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REFERRAL CENTER TIP: Getting into the Right Conversations


How did you hear about us?

Why is it that this most crucial question in assessing home care and hospice community marketing efforts is not asked in 87% of consumer calls that aren't referred by a physician? It's because staff is so busy talking to the caller (as opposed to listening to them) that they forget. In addition, they may be reluctant to ask because they don’t want to "sounds like a sales person."

If only they'd listen: If your call staff focus on engaging the caller in a "tell me what's happening" conversation, they wouldn't have to ask most of the time.  The "how they heard about us" part would be revealed within the story. Many call staff focus on telling the caller about the program and all the hoops they have go through just to be visited that the last thing they're concerned with is how someone happened to call us today.

So here are some helpful tips:

Engage the caller: You have two ears and one mouth: Please use them in that proportion! Before you launch into a "wehave-itis" (we have nurses, aides, social workers") or "youhavetohave-itis" ("you have to have a terminal illness, less than 6 months, a doctor's order, blah, blah"), say to the caller, "Sure, I'll be happy to help you. Talk to me a little about what's going on." Ninety percent of the time, the caller will end up telling you how they heard about you. ("My friend Betty said her sister was in your program", or "the nursing home said you go in there to help people", or "I remember reading that article in the paper last month').

If they don't say how they got your name, wait until they're finished and then say, "Well, I'm glad you called us. And how did you happen to hear about us?" If you engage the caller first, this doesn't come across as a "sales" question. It's asked out of curiosity and as a natural part of the conversation.

What call staff fear most is that they'll sound like a telemarketer asking for a coupon code -- and they will if they ask the question up front before they express any interest in the caller's situation.

The irony: Many do sound like telemarketers because they start asking all the insurance and demographic information up front without having first shown any interest in the caller's situation or reason for calling. And what's worse, they're clueless as to how insensitive they can sound in the process.

If you want answers, let them talk: Even if they "just want information" about your program, they have a reason for calling, and that's what you must discern before launching into program details or asking the "how did you hear about us?" question.

Track all calls from all channels: There is absolutely no wrong answer to how the caller heard about your hospice program. Gather and record as much relevant information as possible.  Once you have a good database of this information, you will be able to see what is and what is not paying dividends. You will be able to track back where you are getting your best- and worst-case scenario admissions from. This is VERY important when dealing with "sister" organizations or other parts of your health care system. Make it a point to know which of the professionals in the organization are most bought into hospice and particularly those who strongly advocate for YOUR hospice. You can follow-up with them and reinforce positive behavior.