At first glance, you may think that cosmetic plastic surgeons and hair salons are only related in that both are businesses dedicated to beauty but when it comes to customer outreach, hair salons “got it going on!”
Customer Relationship Management or CRM is a growing industry. Salesforce.com is a company most responsible for making CRM a household word. While the folks at Salesforce.com would suggest they can provide CRM services to any field, I felt that I needed to find a company already involved in the medical/healthcare space to help with customer outreach for my plastic surgery practice. So I contacted a relatively well known online service (let’s call them Disappointing.com) that helps with online booking and CRM for medical practices. I was shocked to learn how little they deliver on the promises presented on their website.
Their website highlights online booking and from there, organization and management of your company’s interactions with current and future patients. The ability to provide online booking for my cosmetic plastic surgery patients is very important. If you consider many patients, they go to work everyday like the rest of us and sometimes forget to call during office hours to schedule an appointment. Then once they remember they need to call, it’s after 5pm and they’re unable to book. With online booking, they can schedule whenever they think of it – even in the middle of the night – they just go online and schedule their Botox/Xeomin treatment for the following day!
But here’s the rub, to allow for online booking, the available time slots that appear online need to coincide with the available slots that appear on the office calendar. Obviously you need consistency because you don’t want a patient booking a time that’s already booked by another patient. So I asked Disappointing.com (my fictitious name for the company I spoke with) if they can sync with my office calendar so that patient’s aren’t double booked. They said the way they usually handle online booking (the main service they promote on their website) is that, since they can’t sync with the office calendar in at least 2/3’s of the offices they work with, they recommend the doctor arbitrarily post available times on their website and when a patient chooses that time, the office receives an email notification that a patient wants to be seen at 2pm for example, but if in fact you’ve already booked someone at that time, the office would then call the patient and assist them in finding another time! So how is that online booking if it still requires you to call the patient and schedule their appointment?! What they call online booking is a facade; it doesn’t really exist, it’s false advertisement in a lot of ways. Oh, and they want $3000 a year for their services! Now maybe they help with getting pre-authorization for insurance patients when they’re scheduled but that’s not the service I need. My cosmetic patients pay out-of-pocket, don’t use insurance and therefore, preauthorization is not a service I need.
I still wanted online booking but clearly Disappointing.com wasn’t the way to go. Later that day, I went to get my haircut at Red Chair Salon in San Francisco for my regular men’s haircut. And then I remembered that the way I originally found this place was because they provided online booking through their Yelp site. After my haircut that day, I asked them to show me how they were able to provide online booking and they showed me STX (Salon Transcripts)! This software was so user-friendly, so smart and exactly what I was looking for. Sure it was originally designed for hair salons but if software provides good customer service, does it really matter what business it originated in? Not only does STX allow for online booking but you’re able to send out email appointment reminders and even reminders when a customer has been away for too long and may be in need of a haircut. These email reminders were something I asked Disappointing.com about previously. Specifically, I wanted to know if I could send out reminders for patients after 3 months, asking if they need to come in for a touchup of Botox and they said they couldn’t customize their reminders. The best they had was an annual reminder for a ‘physical’! How has Disappointing.com (again, the fictitious name I’ve assigned to a real company) been in business since 2007 and they still can’t customize an email reminder?! And when I spoke to STX, customization was their middle name! STX is the true embodiment of CRM (customer relationship management).
The point I would take from this in a general sense is that to improve our own business, whatever it is, we need to not only seek out solutions but seek out solutions in other fields that have experienced similar pressures. It’s crazy to think that a hair salon is my new mentor when it comes to patient outreach!