For patients, the medical aesthetics field is still a generally new landscape, offering solutions to their aesthetic concerns but with a looming sense of risk and uncertainty. As an aesthetics professional, addressing this inherent uncertainty and reassuring patients is a major point in your job description.
Earning patient trust, however, can be a long road—two years in fact in some industries. This is particularly in today’s digital landscape in which consumer trust is even harder to earn. Mutual trust, patience, respect, and a little creativity seems to offer the perfect combination for building a loyal partnership with patients. In today’s age, competing with Google and other professionals in your industry, education and authority is no longer enough to earn patient trust. So how can you cultivate a positive and loyal relationship with your patients?
Here we’ve listed five ways you can help to generate greater patient trust and satisfaction that go beyond establishing your expertise for further success this year and onward.
In today’s society, consumers are regularly bombarded by advertising and they tend to distrust much of it. In fact, just four percent of consumers in the U.S. believe the marketing industry has any integrity, which means more than 95% of consumers are questioning the intentions behind every advertisement. For this reason, it’s best to offer something of value to prospective patients before asking for anything in return. In some cases, this may look like a free anti-aging beauty guide in return for their email address. Or perhaps it’s a free consultation appointment, during which they can access more information regarding potential treatments before being sold on a complete treatment plan. It could even be a social media strategy that limits advertising and service promotions to just 20% of your posts, using the other 80% to offer free beauty tips, style trend roundups, or perhaps a healthy green smoothie recipe. Incorporating this strategy of giving before taking helps to generate positive impressions and foster the notion that your clinic isn’t just in it for the money.
Having a two-way conversation is essential in any consultation or treatment appointment. Ask the prospective patient about themselves and take note of personal details like family, their profession, or hobbies so you can be sure to ask them about it during their next appointment, helping to foster a stronger relationship that doesn’t hinge on your services alone. Talk to your patient as you’d like to be addressed and avoid a hard sales pitch. Don’t dominate the interaction with details on a new treatment if it is unsolicited and instead look to having a conversation that minimizes prescriptive advice. Start by asking them what brings them into your office but don’t stop there. Ask them about how their concerns affect them daily, whether they’ve sought out other treatments or procedures, what they liked or disliked about these alternative treatments, and perhaps even what their ideal outcome looks like. You might even ask them what life looks like for them in five years. Getting this broader picture of your patient will allow them to speak more and give you the opportunity to listen to what they’re really looking for, resulting in a better proposed treatment plan and a much more satisfied and trusting patient.
A strong communication strategy puts ease of use for the customer first. Depending on your clinic’s branding strategies and target demographic, you’ll want to focus on improving your means of communication via specific points of contact preferred by your target demographic. For example, younger millennial clientele (aged 18–27) prefer communicating with brands via online social communities and their direct messaging features, so you’ll want to prioritize a fast response time on these platforms. Alternatively, for the demographic aged 50–68, they tend to prefer communication over the phone. To better serve this demographic, you’ll want to train personnel on phone etiquette as well as consider funnelling client calls to a patient care coordinator, who is specifically trained to adequately answer patient questions, earn their trust, and book that consultation appointment. By meeting your ideal patients where they are, making it easy for them to reach out, and promptly responding to their messages and calls, patients will come to know that you’re eager to serve them and they will value this level of professionalism that puts their needs first.
This tip may seem counterintuitive but it can go a long way in fostering patient trust and building a reputation that spans out further than your patient circle: refer patients who aren’t a perfect fit to another aesthetic professional who is. Building a network of knowledgeable, trustworthy, and professional aesthetic experts with specialties different from yours—such as someone who is able to safely perform hair removal for darker skin tones—is a useful way to ensure patient satisfaction. While you might be tempted to sell the patient on another treatment, referring them to a practitioner who is able to offer the ideal treatment sets you a cut above the rest in the patient’s eyes. They will be much more willing to offer positive word of mouth or return to you in the future for the treatments for which you are a good fit. Likewise, your network of professionals will send more patients your way who you are better able to serve and ensure optimal patient satisfaction. As a bonus, these patients will most likely already inherently trust you because you come recommended from another trusted professional, making the acquisition and conversion process much easier.
It can take a long time to earn a patient’s complete and unquestioning trust, but it’s not worth risking those early stages in an attempt to speed up the process. Patients appreciate loyalty too! They want to know that they’re not just a fix-it-and-forget-it case to you, so have patience in answering their questions, be prepared to walk them through their reasons for hesitating and how you can help them with those concerns, and be sure your clinic always follows up on its promises. Remember that for the most part, medical aesthetic treatments are most often elective and therefore paid for out-of-pocket, so patients expect a much higher level of service from your clinic compared to insurance-based medical providers.
A study published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care noted that while many studies focus in on physicians earning patient trust, the trust physicians place in patients is also a significant factor in building a lasting patient–provider relationship. In other words, the study’s authors argued that the degree of trust providers felt for their patients (referred to as “felt trust”) impacted how they treated and resolved their patients’ concerns (“enacted trust”). This in turn impacted how patients rated their trust in their physician. Practically, we can translate these findings to your clinic, particularly when it comes to patients who enter a consultation with a specific treatment in mind. While these patients may have relied on Google for their research, they may feel disrespected and unheard if the physician simply corrects them or dismisses their requests. Instead of following that path, inherently place trust in the prospective patient that they did their due diligence and researched the treatment using authoritative online sources. Ask them what appeals to them about the treatment and approach it as a valid option, then offer your opinion of the best treatment to meet their needs in the context of an alternative and how it would better resolve their concerns. Allow them to ask lots of questions and gently guide them toward the better choice. Once patients feel heard and have been able to have a two-way conversation regarding the best course of action, they’re less likely to feel dissatisfied with the outcome of a treatment they didn’t initially request.
Looking for more help in building patient trust and securing a higher satisfaction rate? Contact a Venus Concept expert today to learn how our suite of innovative non-surgical aesthetic devices and unique business model, featuring practice enhancement programs and marketing support, can help.