First impressions count – which is why it’s important to master the initial consultation, writes Nafisa Mughal.
As clinicians we tend to focus a lot of our efforts on clinical work, and rightly so – we want to have the best treatment outcomes for our patients.
But even before we get to treat them, we need to master the initial consultation. This is the deciding factor; if the patient is going to be a patient of ours in the first place.
Give them a history
I know this might make you cringe (it made me too at first) but don’t be afraid to give your patients a brief biography.
If you have been seeing patients for a long time, tell them. If you’re great at lip fillers and they’re booked in for lips, tell them! This really gives you credibility and often makes them feel more confident in your skills.
For each new patient consultation, I introduce myself with my name. The number of people who don’t introduce themselves when they meet a new patient is surprising. Just think: if you were out and met a new person, you’d tell them your name, right?
Then I confirm their booking. This gives them a chance to mention it if they want to talk about anything else. I can’t tell you the amount of times I book patients in for one thing and then they end up having that treatment plus a whole host of others.
I then give them my biography. This includes how long I have been practising and the fact that I teach other medical professionals facial aesthetics. This not only adds weight but can also make them feel at ease and assured they are in safe hands.
Practise your biography and next time you’ve got a new patient consultation, try it out.
Tony Robbins said: ‘Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world, to make him feel that you understand him, that you have a strong common bond.’
Nowadays we aren’t able to shake someone’s hand or offer them a warm drink at the consultation. But don’t let that stop you building rapport.
We can still look our patients in the eyes, and make sure we are really engaged with them, listening to their reasons for treatment.
Make it about them
After your introduction, focus on making the appointment about the patient.
I have gained many patients from practitioners who treated what they thought was the problem, rather than treating what the patient sees as the problem first, leaving the patient feeling disappointed in their results.
For example; if a patient comes in with a deep line between their eyebrows, but wants their lips treated, where do you think I’ll be starting? The lips, of course.
Do not fall victim of the ‘what do you think I need?’ question that patients often ask. My answer to this is asking them what bothers them the most and going from there.
Ask open-ended questions. This may sound obvious, but it’s important to emphasise the importance of open-ended questions, like: ‘How can I help?’ ‘What brings you in to see me?’ ‘What bothers you?’
These are all great for getting the patient to open up and start talking about why they are there. Try to avoid closed (‘yes or no’) questions. These tend not to get much information out of the patient and can seem confrontational or intimidating.
The ultimate question – the one that you absolutely have to ask – is: ‘Is there anything else that bothers you?’
I’ve lost count of the number of patients that have ended up going for other treatments after answering this question. And I don’t just mean facial aesthetics treatments.
If you’re working from a dental practice, the patient might mention they want teeth straightening or restorative work.
Even if it’s not you that does the treatment, it’s great to keep that patient in-house and create extra income for the practice. Keep asking this question until they have given you everything that bothers them. Then start working down that list.
To close the consultation, ask the patient if you have covered everything and if they have any further questions. Also let them know how to reach you if they suddenly think of something that they forgot to ask, as this tends to happen commonly.
The fortune is in the follow-up
How many times have you followed up on a patient after a consultation? We all know how busy everyone is and that life gets in the way. A simple follow-up email or phone call could be the difference between that patient booking in and you never seeing them again.
Keeping it light-hearted and personal is always a winner: ‘Mrs Jones, it was lovely to meet you on 14 September. I just wanted to catch up with you and ask if everything made sense or whether you have any questions?’
Again, aim for open-ended, and then you can ask if they are ready to book in.
If now is not the time, for whatever reason, let the patient know that’s not a problem and ask their permission to catch up with them in a couple of months.
Assuming they say yes (which most people do) make a note in the diary to contact them a couple of months from now.
If I was a potential patient, I’d be blown away by this level of customer service.
Most people do not do this and by missing it out are letting so much treatment walk out of their clinic.
Nafisa Mughal has been offering facial aesthetic treatments since 2010 and has her own aesthetics clinic, Puremed Aesthetics. She is also a trainer and mentor for non-surgical facial aesthetics with Botulinum Toxin Club and runs training courses on these topics and more for dental professionals. If you would like to contact Nafisa or are interested in offering treatments and wish to train you can email her on [email protected].
This article first appeared in Aesthetic Dentistry Today magazine. You can read the latest issue here.