What’s Your Purpose? by Casey Bull

What’s Your Purpose? 

The reasons you’re considering virtual consultations in your orthodontic practice dictate how they should be used


by Casey Bull


Virtual consultations are one of the hottest topics in orthodontics, and have been for some time. There can be a bit of debate around if this came about because of COVID-19 or if the pandemic simply expedited the natural progression of the industry. Regardless, patient expectations have shifted and virtual consultations are here to stay. But what is a virtual consultation?

There are three main ways to implement virtual consultations:

  • As a lead-capture tool.
  • As a lead-qualifier tool.
  • To conduct virtual appointments or video calls.

The lead-capture tool refers to a widget or landing page on your website—an alternative way for online traffic to engage with the practice. When determining which virtual consultation widget you’re interested in adding to your website, user experience (UX) should be the top priority. The key to virtual consultation success in the form of a lead-capture tool is to make it attractive and simple to submit contact details and upload photos.

The next level of virtual consultations is to use it in a way to qualify leads. Whether the practice wants to qualify leads based on dental readiness or financial sensitivity, you can reduce the amount of in-person chair time without decreasing starts. Many practices that have implemented virtual consultations as a way to qualify leads have increased in-office conversion rates to nearly 100%.

Finally, virtual consultations can also be implemented to focus on actual video appointments with new-patient prospects. This can be done to complement the other components mentioned above or as a standalone option to offer during the new-patient call.

The main thing to consider is that this is not a one-size-fits-all item. The way that a practice should implement virtual consultations depends on its reasons for adopting them in the first place.


Why are you implementing virtual consultations?

The main reasons include:

Responding to consumer demand. Individuals in your area have shifted expectations and are actively looking for remote options, even if they don’t use them.

Getting an edge on the competition. You can beat out the competition by offering virtual consultation as a convenience. And if your competitors are already doing it, make sure your practice doesn’t fall behind.

Qualifying leads. Virtual consultations allow you to “see” more patients with less chair time. Ensure you are scheduling only the in-office patients who are likely to start.

Increasing efficiency. Having patients get everything done online before they come in allows for in-office appointments to take only half the time. You can also reduce the number of in-person consultations so you’re working smarter, not harder.

Increasing your conversion rate. With prequalification and trust building happening before the in-person consultation, you’re getting patients to a “yes mindset” before they come in. In addition, with the reduced number of in-person consultations, you can start the same number of patients with less in-office chair time.

Increasing website conversion rate. The virtual consultation widget is an engagement tool that’s proven to help increase your website conversion rate.

Increasing leads? Although it’s a common misconception that virtual consultations generate leads, they do not. They don’t increase traffic to your website; paid advertising or other lead generation marketing tactics do. VC widgets simply capture leads that have already landed on your website.

The way a practice should implement virtual consultations varies based on that individual practice’s “why.” Whether looking at the new patient journey or the buying process, the various forms of virtual consultations impact the journey at different stages.


Different (key)strokes for different folks

In a new-patient journey (Fig. 1), the first step is getting the new patient to know you exist. That is known as brand awareness. The next step is lead capture, which refers to the new patient communicating to the practice that they are either interested in a consultation or have other questions.

Virtual Consultations
Fig. 1

Sometimes the first contact with the practice happens at this same time. For example, the patient may call the practice directly. But often, a new patient will fill out an online form requesting a call back or book directly using an online scheduling tool or photo submission through a VC widget (all forms of lead capture).

When this happens, the first contact with the practice is either an email or text confirmation back to the patient or a personal phone call back. The new patient then moves on into a consultation—virtual, in-person or a combo of both. All of which ultimately leads them to a start (Fig. 2).

Virtual Consultations
Fig. 2

As displayed in Fig. 3, each type of virtual consultation affects a different stage of the new-patient journey, and the practice’s “why” should guide which elements are appropriate for them.

Virtual Consultations
Fig. 3

  • If the practice’s “why” is mainly to respond to consumer demand, then the practice should implement the elements of the virtual consultation that patients are requesting. This may vary from region to region. The main thing to consider is that the practice is offering the service for the patients at their request, so a rigid process isn’t appropriate. Ensure that patients can opt in or opt out to any element, as long as they’re moving forward in the buying process.
  • If the practice’s “why” is to gain an edge on their competition or increase website conversion rate, then all they truly need is a virtual consultation widget. This is the only component that is public-facing, leaving the practice to move forward with their own process internally.
  • If the practice’s “why” is to qualify leads or increase conversion rate, how to implement virtual consultations varies on the degree that the orthodontic team would like to qualify. If chair time is very limited and the practice needs to make the most of every single exam, then all three components should be implemented. But if the practice simply wants to weed out price-sensitive shoppers, implementing the VC widget and qualifying would be sufficient.
  • If the practice wants to increase efficiency, then the first question is to determine where exactly it needs to be efficient. Virtual consultations increase efficiency of chair time, as well as follow-ups after in-office consultations. However, there is a large amount of admin work that comes with implementing various elements of the virtual consultation. It’s important to consider the practice’s priorities when setting up the virtual consultation system.

Conclusion

Virtual consultations are here to stay, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. Know why you are implementing them, and implement only the components that get you closer to your goals.

Author Bio
Casey Bull
Casey Bull, the global director of content and community at The Invisible Orthodontist (TIO), drives TIO’s efforts to provide member practices with marketing and business management expertise. Bull began her career in the orthodontic industry working for Dr. Alexander Waldman in Beverly Hills in 2014. While working for the practice, she developed a range of practice management processes encompassing tracking and reporting, management systems and templates, treatment plans, marketing programs and more.

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