For a person to wander onto to your Web site and actually email a question shows genuine interest. However, many physician practices drop the ball, waiting too long to respond or worse—not responding at all, according to one expert.
The result? Lost precious business opportunities, claims Lou Haggerty, senior vice president, Patients Unlimited Marketing Consultants, a Los Angeles-based marketing firm that specializes in marketing the cosmetic practice.
"More cosmetic-oriented services are appreciating that the Internet is becoming the media of choice for consumers to select their providers. However, the responsiveness falls on the staff and, in many cases, the staff do not appreciate the importance of dealing with Internet requests," Ms. Haggerty tells
"When a person would call in and say, 'I saw you in the Yellow Pages,' the staff would go into what I call 'dumb-dumb' mode. They just...kind of paid attention and answered questions. But there was no enthusiasm and appreciation for the fact that, if a person took the time to pick up the Yellow Pages and look for a provider, it was because there was a genuine interest," she says. "Some interest is 100 percent; some is 5 percent. But there is still interest. Therefore, the staff should have the responsibility to respond."
The second step, she says, is to assign to another staff member the responsibility of checking to make sure that the person who is monitoring and responding to incoming email inquiries is doing his or her job in a timely, professional manner.
The best person to assign the task of responding to email is often the office "closer," she says, because that person understands people's questions and has a better idea of how to answer them. Putting an office administrator in charge is not always a good idea because administrators often have multiple responsibilities and answering email inquiries might end up on the back burner.
The key for the person assigned to the job is their willingness and capability of keeping an eye on the computer throughout the day. "In today's environment where emails can be transferred to cells phones and PDAs, we even recommend that that someone should have the responsibility for picking up emails...in the evening and on the weekends," Ms. Haggerty advises. "It may not be the same person all the time. In most offices that are surgical, there is a nurse or someone who is somewhat on call. That same format should be [used] for email."
The last person who should get involved in responding to email inquiries is the physician, according to Ms. Haggerty, because surgeons and practice physicians tend not to be good sales people and they often get too technical.