The first consultation with a new patient is a pivotal moment in any medical aesthetics patient-provider relationship. One of the three most common mistakes that aesthetics providers make during the initial consultation is talking too much. After introductions, it’s time to let the patient take the wheel.
At this part of the consultation, providers should take a backseat and focus on establishing a solid connection with the prospective patient, to ensure that they’re prescribing the best treatment plan for each patient’s individual needs. Follow these five easy tips to help boost your listening skills and keep the consultation running smoothly.
After reviewing any questions regarding the patient’s medical history or previous aesthetic treatments, give them the opportunity to share their thoughts. The best way to transition into this more passive part of the consult is to simply ask an open-ended question, such as “What brings you here today?”
Be careful not to assume you know where the patient’s narrative is going, or how they feel about their appearance. Studies show that primary care doctors tend to allow patients to talk no more than 12 to 18 seconds before interrupting, which can easily sabotage new relationships between patients and aesthetics providers. To prevent interruptions, focus your questions on the patient’s feelings and perspective. Give them the chance to answer at length, and avoid yes-or-no queries when possible.
In aesthetic medicine, communication breakdown is common. Researchers writing for the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology noted that this often occurs when the physician is focused more on their personal tastes and concerns than those of the patient.
To avoid communication breakdown, explore the patient’s goals, motivations, and expectations without sharing your own opinion of an ideal aesthetic. Although it is certainly useful for you to contribute your expertise in identifying areas of improvement and potential outcomes, that should not be an excuse to impose your preferences on patients at the expense of their own. It’s not about you! Just as the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Focus on what your patient defines as an aesthetic ideal, and guide them towards the best steps for achieving it—rather than pushing what you believe to be a “better” outcome.
The aesthetic consult is a sensitive experience for prospective patients. Their fears, hopes, and vulnerabilities are on display to a total stranger. They’re looking to the aesthetics provider for reassurance, so serving these patients and your practice requires compassionate listening.
All that means that you may find yourself in situations that require you to play a more emotionally supportive role than you’re used to. Get comfortable with occasional tears, and remember that sharing these emotions is often a strong sign of trust from your prospective patient. Treat them with kindness, and let them speak fully before sharing how you can help them achieve their goals.
To ensure you’re hearing what they’re saying, employ active listening skills. Allow the patient time to share their concerns; when appropriate, paraphrase what you’ve heard and repeat it back to them. This shows the patient that you have listened closely to what they said, while also giving them the opportunity to confirm or clarify any potential misunderstanding. An example of active listening might be, “I am hearing that your main concern is the area around your eyes, and that people often comment that you look tired. Is that correct?”
Overall, this section of the consultation should account for at least half of the total time spent with the patient. Taking this substantial time to connect with them ensures that you understand their goals and needs, and that both provider and patient are on the same page. Patient satisfaction is the primary goal of each aesthetics treatment, and listening enables you to understand what will satisfy your new patient.
To discover more tips on how to build patient trust and boost conversions, download our invaluable eBook, “Mastering the Art of the Aesthetic Consult.”