to your clients, and ultimately grow your business. 

Connect with a Smiledog representative to learn more.

Why Specialized Customer Service Is the Way of The Future

Why Specialized Customer Service Is the Way of The Future

The research doesn’t lie.

Nextiva’s customer service stats show that excellent customer service is essential for getting more clients and increasing your practice’s revenue. According to the data, businesses that provide positive customer experiences have 4-8% higher revenue than the competition. And as the customer experience grows more positive, customer retention gets an automatic boost.

The result? Profit growth of 25% to 95% when customer retention rates reach 5%. Cha-ching! Not bad, huh?

Here comes the sad part.

One-third of customers would consider switching businesses after just one instance of subpar customer service.

No mistake with customer service
Source

Bad customer experiences begin when you’re unable to hear your clients’ needs. According to Salesforce, 66% of your customers expect you to understand their unique needs and expectations. For many customers, the first step in having their needs met starts with a phone call. Sadly, many of these first calls don’t get answered and go right to voicemail.

The worst part? 

80% of callers who reach voicemail do not call back. Instead, they call your competitors. The outcome of these missed calls is a loss of up to $60,000 yearly. That’s huge.

But you can avoid such losses. 

How? 

By responding swiftly to customer inquiries with the help of specialized customer service providers.

The Demand for Specialized Customer Service Providers

If you’ve been differentiating your business from others based on price, you’re doing it wrong. According to PWC, customers are willing to pay a 16% price premium on products and services, provided they can have an excellent customer experience.

So why do customers prioritize quality customer experience instead of the product or service they want? Competition. 

Over the years, entrepreneurs created many businesses. For instance, the U.S had 27.9 million small businesses in 2010. Fast forward to 2021, this number has risen to 31.7 million

As more businesses spring up, customer options expand. 

The result? Your customers’ expectation is now higher because they know your competitor is around the corner. Today, 73% of consumers say that customer experience helps to drive their purchase decisions. This means you can’t afford to play catch up when it comes to providing services that delight your clients. 

Your customers want quick, friendly, consistent, and convenient customer service. And frankly, they don’t care if you have a million clients to attend to. They want you to answer their call and treat them as a priority, EVERY SINGLE TIME. 

But do you have the time to answer every client’s call? The answer is “No.”

That’s why you may need specialized customer service providers to help you take calls, book appointments, fill and maintain your pipeline with a consistent inflow of prospects and customers.

Benefits of Specialized Customer Services

Specialized customer services provide a ton of benefits to your business. Let’s explore a few.

1. Increased employee productivity

Call volume can skyrocket to unmanageable proportions quickly. So what do you do when that happens? Assign an employee to take the calls? Wrong

Doing that will negatively impact the employee’s productivity and hinder their ability to perform their core functions effectively. In fact, the American Psychological Association says, “Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity.” Shuttling between client calls and regular job responsibilities isn’t the best for your employees or your business. 

If you want to retain optimal employee productivity, consider outsourcing your appointment scheduling to virtual receptionists. Why? You’ll be helping your employees to focus on their job, do what they love, and increase your revenue.

In other words, you’ll have happier employees. Happier employees are more productive, and research proves it.

Why employees feel burned out

A study conducted by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School tracked several workers in British telecoms BT’s contact centers over a series of weeks. What did they find? The happy workers were 13% more productive.
Many factors like unclear and constantly changing expectations or priorities can reduce employee morale and make them unhappy.

That isn’t good for any business. And when you saddle an unhappy employee with taking customer calls (as an extra responsibility), their unhappy vibes could trickle down to your customers. This prevents the customer from getting the best attention to their needs.

Specialized customer service providers ensure your employee morale is always high. How? By becoming your virtual customer service team and treating customer inquiries immediately and with a smile. The plus? You’ll increase your capacity to book new appointments without the need for additional staff and costs.

2. Improved customer interactions

Every interaction with a customer is a chance to build trust, and once you establish trust, the customer is likely to stay engaged. But you can’t develop trust with your clients if you keep missing their calls. In fact, you could lose their trust when you keep sending their calls to voicemail. What if they have an emergency? Voicemails can’t help. Specialized customer service providers like Smiledog help businesses to immediately engage their customers. But don’t take our word for it. Hear it from Integrative Health Institute:

The good news is, you can get specialized customer services for your business at a fraction of what it would cost to hire an in-house receptionist.

How?

  • Save on overhead: Specialized customer services allow you to pay as you go. You only pay for what you use.
  • Eliminate recruitment cost and time: How long did it take you to find your last employee? A week, two, a month, three months? That’s a lot of time, plus the new hire may not be a fit for your business. Using specialized customer services gets you pre-screened additions to your team. And if the person doesn’t work out, you will have access to a replacement with no downtime or additional training required.
  • Minimal training: Want to skip the hassle of time-consuming and expensive onboarding? Specialized customer service providers help with that. For instance, Smiledog trains its team extensively so that they can step into your organization and begin doing the hard work of managing your customers.
  • Minimize opportunity cost: The cost of missing a call amounts to thousands of dollars. A specialised customer service agent prevents that.
  • Increased productivity: Time is money. Having a specialized customer service agent in your team means you have more time to focus on what moves the needle for your business — customer acquisition. 

3. Customer retention

Did you know that acquiring a new customer costs five times more than retaining an existing customer? SO convincing a new customer to do business with you is more expensive than trying to convert existing ones. Without someone who is trained and ready to take calls and set up appointments in your absence, your customer pipeline will bleed out new leads. 

Using specialized customer services doesn’t only get the customers in the door; it also helps you retain them. How? By making the specialized customer service provider a virtual arm of your business. This allows the customer service team to build on previous customer relationships and improve customer loyalty.

Like Jeff Bezos said;

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better.

Once the customer is delighted by your service, they’ll stay with you for much longer. 
And that’s what your business should strive for — loyal customers.

One-off client relationships aren’t sustainable. Loyal customers are the basis of non-stop repeat business. And how do you get loyal customers? It begins with the first phone call.

Wrapping Up

Overwhelming research shows that you need to take your customer experience seriously, and specialized customer service is the future. The good news is that you don’t need to spend money or waste time hiring more employees. Hiring virtual specialized customer service providers helps you cut costs, keep your customers happy, and allow your business to thrive. 

Doing this will improve your employees’ productivity, increase customer interactions, and positively impact your customer retention rates. 

Like to find out more about Smiledog’s specialized customer services? Schedule a free consultation with us today.