Updated April 4, 2013 – Inside the Mind of the Aesthetic Patient

By: Catherine Maley, MBA

Book Review – Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients are Saying By Catherine Maley, MBA, Author

Introduction

A truly successful aesthetic practice is tuned into their individual patients’ wants, needs and concerns. They understand how fickle the aesthetic consumer/patient can be so they anticipate and constantly improve upon all aspects of the office visit so the patient gets that “WOW” experience every time.

Your Aesthetic Practice was written to help aesthetic physicians understand the nuances of the aesthetic patient. I interviewed 75 cosmetic patients directly to learn about their personal cosmetic enhancement experiences that included both surgical and minimally-invasive procedures and treatments. Most were female and the medium age was 44 years-old. They were asked yes/no and multiple choice questions and allowed ample opportunity to describe their experiences in detail so subjective information could be collected, analyzed and interpreted.

Survey Findings

The survey responses included the following statistical data:

  • 61% went on multiple consultations before deciding
  • Of the other 39% that went on one consultation, 82% of those were from referrals from friends, family or colleagues. And, hair stylists were the largest referral source averaging 100-250 referrals.
  • 91% of the time, it mattered “a lot” that staff be courteous, informative, friendly and caring
  • 86% of them referred at least two other people to that practice
  • 40% researched their procedure on the Internet ahead of time so they felt they were well-informed
  • 55% were charged for a consultation and 45% were not charged
  • 96% would have liked computer imaging or skin analysis

Other important anecdotal comments from those surveyed included:

“If they are conscientious about their office, they will be conscientious about my procedure.”

“His printed materials show he is savvy, up-to-date and innovative.”

“He was such a gentle injector and was concerned about my comfort. I didn’t know it could be painless.”

Perceptions Vary

It was becoming very apparent from responses about different aspects of the practice that perceptions vary greatly from one patient to the next. Patients came to the practice with their own expectations, prior experience and beliefs and that was affecting their perceptions.

For example:

  • While some thought the doctors were rushed and did not spend enough time with them; others thought too much time with them made them wonder why the doctor wasn’t busier.
  • While some patients thought an aesthetically gorgeous office indicated pride and success; others thought it was over-the-top and intimidating and, while some thought the physician was so thorough explaining the various procedures available, others felt oversold and confused with so many options.

As those surveyed were probed further to understand why they choose one practice over another, one consistent response kept coming up – they felt a connection with the physician, the office and the staff. They felt comfortable there. It was also important to note females went with their gut feeling. They needed to feel it was the right practice for them.

“WOW” Patient Experience

The aesthetic patient wants to feel special – period. When a patient is spending their own money and time on elective cosmetic enhancement, they want to be treated respectfully, professionally and kindly by every person they encounter in the practice. Many of those surveyed said they needed to have a great experience and a good result every time or they would consider visiting a different office.

It is vital for the emotionally-charged aesthetic patient to have an excellent experience every single time they call and visit. A ‘WOW” patient experience starts with the telephone. It needs to be answered quickly and courteously. The patient visit is next. The staff needs to be friendly, courteous and professional. The office should look aesthetically-pleasing and, most importantly, clean and clutter-free. The flow of the practice and well established processes need to run like a clock so the patient never feels herded. All of these steps working together will keep the aesthetic patient returning and referring.

The Physician Consultation with the Aesthetic Patient

The physician’s consultation with the patient is one of the most important aspects of aesthetic medicine. Some of the other factors will be overlooked if the patient bonds with the physician. The physician’s job is to connect with the prospective patient, build rapport and set realistic expectations. Here are some comments gleaned from those surveyed about their experiences with the physicians:

He was in and out so fast, I felt like I was on an assembly line.”

“She made me comfortable with her as a person before she jumped into the medical stuff.”

“He was so thorough and measured things with a precise tool so I felt like he was a true perfectionist and would give me the best result.”

“He asked me about my kids and I really liked that.”

Build Trust in Your Patients from the Start

A good consultation is the one where your patient likes and trusts you and then books the procedure. Your people skills are actually what make for a good consultation but there do seem to be certain aspects you can follow. Here is a description of the elements needed to carry out a successful consultation. The following steps are a great place to start as they are from the patient’s perspective and based on survey findings of what the patient wanted and didn’t want:

Step 1: Introduction

Knock on the door gently, greet the patient by name, introduce yourself while looking him/her in the eye and shaking hands

Step 2: Build Rapport

Use touch, commonalities and mirroring to build trust with the patient. Spend a couple of minutes learning more about the patient as a person. Comment on their occupation, or perhaps the person who referred them.

Step 3: Uncover the Problem

Hand the patient a mirror while asking an open-ended questions such as, “What brings you in to see me today?” Actively listen to their response.

Step 4: Attach Emotions to the Problem and Solution

Get the patient emotionally involved so they “feel” the pain and the pleasure of enhancement. Questions such as, “How long has this bothered you?” and “How do you envision this improving your life?” work well.

Step 5: Know Where You Stand

Determine where they are in the process so you can determine how much time and effort to put into your consultation as well as what approach to take. Examples include “What are you looking for in an aesthetic physician?” and “Have you spoken with anyone else?”

Step 6: Learning Styles for Educating Your Patient

It’s now time for you to respond with your recommendation. You must present your solutions in a way that particular patient can understand. Patients want to see, hear about and touch and feel results. Use samples, photos they can hold, implants they can touch, staff members they can talk to.

Step 7: Manage Expectations

The golden rule is under promise and over deliver. Use metaphors, analogies and anecdotal experiences of other patients to help set expectations.

Step 8: Differentiate Yourself

Qualify and differentiate yourself by establishing your value. Let them know about your experience with this procedure.

Step 9: Reassure the Patient

The patient wants to be reassured that you are the right physician for them. Let them know you are confident and they will get a good result.

Step 10: Closing

Prepare a closing statement so the patient knows you are eager to see them again.

Promoting Your Practice

To attract patients to your practice, you may have spent many thousands of dollars on mass advertising in print, cable TV or magazines. You have weeded through the price shoppers who just wanted a deal and you found solid, loyal patients from your efforts. Now that you have spent the time, money and effort attracting a patient to your practice – keep them there!

Never take an aesthetic patient for granted. They are too emotional and fickle for you to assume once a patient – always a patient. Others are vying for their attention and business so develop a marketing plan to keep in touch with your patient throughout the year using:

  • Quarterly newsletter
  • Seasonal promotions
  • Email messages
  • Invitations to annual Open House
  • Birthday cards
  • Frequent-user program
  • Refer-a-friend program.

And, most of all, continue to thank them for their loyalty and their referrals. That can be a simple handwritten thank you note from you up to a complimentary treatment performed by your staff. Showing appreciation is vital to sustain their continued patronage.

Using the above concepts will help you build such a strong bond with your aesthetic patient, they wouldn’t dream of going to anyone else and that works just fine for you.

 

About the Author: Catherine Maley, MBA is President and Senior Marketing Strategist of Cosmetic Image Marketing. Her firm specializes in creative strategies to grow the aesthetic practice. Catherine is author of “Your Aesthetic Practice: a complete guide/What Your Patients are Saying”. Order the book online at www.CosmeticImageMarketing.com or call (877) 339-8833.

 

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