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    How to weed out price shoppers

    Price shoppers annoy cosmetic practices for different reasons. Calls for prices can take precious time from the front office staff. Quoting prices by phone can be confusing — even misleading if one doesn’t include all the costs associated with a procedure.

    And for those practices that try and nip the problem in the bud by refusing to offer prices by phone, there are customer service consequences, says Jonathan Kaplan, M.D., MPH, a plastic surgeon and developer of the BuildMyBod price transparency platform.

    Telling people who call that a doctor won’t give cosmetic procedure pricing over the phone — only during an in-office consultation — is extraordinarily frustrating for the consumer, according to Dr. Kaplan, who presented “How to weed out price shoppers and tire kickers,” in July at THE Aesthetic Show.

    “Do you really want the consumer to take time off of work, come in for a consultation, bear their deepest insecurities about their bodies, then, at that point, give them information about the pricing, when they might realize they can’t afford it? Why would you take the doctor’s and patient’s time to do that?” Dr. Kaplan says.

    So, what’s a doctor or practice to do? Give consumers what they want, according to Dr. Kaplan.

    For those calling Dr. Kaplan’s office, the office staff uses the accompanying BuildMyBod iPhone app. The staff enters procedures of interest into the app along with the caller’s name, email address and phone number. After submitting the wish list, the app automatically reveals the price on the screen. Since the office staff already captured the caller’s contact information, the office staff can tell the caller the price over the phone. And an automated email is sent to both the consumer and front office staff’s inbox for future reference.

    While some callers would prefer not to give their contact information, they easily relent when the office staff explains the app can’t provide pricing without their contact information, according to Dr. Kaplan.

    “If they want prices, give them prices, but do it in such a way that you, as the doctor, also benefit,” he says. “In addition to the app, we also have a price estimator on our website, where the consumer can go and see the list of procedures that we offer. They can add different procedures to their wish list. They don’t see pricing upfront; rather, they have to submit their wish list on our website by providing their names, email address, phone number and zip code. They get an email with a breakdown of all the costs, including the surgeon’s fee, the operating room fee, the anesthesia fee — a very complete estimate. Just like the app, an email is sent to the front office staff, who sees the patient’s contact information right off the bat.”

    Dr. Kaplan says the approach is better than having a static list of prices on one’s website, because his platform captures consumer data in return for releasing pricing information. And it’s more efficient than responding to consumers by emailing them a list of practice pricing because the platform responds specifically to the consumer’s wish list.

    Once the practice has the consumer’s contact information, the office staff can follow up.

    “If the consumer doesn’t answer the phone, you’ve sort of weeded out a price shopper. If they do answer the phone and express interest for coming in for a consultation, you have a more serious patient,” he says.

    In a study published May 2016 in the Annals of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Kaplan showed that price aware consumers (made so by the BuildMyBod platform on his website) were 41% more likely to book procedures than price unaware consumers.

    A big benefit for doctors’ practices is the data collection. Dr. Kaplan maintains contact with patients who request pricing, whether they come in for a consult and book or not, by sending out a monthly e-newsletter.

    His office has grown that database from 200 to 7,000 email addresses in four years.

    Dr. Kaplan shared his last email distribution numbers with those attending his talk in July. In the week prior to the meeting, Dr. Kaplan sent his e-newsletter to the more than 7,000 people in his database. Three online bookings resulted and 27 wish lists were submitted from the on e-newsletter distribution. He reported a 20.71% open rate.

    Keeping in touch is important, according to Dr. Kaplan. Clearly, he says, even people who don’t follow through are interested in cosmetic procedures. The monthly e-newsletters help keep Dr. Kaplan’s practice top of mind for when those consumers are ready, he says.

    Providing specific and all-encompassing pricing in return for consumer contact information is a good idea, even for physicians who are concerned they might be too expensive, Dr. Kaplan says.

    “Chances are, there are other people out there who are more expensive than they are. In addition, don’t be afraid if you are more expensive, because consumers rightly or wrongly associate more expensive with being better. The other thing is even if the price that they’re seeing in that email seems high, you still have their contact information, so you can still follow up with them and explain to them why it may or may not be as expensive as they think,” Dr. Kaplan says.

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has written about health care, the science and business of medicine, fitness and wellness ...

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