To generate revenue from a patient, you must first have them find the practice (internet, word of mouth, doctor referral), then have a need to call the office, schedule a consultation, and agree to book a treatment.
This cycle depends on several factors, but today we’d like to talk about the conversion rate between the consultation and treatment or surgery. Some practitioners charge a nominal fee for the initial consultation. Whether to entice serious clients or just to reduce no shows, consult fees are a delicate issue. Like any business decision, there are tradeoffs to be considered for charging a consult fee. Different practices have different financial needs, client bases, and myriad factors to consider. Below, we will go over some of the pros and cons of charging a fee for a consultation.
Charging A Consult Fee
You may have a variety of reasons for choosing to charge a consult fee. No matter what those reasons might be, there are pros and cons to that decision.
Pros of Charging a Consult Fee
- Increased conversions: Closing rates can increase by 17% when a consultation fee is charged. This is due to the customer being “priced in” and invested in the treatment. If they spent money just to see the doctor, then they’re more likely to continue to spend.
- Serious Patients: You’re more likely to avoid “looky-loos” and browsers; someone who is serious about undergoing a procedure or treatment will demonstrate it by paying a consult fee.
- Reduced No Shows: When patients invest in the consultation, they are more likely to keep future appointments with you, reducing your no-show rate.
- Revenue Boost: Consult fees provide a revenue boost to your practice, so even if the client doesn’t decide to undergo a procedure, you are still generating revenue from your interaction with them.
Of course, there are downsides to consider as well. Charging for consultations may scare off new clients or give the impression that you’re just in this for making money by any means.
Cons of Charging a Consult Fee
- Scaring Off Potential New Patients: A fee may lose a potential patient to someone else who does offer free consults. To prevent this, make sure you’re emphasizing the quality level of your service. Another solution could be to say that the fee goes towards whichever procedure you book.
- Negative Experience Leads To Negative Reviews: The potential sour taste of paying for consultation may bring a higher likelihood of a negative online review if the patient is unhappy with the experience.
What about a Free Consultation?
A consult fee isn’t a must. Free consultations are common for a reason. They get people in the door and relieve some of the pressure from the client.
Pros of a Free Consultation
- Lower barrier to entry: New customers might be skeptical of a practice that charges just to see a provider. A free consultation will set a relaxed tone, taking pressure off the customer and the doctor.
- Establish a patient base: If you’re the new doctor on the block, providing free consultations will be a great way to build a client base. Even if you eventually want to move towards paid consults, having the initial consultations free of charge can create demand and lead to more bookings. Perhaps you can hold a “Free Consultation Week” promotion to limit the number of free consults you actually provide.
Cons of a Free Consultation
The good news about free consultations is that they’re free. The bad news about free consultations is that they are free. Here are a few pitfalls of not charging for a consult:
- “I’m just browsing, thanks”: Charging a fee for a service can bring about a level of seriousness to the transaction. If someone is visiting you for free, then they’re not going to have as much of a buy-in (literal and metaphorical) to continue with the treatment.
- Time is Money: At the end of the day, you’re running a business. A business needs to make a set amount of money in a set amount of time to be profitable. If the patient does not convert to a treatment, there is zero revenue for the cost of the lead acquisition or practitioner and office staff time. The absence of a revenue-generating patient compounds that. If you are going to do consults for free, make sure you’re factoring in what your “hourly rate” for your practice is, so you can make sure you’re making up the difference elsewhere.
Ok, I want to charge a fee, how much should I charge?
Generally speaking, you should charge a fee of $150-$500, depending on your practice location and target demographic. A good rule of thumb is to start lower and then gradually increase over time. Consult fees are a mechanism of supply and demand; if you’re getting a lot more consults than you have time for, raise the cost so you make time for the most serious patients. Theoretically, a higher consult fee will lead to a more considerable conversion, as the client feels they’re already invested.
How should the fee work?
We advise practitioners to apply the consultation fee towards the treatment if it is booked within a limited time (perhaps six months). Not only is this a goodwill gesture that will encourage bookings, but you’ll also be able to offer a “discount” to clients, ensuring repeat business.
Contact Our Marketing Agency for Help Integrating a Consult Fee Into Your Lead Cycle
Goldman Marketing Group is a consulting firm and marketing agency exclusively serving the medical community. Located in several states and even abroad, our clients are 100% focused in healthcare, including private medical practices, private equity-backed groups, surgery centers/hospitals, as well as pharmaceutical, skincare, and device companies.
GMG’s philosophy offers CMO (chief marketing officer)-level strategy and multi-channel marketing services all under one roof, including website development, lead generation, social media marketing, online reputation management, practice management, email marketing, key messaging, and brand development.
Whether you want to go out-of-network with insurance, grow your revenue, or expand your scope of services, our marketing agency is your solution to develop your business and increase your practice revenue. Contact Goldman Marketing Group today to learn more about integrating a consultation fee into your lead cycle.