The medical spa is a unique aesthetics environment that is highly dependent upon new patient growth, patient retention, and conversion to other services. In an ever-changing and dynamic marketplace, successfully achieving these goals is what separates thriving spas from mediocrity. But how exactly do med spas meet these challenges? When careful attention is paid to customers at every touch point along the practice-client continuum, the challenge of cultivating new patients and converting and retaining existing ones can be met with fortitude and success. This article outlines critical touch points of the medical spa experience and lists ways to positively influence patients at every step of the process.
Internet. Not only is the Internet the first avenue of contact for most medical spa customers, it is often the platform from which the facility continues to interact. For these reasons, it is important to be sure that the spa’s online presence is fully optimized. Online engagement occurs most frequently via the spa’s website and within its social media conversations.
The website. Potential patients (and many existing patients) are likely to use the spa’s website to view provider credentials, shop service offerings, and review outcomes. The site is vital for offering directions and identifying the business brand. To be effective, the website must be optimized in the corresponding local area for the services that represent the majority of the business. If patients can’t “find” the med spa online, they probably won’t visit it in person.
Social media. While social media is fairly new to the medical spa scene, it has rapidly become a critical component of the medical spa marketing plan. Patients are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites talking about what they like. Because of this, it is critical to create appealing pages and write engaging and informative content that is meaningful to consumers. Most importantly, the spa must invite patients to engage with the practice and its social networks. Social media is a cocktail party, and it is vital to be on the guest list.
Telephone. The telephone is a key avenue of communication for medical spas. The patient’s first touch to your practice is via the phone 85 percent of the time. Make sure that the person answering phones is prepared to triage and answer basic service questions, trained to engage callers with information-gathering questions, able to quickly credential the medical spa and provider, and most importantly, is skilled in knowing how to invite callers to come in for appointments. When it is time to confirm a scheduled appointment, it is best for staff to call patients two days prior to their appointment. Live calls are a must; however, the use of email and text reminders can be an effective supplement. In addition, it is a good idea to keep a cancellation list of patients who can quickly fill in schedule gaps.
Grand entrance. First impressions are everything, so it is vital to wow patients walking through the front door for the first time with a remarkable atmosphere and great service. These customers will either like their experience and return with referrals, or the practice will never see them again. Patients pay for scheduled services, but they also pay for a spa-like tranquil feeling when they first walk into a facility. Make sure the first impression is a positive sensory experience. Many medical spas have aromatic or color themes that allow patients to feel at ease.
Check-in. At this touch point, it is important to engage and entertain patients while gathering useful information. When patients first arrive, greet them and offer them a treat or drink. Hospitality makes a huge difference when consumers are spending discretionary income. Office personnel should have a formalized dress code or wear medical spa uniforms/lab coats that match the look and feel of the spa. Make sure that the paperwork is easy to complete but provides necessary medical information as well as information for future marketing opportunities. Successful medical spas know that utilization of the cosmetic interest questionnaire (CIQ) and a patient treatment plan are essential. The CIQ allows patients to document the reason for their visit and what symptoms are bothering them. The patient treatment plan allows the medical spa to outline the order and timing of services for the patient. Make sure all forms are presented to the patient in a formal and professional package. Another paperwork best practice is to post these forms on the facility’s website so that patients can complete them prior to their visit. This manages office visit time and can improve flow and efficiency as well as the quality of information provided by the patient.
Waiting process. Whenever and wherever patients must wait, be sure they are surrounded by material that markets the practice and its providers, products, and procedures. A credentialing wall of fame in the lobby and each of the service rooms is a great idea. Include education, training, and certifications of all providers, and, where applicable, the staff. In addition, provide patients with plenty of reading materials, but make sure the material tells them about the practice and its providers and services rather than the most recent Hollywood break-up. If the medical spa carries retail- or medical-grade skin care products, make sure they are visible during the patient’s visit. Shelf talkers and product or service brochures are an additional educational value that add to both the waiting room and the service room environments.
Rooming. Staff should think in terms of using “concierge mentality” when rooming patients. First names should be used when calling patients back for their appointments, and staff should continue to use patients’ names while conversing with them throughout the rooming process. It is also important that staff introduce themselves to patients at this time, and let them know if they can expect a bit of a wait. If there is a wait, patients should have reading material (i.e., before and after books and product literature) and know where to find the restrooms. Patients should feel “at home” when visiting a medical spa.
Consultation. The best thing about patient paperwork is that it illustrates exactly what the client wants. The worst thing about patient paperwork is that it is often overlooked. Talk to patients about all of their aesthetic interests and medical limitations and then provide the best aesthetic fit. Be a patient’s “one-stop-aesthetic shop.” Another recommendation—make sure that these findings are shared with the provider prior to the visit. Dissatisfaction with the spa is instantaneous when patients feel as if they haven’t been heard or need to continually repeat their interests. A quick “huddle” in the hallway between MA and consultant or consultant and provider is a great solution that keeps everyone on the same page and ensures patient satisfaction.
Provider services. In a nutshell, the blueprint of a provider’s process can be summed up in three words: confirm, deliver, and plan. A review of the CIQ plus a clear understanding of what has already been discussed with the patient should be the provider’s “permission slip” to enter the room. When the provider visits with the patient, the key action item is to confirm the previously discussed plan or treatment of action, deliver the service to the expectations of the patient, and confirm the next steps in the patient treatment plan. Providers should be sensitive to both the patient’s time and med spa flow and efficiency issues, and address the CIQ quickly and to the patients’ expectations.
Checkout. The best way to solidify patient retention is to address, confirm, and finalize patients’ expectations by revisiting the CIQ and scheduling patients for their next appointments based on the noted recommendations. If they have retail skin care needs, make sure these are addressed and provided at checkout. Be sure to educate patients about the products in easy-to-understand terminology. For instance, rather than using medical terminology, use layman’s terms like “dry, mixed, or oily skin,” “acne,” “redness,” and “brown spots.”
Follow-up. Ongoing engagement with patients is what turns them into lifelong customers and advocates. With the ultimate goal being retention, your follow-up objectives should be to sell additional services and products by providing information that will inspire patients to visit your practice regularly. The CIQ allows you to continually reach out to clients and market additional services and products to their expressed aesthetic needs.
Customer Is King
In today’s marketplace, it is important to remember the age-old adage, “The customer is king.” Patients have higher expectations than in the past and are price- and customer service-sensitive more than ever before. For this reason, medical spa clientele must be courted and engaged at every touch point in the patient-practice continuum. Asking patients what their concerns are and then delivering solutions every step of the way will create the patient partners and fans necessary to grow these businesses through patient retention and referrals.
Heather Peffley and Kim Blackwell are management consultants with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group, of Allergan, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company based in Irvine, CA.