Self-pay: Process and pipeline

Richard Gregory

Paying attention to the different stages in the self-pay journey can help ensure a healthy pipeline, explains independent consultant Richard Gregory

Following on from last month’s article on process, this month I am focusing on a self-pay sales pipeline and process and how this can assist you in achieving a win-win situation with customers.

This is when customers decide to buy from you because you have met their expectations, helped them navigate easily through the self-pay customer journey and provided them with a highly personal service.

When the hospital provider has succeeded in this, they will undoubtedly have secured a high return on their self-pay marketing investment measured by the number and value of treatments carried out.

A self-pay sales pipeline acts as a funnel. Into the top are poured qualified enquiries generated by all the various marketing channel activity promoting the self-pay proposition.

Out from the bottom spits a number
of treatments and their value in terms of revenue and profitability. The relationship between these two is the conversion rate. Correctly referenced and detailed by specialty and channel, these numbers will allow for the calculation of a return on investment and provide benchmarks for any future campaigns.
The marketeer’s objective is to
widen the funnel by generating an ever-increasing number of good quality enquiries and the sales team’s objective is to ensure the conversion rate from enquiry to treatment is constantly improved upon.

I would emphasise here that the two roles are entirely different and should be carried out by people with very particular and relevant skill-sets. All too often I
have seen a blurring of these disciplines, more often than not to the detriment of conversion rates as a disproportionate amount of marketing skills is brought in.

So that’s the top and the bottom of the pipeline.

In between is the self-pay sales process or how a customer travels through the self-pay journey and its key stages.

A simple sales pipeline is always best and so only the key stages should be identified in the pipeline as the following diagram demonstrates. In its simplest form the self-pay journey travels from enquiry to outpatient appointment, to diagnostics, to treatment quote and then to treatment booked – five key stages. To improve conversion, attention and focus should be paid to what happens
at each and how effective the teams
are in guiding a maximum number of customers through to the next stage and thus improving the sub-conversion rates from stage to stage.

Self-pay teams must spend time debating the quality of service at each stage and identifying why customers may leak out from each stage (denoted on the diagram by the red arrows out from the pipeline) and identifying ways to counter this. This process instils effective teamwork and an unerring focus on quality.

Points in the pipeline

Attention paid to ensuring that a maximum number of customers flow through the pipeline is simply attention paid to providing the best customer service possible. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between the two right through the pipeline:

  • At point A, as the provider strives to book outpatient appointments, so the customer enjoys a streamlined and swift initial response, building reassurance and confidence.
    The key here is the availability of the right number of appointments at the right time for each key specialty and the ability to directly book in and register patients.
  • At point B, discovering which patients need treatment after their initial consultation, demands strong relationships with medical secretaries and a proactive approach to calling or meeting with patients to see how it went. Following up is a truly personal customer service, which most patients appreciate.
  • At point C, booking or coordinating the booking of diagnostics is a continuation of great customer service.By not letting go of your customer’s hand you ensure they are seen quickly in-house or at facilities you work closely with. The provider thus ensures the patient is moving quickly and serenely through your pipeline.
  • At point D, providing timely and accurate quotes is the culmination of strong teamwork between a sales executive and hospital clinical management, finance, hospital director, medical secretary and consultant. The quote should be delivered verbally first to ensure all costs are fully explained and terms and conditions fully understood. It is here also that most ‘objections’ will occur. Objections are buying signals to be surfaced, but more on this in a later article. Self-pay customers expect clear and transparent pricing so they can make instant affordability judgements. It also continues to build confidence.
  • At point E, the patient has received a treatment slot which suits them. Sales executives should always follow up just before the treatment date to check
all is okay and to avoid last-minute cancellations due to second thoughts.

By building a simple sales pipeline and process, measuring performance at each stage by reducing the risk of lost opportunity and ensuring the service
is top quality, will help you to achieve higher self-pay profitability and build stronger customer loyalty.