Are you struggling to increase your client conversion rate? In what order is the best way to present information to a caller who is interested in scheduling a session? Which services can you offer to make them trust you and come back sooner to confirm?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks about converting calls to clients.
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In This Podcast
- “Hey, thank you for calling the practice”
- Be empathetic
- Download the Call Conversion PDF here
“Hey, thank you for calling the practice”
Start off by simply saying hello and thanking them for taking the time to phone you.
- Make sure to tell them who you are and where you are situated just to make sure that you are both on the same page.
- Give the caller your name so that they have someone to refer back to later on if they have any further questions.
- Ask the caller for their name and number. Make sure you have this information before you jump into the rest of the phone call, and you can say “just in case we get disconnected, can you please give me your name and number”.
- Ask the caller, what is it you are looking for in terms of counseling? Address the issue that is bringing them to the phone first, before getting caught up in pricing and schedules.
Listen to the caller empathically as you do to your current clients. You can train your receptionist or virtual assistant in the way that you would like them to answer the phone so that you know the caller is receiving the optimal care from the first moment of contact.
- Ask questions because it develops a connection and relationship with them. Enquire about where they heard about you and establish a mutual connection.
- Recommend a specific therapist based on the needs presented. You are helping this person get their need seen to. Recommend to them a specific therapist who you know and ask the client if this person sounds like a good fit.
- Bring up schedule. You can direct your caller to your website so that they may explore their options. Then once a time has been found that works, you can schedule a time for them.
- Then, bring up the financial part of the conversation. Once the caller has been scheduled, discuss the amount with them and see if they are comfortable with it.
If you can, you can offer to check the client’s benefits for them to see if you can help them outside of insurance payments. This offer will also help you to stay in connection with the caller and therefore increasing the chance of them choosing to work with you.
- If you can, have a conversation with people about how insurance works.
If someone is taking calls for you, you can write out a call-script for them to follow and get practice with so that both you and your assistant feel comfortable.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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[WHITNEY OWENS]: Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try Therapy Notes. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. Check it out and you will quickly see why it’s the highest rated EHR on Trustpilot with over a thousand verified customer views and an average customer rating of 4.9 out of five stars. You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support seven days a week so when you have questions, you can quickly reach out to someone who can help. You are never wasting your time looking for answers. If you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away. Use the promo code [JOE] to get two free months of trying out Therapy Notes for free, no strings attached, including their very reliable tele-health platform. Make 2021 best year yet with Therapy Notes.
Over the past few weeks, I have been talking to solo practice owners that are thinking about starting a private practice. So I am so excited that so many clinicians are wanting to offer more services to their community and improve their practices and improve the lives of their clinicians, because there are therapists out there that are looking for practices to join in yours might be just the best fit. So that has been an exciting part of 2021 is seeing how many people are growing their practices. Over the past few months, Alison Pidgeon and, I she’s one of the other consultants at Practice of the Practice have been chatting about just the needs of the Practice of the Practice community and people that are starting a group practice and how we can best help. So up to this point, we have had individual consulting and mastermind options for people starting group practices.
But at the same time, we’re finding that some people can’t do a mastermind for whatever reason, or maybe they feel like the cost is high, or maybe they’re just wanting some extra resources without as much time put into the front end. And so an option that we have come up with is a membership community. So this is going to kind of take the place of some of the masterminds we’ve been doing specifically surrounding starting a group practice, because you’ll have a community of like-minded people to all learn how to start a group practice together. So within this membership community, it’s through Facebook and a teachable platform, so through the Facebook platform, you’ll be able to talk to other people that are in the same stage of starting a group practice. And then these people you will grow with in going from a solo to a group practice within six months. During that six month time, Alison Pidgeon and I will lead weekly events to help you go through the steps of starting a group practice and answer all your questions.
You will have videos that you’ll be watching that’ll walk you through that process and then you’ll be able to follow up with us in those live events. So a lot of the questions that we’ll be addressing are the first phase of starting a practice, which is getting your systems in place, that you know how to add people. The next is adding those people and that’s the hiring process, the onboarding process, the interview process, all of that and then that last phase, which is looking back and making sure you’ve got everything in place to have a successful practice. That’s watching your key performance indicators, managing your finances so that you know your practice is running smoothly. I can tell you guys, please, if you’re thinking about starting a group practice, don’t do it on your own. Oftentimes people come to me years into their group practice and they need consulting and if they had just done consulting on the front end, they would’ve saved themselves so much money, time and headache.
So this is a community at a very reasonable price for you to be able to get all these resources and more. So along with those courses that you can take, you’re going to get worksheets and checklists and contracts that you can take to your attorney and get them reviewed. You’re going to save yourself so much time that you would spend researching and figuring this stuff out. You have two consultants that can give that straight to you. So if you’re thinking about starting a group practice this year, I want you to go to practiceofthepractice.com\grouppracticelaunch, to get all the details about this community. There, you can opt into our email list where I’ve created emails to speak directly to you, the group practice owner, and what’s offered within this community.
Also within that you will get first access to joining Group Practice Launch that’s going to start on March 2nd. We will be running that from March 2nd to the eight. So don’t miss out on that. I’m excited about it. You can tell. Anyway, we launched Group Practice Boss back in October for the first time and that membership community has been amazing. I actually just got done with the office hours for that and have just loved the community that we’ve created and being able to answer their questions. And people are saying their businesses are in the best place they’ve ever been, and they’re having a good time at the same time. So I think Group Practice Launch will be similar in the sense of you’ll be able to have those clinicians hired at the end of that six months and then you’ll be able to start going to Group Practice Boss. So if you have questions about that membership community, please send me an email, [email protected]. I’m happy to help you answer those questions.
So on today’s podcast, I’m going to do a solo show because I was inspired by someone I was consulting with the other day and she was asking me about conversion rates with inquiries. And this is something that needs to be addressed honestly, more often in the private practice world. And when I say conversion rates with inquiries, I’m talking about when people reach out to your practice wanting counseling. The conversion is how often they actually end up scheduling a first time appointment. I tell you guys all the time, always run your numbers. So with this, you should know at any given moment about how many people a month or a year or a quarter have called your practice and how many of them have become clients. And you should have that percentage off the top of your head. So within conversion, we’re talking about conversions, one of the most common questions I get is, “Okay, what is a normal conversion rate for a certain practice?”
And obviously this is going to vary based on time of year, based on your location, based on what’s going on. Like, I mean, when COVID happened, that really changed things for a few months there. So if you are an insurance-based practice, you should be converting at least 70%. somewhere between 70 to 80% of your calls should be scheduling first-time appointments. And then if you are a cash pay practice, somewhere between 30 and 50% should be scheduling first-time appointments. If your numbers are not in that place, you need to go back and figure out why these calls are not converting. This could be for so many reasons. Now, when you are tracking your calls, a really good rule of thumb, not only is to track the conversion, but also you’re tracking how they heard about you and then you’re also tracking if they scheduled or not and if they didn’t why they didn’t.
So it’s good to go back and look at that number. So that could be, they didn’t schedule because of finances or because you don’t take their insurance, or you don’t have someone who specializes in their need or counselors are full or that you don’t have someone with that specialty. Make sure that you’re always tracking that because that will really help you look at the next steps in your practice. So, for example, let’s say you’re a solo practice owner, or maybe you have one or two clinicians, but you’re getting a lot of calls for kids and you don’t have anyone that sees kids. Well, there you go. Now you need to hire someone that works with children or substance abuse or eating disorders or whatever it is you’re getting more calls for.
Or maybe you’re an insurance-based practice and you’re finding that, “Hey, we’re are losing 10% of our clients because of those very specific insurance we don’t take.” Maybe it’s one that the school system uses or the fire department or something like that. Well, get on that panel so that you can offer that to people if you’re looking to get more clients. So it’s important that you go back and look at that.
Now this podcast episode, I’m going to walk you through the process of the phone call because I find that a lot of things get lost in that phone call. Now I’m going to talk to you specifically about cash pay practices. If you’re an insurance-based practice, you can still learn a lot from this episode. If you’re thinking about converting into a cash pay practice, you’ll definitely learn a lot from what I’m going to share, but this is the process that we go through when someone calls the practice for the first time and how we get them to the point of scheduling their first appointment.
And over time, I have found different ways to do this. And so I’m going to share all that information with you, and I hope to have a PDF attached, or I will have a PDF attached to this podcast episode that I’m putting together right now, so that you will have that in hand. If you want to access that, you’ll have it. So let me walk you through the steps of when someone calls the practice, how that conversation goes and how we’re able to convince them to schedule a first-time appointment. So I first start out with saying, “Hey, thank you for calling the practice.” You just want to say hello, and you want to remind them of the actual location that they’re calling, because sometimes if you don’t say that, they’re get confused about who they’re calling, especially when these clients already are feeling overwhelmed and confused, and they might have called five places before you.
So you want to make sure that you remind them of the location that they just called, and then introduce yourself. Give them your name so they know who to refer back. And then ask the caller for their name and number. Before you really jump into that call, you want to make sure that you have this information. If you start jumping into the call, a lot of these first steps are going to get lost because they’re going to hang up or they’re going to move into something else and then you’re going to forget to go back. So it’s really important that you have their name and phone number. And so what I say to the client is just in case we get disconnected, would you give me your name and number. Then they don’t feel like they’re sharing something super personal because of mental health reasons. They’re just sharing it in case they get disconnected.
And I will tell you, I always appreciate when someone gets my name and number, because sometimes they accidentally hang up on me and I don’t want to go through the process of calling back. So it’s really nice for them to be able to call you back. I’m sure you understand that feeling. Then after that, ask the person, “What is it that you’re looking for with counseling?” Because you don’t want to start talking about scheduling or money or something else. You want to address the issue that’s bringing them to this phone call because you want to be able to help them. That is why we are here, and so that question provides compassion, understanding, and that’s why they’re calling. I cannot stand when I call a practice or, it could be for not necessarily counseling, but it could be for any kind of reason and the first thing they say is, “Wat is your insurance?”
When they say that to me, it makes me feel like another number, like the actual treatment is not as important because I care a lot more about the treatment provider and what they’re going to do for me or my family member than I do about the insurance even though sometimes the insurance is important. But it’s the actual work that’s the most important. So that is the first thing you want to talk about. And you can say to the caller, if they feel anxious about that, “Hey, you don’t have to share with me too much. I just want to know the reason that you’re coming in so I can schedule you with the best fit therapist for your needs. We have therapists who specialize in lots of different issues so I want to make sure that you’re in the right place.” Most people really appreciate when you say that them.
All right. So the person starts sharing their story with you and you are going to listen to them empathically, just like you do with clients. And you can also train your assistant of course, on this process of a call and your assistant is going to be compassionate and kind as well. And listen to their story, ask questions, be inquisitive. I even find whatever I can say to provide a relationship for them. So sometimes that is, if it’s a teenager, I’ll say, “Oh, well, where does your child go to school?” And they’ll say the name of the school and I’ll say, “Oh yes, we know the counselor.” And I’ll say the counselor’s name over at that school. That shows them that we have a relationship already established, or they might say, “Yes, I was referred by this doctor,” and I’ll say, “Oh yes, I love working with her. She sends us clients all the time. She’s fantastic.” Because then it just develops that relationship with them right there on the get-go and they already trust their school, their doctor, or whoever referred to them. So they’re going to trust you because you already know them too. So you’re going to build that relationship. That should take five, 10 minutes on the phone.
This is a really important part because they’re going to want to work with the place where they built the relationship. They’re going to want to work with the place that took the time to listen to their needs and address their needs. So the next point here, after you’ve listened to them and you’ve gone through that process is to recommend a specific therapist based on the need that that person presented. It sounds kind of salesy than honestly it is, but you’re helping this person. Remember, it’s not just about the money. You’re really helping what their need is. So let’s say the person says this is a common one, “I’m feeling anxious. I’m having panic attacks and needing to talk to someone about my anxiety.” So I might say, “We’ve one of the most effective forms of therapy for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy.”
And people love that. They’ve already know what CBT, is super common, and it really is one of the most effective forms. So I can say that to the caller and they feel like they have something to hold on to, like you’ve got a treatment modality that’s going to work for me. That gives them hope. Hope is such a good thing. And then I can say, “Well, this therapist at our practice, she’s been doing CBT for five, 10, 20 years. She’d be a great fit for what you’re sharing with me today.” And they’ll say, “Oh, that sounds great.” And so you can say back to them, does that sound like it would be helpful for you to come in and meet with that therapist and learn about that therapy?” And a lot of times they’ll be very happy about that. And so you recommend a very specific therapist for their needs and then start talking about the schedule.
And obviously if the schedule doesn’t work with that specific therapist, you could recommend another one, but you don’t want to give them too many therapist choices because that can overwhelm you. I will say sometimes if a client calls and I’m not certain on a therapist, I can say, “Oh, have you had a chance to look at our website? Was there any therapist in particular that you felt drawn to?” And that will allow them to say, “Oh yes, I really saw this person. I really want to work with them.” Or they might say, “They’re not.” And they want us to recommend somebody. Then after that, you’re going to schedule that time. “Hey, does Monday at 10 o’clock work for you?” And they’re going to say yes or no, or you’re going to find the time that works. And at that point is when you’re going to let them know about the rate. “So I want to let you know that so-and-so’s right is this amount. Are you comfortable with that? Does that work for you??
And that’s the point where you have the financial conversation. You do not want to be having that conversation on the front end. You want to be having it on the backend. And at that point they might say, “Yeah, that works great for me.” Or they might say, “Oh, well, do you take my insurance?” And a lot of times when I do say what the rates are, if they seem concerned, I’ll explain to them that we don’t take insurance. And when they say, “Do you take my insurance?” We say, “No, but we do work with out-of-network benefits.” And we explain to them what out-of-network benefits are. And so just to kind of give you all that lingo, you know, that is another option within your insurance. Instead of in-network, there’s out-of-network. Now we do not bill the insurance directly. We can provide you with a super bill that has your diagnostic information on it and you can submit that for insurance. We can not guarantee that you will get payment or not. All plans are different and you want to check with your insurance company.
Now, some people know a lot about insurance. They’ve checked, they know their copays and at this point they’re done with the conversation or you can offer to give them resources. Sometimes I’ll ask what your copay is. Have you met your deductible? And sometimes they don’t even know that. So then if they feel uncertain, I’ll offer to check the benefits for them. And even though we don’t take their insurance checking their benefits, it’s just an extra bonus in working with our practice. I’m showing them that, “You know what, we don’t do the bare minimum. We care over and above for our clients.” And they will see that because I’m going to take the time to call their insurance company, which could be a 30-minute phone call just to find out what their benefits are. It also keeps you in charge of what’s going on in the conversation. You’re going to continue to be talking to that person and the more you stay in communication with that client, the more likely they’ll end up scheduling an appointment.
So you’re going to offer to check those benefits and then offer to call them back, then you can call back. Now it could be that their in-network benefits are so good. You’re going to say, “You know what? I can understand why you want to go in-network here, some referrals,” or maybe their benefits are so bad. You can say, “You know what? Your deductible is $5,000. You might as well pay out of pocket.” Or you can talk to them about what those benefits are, but you can maybe offer a sliding scale. If maybe someone says, “Well, my insurance co-pay is 80 bucks. Well, you know what? I have a therapist, that’s a hundred, but she’s willing to see you at 90 to make that work out.” So there’s a lot of different ways you can explore options here with sliding scales or super bills and things like that.
I also have a conversation with people about how insurance works, because a lot of times people have no idea. And the fact that mental health is such a different field. The diagnostics for mental health are very different as far as you’re going to get major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. And that this code is going to go on a piece of paper and be sent to your insurance company. So that will be on record and yes, confidentiality exists. But the more people that know things, the more people that know things. We even know back in, I believe it was 2014 or sometime around then that Blue Cross had a breach and a lot of records got out on people, including their mental health records. If a client is a child, then it’s kind of a different animal because they will look back at things if they apply for certain types of jobs.
And so I want parents know this, that if your child wants to become a pilot or wants to go into the military, this stuff comes back up and sometimes they won’t let them move forward. If they want to become the president or go into politics, then it’s a concerning matter. I do know for doctors that they have to answer questions when they become a doctor about if they’ve ever had counseling before, and we could go back and forth about if that’s appropriate or not. But the point is they have to answer those questions. And so their information is definitely confidential. If they only saw a counselor [inaudible 00:19:38] the insurance doesn’t know, but if the insurance knows it might be a little bit more difficult to keep that hidden. So we talk to people about that on that call. We educate them so that they know what their decision is.
Sometimes people still use their insurance and they’re really glad that someone talked to them about that and then some people decide not to do that. The other thing I talk to them about is that your insurance is a third party and so they’re going to determine what kind of services you get, how many sessions you get and all those things, just like you’ve got to send information to a doctor if you need a heart surgery. And so the insurance company looks at that and determines if you need the heart surgery. So your diagnosis needs to be in such a way or your symptoms in such a way that they think you need counseling. And then some plans will offer, you know, eight, 10 sessions others might offer more sessions. It’ll all depend, but do you really want this third party to dictate your mental health? Like at this practice, we like to do treatment the way that we want to do it and not be dictated by insurance.
So those are some of the things that we talk about with insurance had helped clients in making that decision. And I always say to clients, if you need to use your insurance, because you can’t afford therapy, use your insurance. Like the most important thing is that we find help and healing, but if you can pay cash for it, that’s another great way to go. And I also am very honest with people and let them know that all the therapy I’ve ever gotten up paid cash for, because I don’t want to all that following me on a record. Not that that’s terrible, but that’s just the decision that I’ve chosen to make.
So, and then after that, they’ll either schedule or not. You’ll definitely want to make sure that you answer any other questions, concerns about the policies at your practice. Like usually this is when we talk about the location, we talk about our 24-hour cancellation policy, we give them our contact, make sure they know how to get in touch with us, and then that’s it. So those calls usually go about 15 to 20 minutes if we end up scheduling somebody, because it does take some time to get all their information into our system.
I also want to talk about a few other things that are tips for converting these people into clients. Another really important thing is that you’re answering the phone. I mean clients are picking up the phone and calling multiple practices at once and sometimes they schedule at the first place that answers. And we know that clients wait until the last minute to call. If there are anything I need, like I know I need to call and schedule something for my daughter or for myself and I’m just dreading picking up the phone or I’m at work. And we come up with every excuse, not to make a phone call. Clients are doing the same thing. So they might pick up the phone and call you. And if you don’t answer and you call them back, it could be, they just aren’t needing it anymore. Or they think they don’t need it anymore. They’re not in crisis anymore.
So you want to answer those calls in real time because the more you answer them in real time, the more likely they’re going to convert into a client. And so if that means you may need to get an assistant to make that happen, that’s important. And if you do get an assistant start tracking how much their conversion is, how many clients are they converting and how much are you paying her? And if you’re getting more clients scheduled, because that person is taking the calls in real time, then it’s working.
Another thing that happens is a lot of people like to send emails like inquiry emails. “I just want to get more information about your practice or what insurance do you take or what are your hours?” Emails are the hardest ones to convert into clients. I have found that people who call are probably more serious about scheduling and the people that get on email are emailing multiple places, or they’re not sure what they want so they’re just getting information. So you definitely want to address their question. You don’t want to ignore them. So if they ask a question such as, “What are your hours?” Give them what the hours are. If they want to know about insurance, you can say that you accept out-of-network, or it depends on your insurance company, but whatever you can do, try to get that personal on the phone. Because when we get someone on the phone is how we build relationship and how we really help them.
So we will answer their question as simply as possible on email. And then we will say, “Do you mind if I give you call? What’s a good number to reach you back?” Or you can give them your number and say, “You can call us.” But the more that you put in the hands of the client, the less likely they’re going to follow up. We want to make counseling as easy as possible. We know that clients will find any and every way not to come in. And that could be the drive is too long or they don’t like coming at that time or they just don’t want to schedule an appointment. So you want to make it as easy as possible. So you can say to them, “What is your phone numbers o I can give you a call?”
This is the same thing for at the end of a session. You never want to say to the client, “Well, send me a text later and let me know when you want to come in next.” Instead, you want to say to them, “Here’s the next time that I have available. Does that work for you?” If it doesn’t work for them, they’ll just say no, but this makes it easier for them to get therapy. Make it as easy as possible. So try to get those people that are on email, into a phone call, and then through that phone call, get them scheduled. I find that this process is important for every practice, but if you’re going to be a cash pay practice, you have got to really work super hard on converting these calls, having a very specific process.
I encourage you that if someone else is taking calls for you, that you write out a call script so that you can give it to the person that’s taking the calls and they can walk through that process. For us, it’s in our heads. We know how we do it, but they need to be given a script to be able to walk through. So that is how we do our calls and that’s how we convert our clients. I’m a cash pay practice. I have eight clinicians. They all have clients and it’s working. We convert at between 50 and 55% of our calls, end up scheduling. We lose about 20 to 25% due to insurance and then the others, probably another 20% are for various reasons. A lot of times it’s that emailed and they never called back or by the time we called them back, they’d already scheduled somewhere else or we don’t have someone that meets their needs. Or regardless of insurance, it could just be that they don’t have the ability to pay for the counseling.
So anyway, I’m going to attach a PDF in the show notes today so it kind of walks you through this process in 10 different steps of going from the very first part of the call to the end of the call and has other tips on that. And if you are interested in getting some help on this process, if you’re wanting some consulting surrounding converting calls, reach out to me, [email protected].
Again, thank you so much to Therapy Notes for sponsoring the show. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. And if you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your client’s demographic data free of charge during your trials so that you can get going right away. Use promo code [JOE] to get two months to try out Therapy Notes for free.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also there, you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email whit[email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.