1) Make sure the person answering your phone knows what to do. If you do that, you are going to get more patients.
2) In order to know how your effective your staff is at answering the phone, you have to measure it. Here’s what Jerry measures (download his call log below):
- Who answers the call.
- Who referred you to physical therapy
- How did you come about scheduling with us for physical therapy
- If they don’t schedule, why didn’t they.
3) Fact: The number of patients that call you are not the number of patients that end up on your schedule. The difference between calls and booked new patients is your conversion rate.
4) Your conversion rate should average to about 70-75%.
5) You can improve this rate by:
- Tracking your conversion rate (what gets measured, gets managed)
- Working on the conversation (script) your staff uses when someone calls
- Looking at the reasons people are not scheduling and make decisions on them
6) Download Jerry’s Call Log Template Below to start getting more new patients without spending more on marketing today (at the top or bottom of this post).
Here’s the Full Transcription:
Carl: Ok today am here with Jerry Durham co-founder of San-Francisco Sport and Spine and the founder of Rocket Conversion, Jerry is all over the place on twitter if you follow him on twitter I’m sure you hear a lot about PT and also a lot about loving and hating the San-Francisco Giants how are you doing Jerry?
Jerry: I am doing very well how are you doing Carl? [Inaudible 0.28]
Carl: I am feeling good about the Eagles, they look good this year, alright so what we are here to talk about today is a way that you can make, you can get more new patients without spending more money on marketing but before we do that we will just get a little background on Jerry, so Jerry how did you get into private practice?
Jerry: I have been a physical therapist I am in my 21st year I believe I have lost track so somewhere around 21. I have been in practice for around 12 years [Inaudible 01.09] stumbled into it and just continued to learn every single day, doesn’t go by where am not learning something new so it’s been 12 years of private practice.
Carl: Awesome sounds great
Jerry: Do you want more?
Carl: No, no that’s good so yeah like I said we are here to learn you have a way of potentially getting more new patients without potential of spending money on marketing how do you do it?
Jerry: Basically A, number one make sure your answering your phone make sure the person answering your phone knows what to do when they answer the phone if you do that you’re going to get more patients without spending another dime on marketing, it’s that simple
Carl: ok you know I know you are tracking some of those things why is it important to keep track of that?
Jerry: well I think as physical therapists we understand very well if you measure it you can change it and if you don’t measure something you can’t measure the change, so if am measuring all the phone calls that come into my office from September 1st to September 30th I’m tracking four five different things then I can start to measure some change and see why people are or aren’t scheduling with me.
Carl: So what are like the basic things that you track like the three, you know like the top three?
Jerry: The top three so, interestingly enough I track number one who answers the call and you usually have to see if there’s a pattern there “[Right]” the second thing that I track is that would be important is who referred you to physical therapy, third thing is how did you come about scheduling with us for physical therapy and then the forth thing is if they don’t schedule with you why not? Those are the top four important things.
Carl: Gotcha, so you said basically that you know, people could be losing a lot of new patients on the phone you know, I think most people probably think that they are probably converting 100% of the people that call to patients so like what do you say to that?
Jerry: Well what I found after talking to hundreds, I would hope more, started with myself and then talking to hundreds of business owners is basically we say we track the calls and when I ask how many calls you got this month it equals exactly the number of new patients that are on their schedule so I say ok you are tracking the calls of the people who schedule with you, what’s happening on the calls when the people don’t schedule with you, what are you collecting on those people because some famous quotes out there but actually you have more to learn from the people who aren’t scheduling with you than who are scheduling with you “[Right right]” and those extra new patients come without spending, without spending any money called your office and hung up and nobody asked them the right questions to get them scheduled.
Carl: Wow, so how big of a difference does the conversation make well generally?
Jerry: well this is interesting literally, I had this conversation with someone this week if you are not measuring your phone calls today and you never have then wherever I give you is irrelevant “[right]” because just like in a physical therapy evaluation, if I didn’t measure your shoulder flextion on day one, I can’t measure it 8 weeks later and say how great it is or how bad it is.
Jerry: Based on that you should see…so basically your measuring conversion, lead conversion is what it is. So if someone calls my office my point is they are calling to schedule physical therapy so if I get a hundred calls this month and seventy five of them schedule my mean conversion rate is 75% so roughly what am looking for, there’s a couple of factors, roughly you should average around 70-75% conversion rate anywhere, if you are measuring it, regardless of cash or taking insurance or regardless of your practice, you should be averaging around 75%.
Carl: Gotcha so this is really interesting I would expect most people would think they are converting way more than that so you know it seems if they are converting only 75% and there are I don’t know, even if they do a hundred patients just say they do a hundred new patients in the month even converting one more percent that’s a big difference right
Jerry: yea I would say so, yea this is interesting again because if you are not measuring it and you just heard 75% you’re like that’s stupid again if you think you are converting 100% I would challenge anyone out there to prove because it’s not happening right again 70- 75% is really good so yea let’s take an example, let’s say an average revenue per new patient is $1000 for you, so would you be happy [Interruption 06.39] If your revenue per case is $1000 and I could get you two new patients just by teaching you and talking to you, getting you to track those calls and have conversation, that’s $2,000 a month in revenue that $24,000 a year. I would like to find anybody in any State of the union who would not take more $24,000 in revenue a year.
Carl: yeah that’s huge that’s huge so this is really interesting I’m curious like…how did you get started like what made you decide start tracking this and how did you realize that it was important?
Jerry: the day, I’ll never forget this. I can’t tell you how long ago it was I’m a poor historian when it comes to time but I remember the story, the day I coincidentally walked by a one of my front office workers and I heard a phone conversation with a potential new client go this way and remember I can only hear her side of the conversation and I hear “oh you are out of network well its really expensive to come here when you are out of network with that insurance carrier so I would recommend you call someone that’s is in network”. Click. And I kept walking and to this day I still wonder if I heard what I think I heard but I did but it was that day when was like, oh my god, what kinds of conversations are having with people on the phone we were hiring front office people great good people great with the people in front of them one on one, Mrs. Jones walks in the office, awesome but we weren’t doing anything with their phone answering no training, no listening, no anything, no education no anything not and that’s when that thought really started and I worked on that before we started tracking the calls to be honest.
Carl: Right so what could they have done better right then like what’s one thing that they could have done better right then that could have been a new patient for you right?
Jerry: correct so there’s $1000 dollars of revenue out the door without even a chance of having it and I would argue Carl also just to clarify if that person is on the phone with my front office person, they should be a patient scheduling in the office, so by saying a patient that calls to ask do you take my Blue Cross Insurance and you say no and hang up by saying that wasn’t a potential new patient that’s completely wrong” [Yeah]” because that was a new patient and I can prove that. I can prove that at my own practice, I can prove that in other peoples practices just to clarify so any of those calls is a lost new patient if you hang up the phone without scheduling. One thing she could have done differently was, she had all the information because I guarantee you she had already written it down to call her back with that is, have a conversation about the doctor who referred her have a conversation about the friend that referred her, have a conversation about the value of coming to our practice will bring to her and let that patient make a choice of if that value is worth the price that they have to put on it. So just by having a conversation, so let’s say its Doctor Smith, oh yeah my doctor is Doctor Smith, so do we see a handful of Doctor Smith’s patients this month and you can say oh we see a lot of Doctor Smith’s patients and just start a conversation.
Carl: yeah and talk about what the customer cares about or the patient cares about talk about their pain I can see how that could be a big difference rather than just going straight to insurance which nobody likes to talk about insurance?
Jerry: yes its funny that’s 100…that’s a great statement you are exactly right no one wants to talk about insurance, so if you engage them in other things you are going to learn quickly what they value “[yeah]” and then if you have something to offer them you can share that with them, if you don’t then we help them find the right place and so yeah it’s got to be nobody wants to talk about insurance so why call back and talk about their fricking insurance, it’s a big mistake.
Carl: so you heard this happen at your practice you had somebody answer their phone and say no we don’t take that it’s really expensive for you to come here, click and goodbye, how did that progress from there?
Jerry: great question where it progressed…even before we started measuring the calls well they all probably came about at the same time, you know we at least started tracking the calls because what that led to is we got to find out how many…because all a sudden it struck me, that was a patient we could have scheduled you know where are they do we have them tracked in the system and we didn’t. So that started there and then it turned into making sure that everybody from top to bottom understood the value that we bring to patients, so that thing I was just telling you about so that everybody understood how to have a conversation and what to have a conversation about “[right]” that’s what flowed out of there.
Carl: cool and then at what point did you decide to start writing stuff down?
Jerry: that probably came about let’s say you know that conversation I heard was probably about it was probably about 7, 8 years ago. I would say we really started tracking things about…we probably started writing things down about 5 years ago but really serious to the point we are at now, only 4 years ago “[Ok so]” and that call log has evolved over time too.
Carl: gotcha, so you started tracking those basic things what have you learned by looking at that data coming in?
Jerry: oh boy that’s the big question the first iteration of my call log did not have a column called whom do we thank for sending you to us, it only had a column that said who do we refer to that the difference between those two columns that alone if you take that information right there and put that on a call log that will your marketing program more efficient and therefore giving you bigger ROI on your marketing plan, that simple thing everybody nods their heads and says yeah I do that but when you really break it down do you do that? We were just marketing to the people who signed the referral and it wasn’t correct you find out many times the doctors signs your referral and I found out about you from my friend Joe Smith, Joe smith is the one that needs the big thank you and then the doctor who signed the referral needs an introduction to my clinic.
Carl: Right so the difference between the two columns is yeah there could be a referring doctor that could have really heard about you through a friend or you know through a campaign you did a letter you sent out a commercial event?
Jerry: yeah great point so a lot of people almost everybody I know does community programs you’re doing something in the community, you’re giving free talks, you run…you do something with the running program we can name thousands of things and it’s awesome to see everybody out there, then how do you measure that return on investment you gave your time, you gave money, you gave some of your staff member’s times, maybe you gave people vacation time, how do you measure the return on that. That second column when somebody calls in to schedule. Yeah doctor so and so gave me the…signed my referral, oh who can we thank for sending you to us? Oh actually I was at your last running event. That is tracked on the call log and now you know that running event is generating at least one patient, you get to see how often you want to be involved in this community event. We have given up in some community events because there has been no return and I talking about a quarter out, I’m not just saying after 1 month.
Carl: yeah ok so you’re taking calls and the people are writing down the patient’s name they are writing down who referred them how they really heard about you and from that you are able to kinda see you know what marketing efforts are actually bringing in new patients and which ones are not, correct?
Jerry: correct and what that has caused us to do more than anything else and is the hardest thing to do is to stop marketing to some groups, stop marketing to some providers again, stop some community projects that we were involved in, so it told us where not to spend our time also. So you work one month ok, two months, a quarter you know you have been spending time going by doctor’s office trying to meet people in the office and a quarter later you have spent time and money on them and you say you know what, they can get the direct mail and they can do this and that but we are not going to make them…we have three levels of providers we are not going to make them top tier level provider and treat them the same way as other people who send us patients.
Carl: what are the three levels of providers like how do you define that?
Jerry: you anybody you can call them whatever you want we call them A, B & C providers and it’s based on number of referrals per month “[ Gotcha ]” and we categorize that, so the A levels are the top providers.
Carl: Gotcha so from this data you can essentially see what marketing is working and what’s bringing in new patients and what’s not working so effectively if you stop doing what’s not working and do spend that money on what’s working you’re going to bring in more new patients it’s as simple as that?
Jerry: yeah so you’re starting to go down another rabbit hole that I love to talk about too, which is a schedule ready referral “[ok]” if you take some of that money that wasn’t working before like you just said, put it into some of those people that you see from that second column are actually using you by name, that person is calling your office and he has already prepped to schedule the amount of work you have to do, the conversation that you have to do has already been had before they even call the office that right there is the magic to have that schedule ready referral “[yeah so that’s awesome]” And I would argue that the ROI on that dollar is even greater, so you just took it, you stopped a program and put it into that doctor.
Carl: have you ever looked at it in a way to find like the actual type of patient you want to see? Like your ideal patient?
Jerry: that’s interesting, the way we work is we more identify that’s a good question because we identify the ideal provider” [ gotcha]” and I’ll elaborate this point, a lot of people watching this video are in direct access States and market directly to public “[Yeah]” California is a direct access State “[gotcha]” and still the providers are a huge leverage point regardless if you are in direct access State or not there’s an Ortho doctor who is going to see 40 or 50 people today, send half of them to physical therapy so one person is going to see 25 people that could potentially be your patients. So what we have done is we have identified the ideal provider and again if they really believe in us and we have spent our time and our energy sharing our value with him he is sharing it with the patient sitting across from him or her and by the time that patient calls our office, whether they are in network or out network, no insurance, cash pay whatever they are going to schedule with us and I we see it all the time, I have more out of network patients than I ever have.
Carl: that’s great so ok, you are tracking the calls and we got to talking about you know where your patients are coming from and you know we got to talking about the referral I mean not the referral the conversion rate of calls to new patients being on average 75%, what other things have you done to try and improve that number and what can be like what’s possible?
Jerry: that last column I mentioned earlier we haven’t addressed and that is where this comes in “[ok]” when…I’m trying to think when I started measuring this I do not remember to be honest buts it’s probably been about only three years the, Reason not Scheduled column. “[gotcha]” What we did was that was an open column you just typed in whatever the frick, the person told you, after about a year or two we realized everything fell into three categories. There was only three reasons basically that people didn’t schedule so now we have a drop down menu and you choose one of the three what that does then Carl, to answer that question that then tells me where I have to spend my time and energy and that is already tipping me off to what conversation I have to have with some of the providers or even better, it tells me what conversations I need to have with people that call in, who start to lean to one of those excuses ”[gotcha]” so that really shapes the conversation between my front office staff and I use that as training and then that new patient says well and that’s a lot of money and my staff knows to go down a certain path if they hear that because we’ve tracked that.
Carl: gotcha that’s awesome, so you are basically in I don’t know real sales training learning to track with the objections are and that’s basically the reason not to schedule is the objections so in the conversation you can kind of train your staff to kind of know what those objections are and how to handle them and bring it up to the front end and really affect that conversion rate?
Jerry: you know what’s funny Carl you mentioned the front office dealing with those objectives you said no one wants to talk about insurance earlier you know who else doesn’t want to talk about insurance anybody’s front office “[ yeah]” because it’s so uncomfortable. You ought to see the look on some of my staff’s face when you pull up some of these plans before they even call people back because they know oh my God that’s horrible coverage I’m going to have a horrible conversation, it’s like no you’re not you’re going to give them the benefits and you’re going to talk about the value that we bring and that patient has a choice right so even my staff will start to, you know they already start to empathize and sometimes too much with that person on the other end of phone, we have to give the patients a chance to choose what we have found out if the patient is given a chance to choose they will spend $150 dollars a visit they’ll spend $75 a visit they’ll…you know we have payment plans in place so we know that’s a reason people don’t schedule so we have set up certain conditions that will allow people to say I can’t afford it. So afford it hey we have got a payment plan, hey we can do this, hey we can do that, hey we are going to get you quicker and I do have the data to prove we’re going to get you out quicker “[yeah]” so the difference between $175 visits in someone else that’s in network maybe a mood point.
Carl: cool that’s awesome so it’s so simple that’s the best thing about it like so this isn’t its not rocket science anybody can do it they can start you know today they can take an excel spreadsheet they can or Google doc they can throw it up and talk to their front desk and say anybody who answers the phone type in their name, type in their referral source, type in where they really came from, sorry I forgot how you worded it exactly and then the reason they did not schedule and from that like let’s talk about the data a little bit, like what else can you get from that you get you look at the conversion rate like how many people didn’t schedule and you said that’s like 75% and I guess you can like break down any kind of chart you might want to see where people are really coming from as well?
Jerry: So that’s…so then we take that 25% and break that down into those 3 categories, then I also track, I track referrals who signed the referrals, so I track that down because I use that as a touch point now we go out we call or we email or we are going physically to that office, hey we got one of your patients I just want to let you know am Jerry from San-Francisco Sport and Spine you know we are happy to take care of your patients and then turn around and walk out, no hard sale no send me more patients, no nothing and then the magic again is that column how did you come about, who can we thank for recommending us, that’s the column that we really engage thank them, reach out to them why did you recommend it.
I use it to gather more data, why did you recommend us what did you find…what did you like about us, what didn’t you like about us, so I use it to collect more data.
Carl: so if you…can you give an example of like a time that you went out and asked that question and well what did that do for you when you asked that question or what can it do for you?
Jerry: now the key is not to offend a lot of people out there, we all believe that our magical clinical skills are the end all, be all of the marketing program and I will leave it at this unfortunately they are not and the people who leave up to that don’t thrive and they create jobs for themselves and they have a difficult time. I’m here to say that those clinical skills ultimately makes the perfect relationship with someone those clinical skills do not get people in the door. So what I learnt from those conversations Carl is what information I need to share to have to get people to call my office or I build my value proposition…Jerry you had the best front office people I have ever met in health care I literally heard that two weeks ago and then when I got here my PTT came up and graded me in the waiting area right tell me the best thing about your experience with us, 12 visits later those are the two things, so I’m not going to go out and market clinical skills to people, I’m going to tell them, our people respect you, our people want to talk to you, our people answer the phone right, our people want to engage you and learn more about you they want to learn what you want to achieve, those are the things I market after those conversations, so I learnt what’s my value so that’s the value I’m sharing with the public.
Carl: that’s awesome yeah that totally makes sense, I mean somebody could not get better and still recommend you.
Jerry: and those…I have those people, I will never forget the first time I ever saw someone’s name on the log that I had treated that I knew didn’t get better, it scrambled my brain, why the hell are they recommending you, why would someone who didn’t get better recommend someone, yeah it was so confusing to me. Yeah it was it was just about someone who listened, it was about engaging, it was about empathy it was about answering the phone.
Carl: Got it, that’s awesome so let’s talk about numbers for a second again, so if somebody is not tracking this at all and then they start tracking it and they are not paying attention to the way the script works at the front desk at all, what do you think is like a realistic improvement that somebody could make by just doing this step by recording those things that you said and trying to just improve that conversation what’s realistic if they are at 70% or 75%?
Jerry: I like…I’m not good at math which my business partner will attest, so I rather say let’s say you have a 100 calls, so you have a 100 calls and I alluded to this earlier I will damn near guarantee 99.9% certainty, if you just sat at the front one day and you changed the conversation that you will see two new patients and actually when I say two new patients if you are getting a hundred calls a month I would argue you will get two new patients next week and then probably the week after so through the month you will probably get 4 to 6 new patients and so you’ll get a 4% improvement in that month, 4 to 6. And again if you’re not mainstreaming we can’t talk and I know I keep saying but I don’t want people to sit there and think you can’t do that for me, if you are not measuring, you have to start measuring now. And then…
Carl: so let’s talk about that what would peoples objections be to measuring do you think, so you can try to clear that and help people get started with this?
Jerry: well,”[ Like the time it’s going to take up too much time more]” I think there’s a little resistance, you don’t want to know what business your losing I mean that’s the worst thing and even I after five years I keep looking at that call log and then periodically seeing some of the providers drop off and I sit there thinking what did I do wrong so there’s that part there’s a time component and by the way if you have had somebody sitting at your front desk for a few years they maybe resistant to change and you may not want to try to change what they are doing because you know there is going to be too much push back, so the key is to make this call log which we did the first time, the columns across if you didn’t know it and you just wrote as the question rote, r.o.t.e. repetition on it, it should flow like a conversation so make it easy for your front office people to complete this thing and to do it properly “[gotcha]” and it takes…let’s face it, that’s the one aspect you know, we never get back so you got to make time for it.
Carl: yeah you got to make time for it but I mean how much extra time it is going to take they are already talking on the phone and they can’t really multitask any more than that if all they have to do is write down this four things and those sales during each call and management or whoever has to look at it and digest that you know doesn’t seem like too much to ask for potentially if you are seeing a hundred new patients a month you know four grand more a month or whatever it comes to if it increase by 4% “[right that’s a lot of money]” yeah it is that’s huge?
Jerry: that’s a lot of money…for some of us four grand a month that pays for your front office person by the way, you just covered the salary for the front office person right or more so, here is something else to think about, if your front office is engaging someone in a conversation before they walk in the office they have learned something about them the patient coming in has learned something about your front office and your practice and it makes it far more comfortable for everybody when they are coming in that first time you already feel like you know someone I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t want to feel like they know someone walking in the door the first day, especially the patients. The patient is in pain you can’t do what you want to do, it’s a new experience you don’t know what physical therapy is, you have never been to the office and you walk in the door and you like oh your Sarah that’s great to finally put a face, you know a face to the voice you know and have that conversation from day one. I mean the only thing that is going to set us off day in day out consistently is customer service so it’s a huge customer service component.
Carl: gotcha that’s awesome, so let’s wrap this up, so if somebody were just about to get started today let’s make it really easy for them what would you suggest they do today, they are doing nothing?
Jerry: pull up Google docs create about six columns, start with the date so we have a column for the date the first two initials of the person who took the call, the patients’ the potential patients name, birthday, phone number, who signed your referral, who can we thank for…who can we thank for referring you to us and then if they don’t schedule fill in a reason that’s it”[gotcha]” and you can create that you pull up a new Google sheet and then take it to you front office and say hey while you are on the phone with this patient fill this data in.
Carl: awesome, that sounds great so yeah lets…do you have any other parting advice for people before we wrap up?
Jerry: it’s kinda the same thing I started with, if you are measuring it you can change it and you can improve it and if you are not measuring it or you are not measuring it completely you can’t make a change so I’m start measuring every single call that’s comes in the office even the person who says I’m calling to see if you take Blue Cross Insurance because that person right there is a huge loss opportunity.
Carl: this has been amazing Jerry thanks so much, where can people find you if they want to contact you?
Jerry: my email is email@example.com you find me at twitter@jerry_Durahampt and you can call my cell phone 41550939586 I’m always very happy to talk about this stuff
Carl: awesome yeah, I will put all that in the notes below the video so that people can get to it and the can contact you and obviously we went over just over the tip of the iceberg here today so if people are interested and they like this let us know and we will maybe continue and do another entire interview on the conversation itself and maybe get more into the data, sound good?
Jerry: you got it you got it you got to collect the data you got to be measuring your KPIs you’ve got to do it if you want to make that practice successful and you want to grow you got to be collecting all this data and your KPIs.
Carl: awesome alright thanks Jerry “[Thank you Carl]”