The Bottom Liine Ep. 12

What healthcare practices get wrong about phone training

“Specialty healthcare may be the only industry that I can think of where there’s this much money being spent on leads that are this valuable…but where the people handling lead intake are not trained, monitored, and incentivized.”

On this episode, we discuss some common mistakes practices are making with lead intake phone training. We also cover the ideal mindset and strategy for retaining control and improving outcomes. Before co-founding Liine, Charlie Winn professionally consulted healthcare practices, providing sales training to hundreds of staff members. He has also personally analyzed over 10,000 new patient phone calls to uncover best practices in lead-to-appointment conversions.



Ken: All right, we’ve got a very special guest on the bottom line today. You’ve seen him in every other episode. We got Charlie Winn. He actually knows a lot about staff training. So we’re going to talk about what practices get wrong with phone training today. Charlie, let’s make sure I’m not lying to the people. You want to tell them why you know a lot about staff training?

Charlie: Yeah, sure. I’d love to do that. So my sales career started in college. I sold educational books door to door for four summers. Why the hell would that have to do anything with staff training? It has to do everything with staff training, if that sentence makes sense. But it taught me how to simplify what you’re trying to do in a conversation with someone in a sales scenario.

When your team’s answering the phone or following up with leads, that is a sales scenario. I won’t say the word sales anymore because I think it’s a dirty word in healthcare, which it shouldn’t be, because that’s what people are doing. But that’s where my love for the psychology behind all this started.

And then before Liine, I was doing consulting for this type of stuff. And so that included training staff in specialty healthcare practices, just like the ones that work in the practices of our listeners, and I probably trained, maybe like 500-ish individual staff members. And then I have personally analyzed over 10,000 new patient calls.

So a big sample of what happens on the phone, and then when you implement certain training and protocols of how you handle a call, what does that actually do to a conversion rate? So I’ve basically studied that in my consulting years before we started Liine, and I think that’s why we’re talking about this.

Ken: Awesome! And just to kind of set the stage, I’m kind of repeating what you’ve said in past podcasts, I’ve heard you say before, but the issue here is really that healthcare is sort of unique in that a lot of practices are spending a lot of money on marketing. Patients have high value, but the people that actually take those leads are not always trained properly.

They’re not sales professionals, and they really should know what they’re doing. So let’s start from the beginning of the phone call. What’s the best way to start an incoming phone call?

Charlie: So true. I mean, there’s no other industry that I can think of where there’s this much money being spent on marketing to drive leads that are this valuable, right? If you’re in aesthetics practice, hundreds or thousands for the first treatment.

If you’re an oral surgery practice, a dental implant case could be 50,000. Like, this is big time revenue opportunity. And if you go into a software company like ours, and a 50,000 lead comes in, like, that’s, that is taken care of, right? So the people that are handling, there’s no other industry where the people that are handling that.

Like you said, don’t have training, they’re not monitored, they’re not incentivized. And when I think about the training for this, what that actually means is, the person doing this job, let’s just say of handling a new patient phone call, the training is that they know why, they know what to do, and they know why they’re doing it.

That’s it. And if you can change the mindset of your staff to understand that, That’s training. Now you got to give them some direction of what to do or what to say, which I’m about to start talking about. But if you were to go ask your staff, what is your job answering the phone when you talk to new leads, you would probably get a lot of different answers and the answer should just be to help people schedule.

So the first part of training is to train your staff to think that way. And if they think that way, like there’s so many other things that are going to be easier to fall into place. If they don’t think that way, then they’re never going to do what you ask them to do. Because they’re just going to react to questions and things that they’re getting.

So, the mismatch is the mindset of the person that’s doing this job is usually not, I’m trying to help people schedule. And if you don’t have that aligned, Then no matter how many things you tell them to say, it’s probably not going to happen.

Ken: Yeah. And I think the impact to the bottom line is huge and maybe not understood. So we’ve seen conversion rates for staff members below 20%. We’ve seen the best performers are 80 to 90%. So basically your marketing dollars can be four times as effective, right? If you’re training people the right way.

Charlie: Think about that again real quick. The same people doing the same job, right? The low performers are 20 percent high 80. That’s a huge difference. And that means that the way that your team thinks about why they’re answering the phone and what they’re saying has that much impact So that’s a really important statistic to remember, and why what we’re going to talk about today is critical.

Ken: Cool. Let’s go back three minutes. So I asked you,

Charlie: You wanna ask the question again?

Ken: I asked you is there a great way to start a phone call? Is there like a certain methodology to the beginning of the phone call?

Charlie: Yes. The short answer is every call after your team, when your team answers the phone, they should say their name. They should add in the practice statement. How can I help you? Then the caller says something like I need to schedule or do you offer this or what does this cost? There’s a million things they could say a hundred percent of the time.

This is the phrase. “I’d be happy to help you with that” So the answer to your question, how should they start the call? I’d be happy to help you with that I’m gonna explain why but if you don’t remember anything else from this episode. Tell your team to say I’d be happy to help you with that. Okay. What they what people do instead of doing that is based on whatever question the caller has. They start answering that directly because most people do have questions.

We’re talking about specialty healthcare. Some of you guys have insurance to a certain degree. A lot of you have none. So the mentality of the lead is as much consumer as it is patient and consumers care about cost and what is my experience going to be like and can you credential this person? And yada, yada, yada, right?

So, when the staff answers the phone, they hear that question, and then they go off talking about that topic to start with, right? So, pricing is probably the most common one. What does this cost? And then either, well, you’d have to come in for a consult, they start talking about that, or Well, it depends. And then they give you a range or the worst is like, I’m not allowed to tell you that, but they’re dealing with that question immediately.

And so now this call is about pricing. Okay.

Ken: Right on.

Charlie: Be happy to help you with that changes the game. Go ahead.

Ken: Yes I was just going to say anyone who’s watching this but didn’t see our episode with Dylan Kemna, we talked about pricing a lot in that episode. So I would maybe go back and visit that one. So that’s the kind of the intro to the call, right? What about, is that going to help us avoid the trap?

of the patient is asking question after question. How do we take control of the call so that it’s not just dealing with questions or the patient raising objections? How do we control the flow, pushing them towards the booking?

Charlie: Yeah. What I just said is the beginning of like a three part thing that does what you said, which is get control. So when I was doing consulting, we called this the initial response. You get a question or even a request. I want to schedule a hundred percent of the time. The initial response has three parts.

I’d be happy to help you with that. Have you ever been to our practice before? [00:08:00] How did you hear about us, right? And if someone’s been there before, welcome back, right? Oh my god, so glad you called. Then look up their chart and yada yada yada, right? And so why do those three phrases get you control?

It’s because the first one gives you the space to ask the questions that follow and when you’re asking questions, you are in control by default. Okay? So if you were to ask me, what does it cost to get body contouring? And I said, have you ever been here before? That feels like I’m kind of not going to answer the question.

You know what I mean? And so now it’s like, and that can get messy. When you asked me, what do you charge for body contouring? I say, Oh, I’d be happy to help you with that. You’re like, great. That’s what I called for. Right? So it’s like, it sort of gives you that space to then say, Oh, and have you been here before?

Oh my gosh, that’s cool. Well, how did you hear about us? Now I have complete control of the conversation. I could ask for your name and number and, you know, and all that stuff, which you should totally do. And then what I, like, there’s more stuff that needs to happen after that. But the biggest reason that some staff members have a higher conversion rate to the degree that we saw earlier as compared to others is they do the initial response.

The beginning of the conversation is everything. If you don’t do the initial response and you start answering the question. It’s insanely difficult to get the call refocused on booking.

Those are the magic phrases there.

Ken: Are there any other common, like, training mistakes or ways that people are being trained wrong?

Charlie: Yeah. So, here’s the biggest training mistake is everyone thinks about all of the credentialing and the stuff on the procedure and, you know, we picked the best lasers that’s fine. Right. I’m not saying that that isn’t additive to the conversation, but if your team doesn’t do the initial response.

That’s not going to matter almost every time

Ken: Mm.

Charlie: Because the call is already totally off path. And what that means is your team doesn’t have control over it. You can’t do things like credential effectively and talk about the experience that the patient’s going to have if you don’t have control. So the mistake is people focus downstream in the call, neglect the beginning, and then the staff is just reacting to the questions.

Never has control, can’t even implement the things they were trained on, right? And so they’re like, this doesn’t work, this doesn’t work. Because it doesn’t work because they neglected the beginning.

Ken: That makes a lot of sense. Now, we see a lot of times the staff have to take a message. They just don’t know the answer. They say, I’ll take a message and call you back. When is that necessary or how do we avoid that? Because that’s kind of a roadblock to the booking.

Charlie: Yeah, this is controversial sometimes. I mean, I think in general that happens. That happens a lot because there’s people that are new and they don’t know the answer to every question about all the services they have. And so instead of my job is to help people schedule and schedule a consult where they can get all the information as soon as they hear anything they don’t know about.

They go, Oh gosh, I don’t know what that is. So I’ve got to take a message. Right? So your team needs to be more and more knowledgeable about what you actually do, duh, because they’re not going to sound like they know what they’re talking about. But if your staff is focused on what I said before, which is I’m trying to help people schedule.

No matter what question I get, I’m going to get control of the call, the initial response, and then I can talk about the console and suggest it. They’re really not going to need to answer a lot of those questions, right? One of the things we saw in the consulting business that’s counterintuitive is oftentimes the staff at the practice who were the most experienced, like had been there the longest would have a much lower conversion rate after the training we did than the new people.

Ken: Hmm.

Charlie: And it’s because the new people didn’t know all of the answers to the questions and that benefited them because then they got really focused on the training, the beginning of the call, the initial response, and actually did it. Whereas the experienced people, which means they just know all the information, they got caught in the trap of answering all the questions to start the call.

And then the call got way off track and away from scheduling. So, if you have staff take a lot of messages, you probably… Are mistaking experience for you think experiences that matters as people know the answers to questions. And that’s not true because this is just trying to schedule consults.

Ken: Gotcha. How complex is this meaning do they really need to have a script in front of them at all times they go through, or is it really just like memorize these three components? We’re good to go. Like how, how difficult is this really?

Charlie: It should not be complicated at all. So it should be like a one pager that has, you need to have, there’s some other things. Maybe we can do follow up episodes of what do you do in the middle and the end of the conversation, but there should be like, it’s like a guide. Like these are my checkpoints. Printed out.

One page and the checkpoints are phrases. Like it’s something that they should say that gets them to the next step and keeps them on the right path towards scheduling. But not even really a script, just like a bullet of those phrases. And they have it by the phone so they can literally look at it.

It’s like directions

Ken: Gotcha.

Charlie: And then that’s it. So, the hard part is how do you change the way they’re thinking so that when they hear questions, their brain isn’t like, I’ve got to answer that! And their brain goes, ooh, look at this. And if you accomplish that, you are going to schedule more patients for consult.

Ken: Right on. That’s a good idea that maybe we can go through that script in a future episode or something.

Charlie: Sure.

Ken: Cool. Anything else you want to add?

Charlie: No. If you keep it as simple as I just suggested, this is not very time consuming in terms of getting started, but you’ve got to remind your team all the time. Hey guys, remember what is our job when we answer the phone? That’s right. We help people schedule, right? And then you can get them as consistent with I’d be happy to help you with that as Chick-fil-A is with, what does Chick-fil-A say Ken?

Ken: My pleasure.

Charlie: Damn right, man. Right? How much, by the way, how much power is there in my pleasure? That, that phrase? Tons. It separates, in addition to the food, Chick-fil-A from every other fast casual chain that there is.

Ken: I don’t even know if everybody knows Chick-fil-A listening to this. I hope.

Charlie: If you don’t know Chick-fil-A and you’re listening to this, you got a long ways to go. Let me tell you.

Ken: Awesome. Cool, Charlie. Well, thanks for chatting with us and appreciate your expertise. See on the next one.

Charlie: Yes, sir.