Reader D. asks:
“What are your most successful tips for closing the appointment on time with verbose patients?”
For those of you with “talk-heavy” consultative practices, a talkative client (or a series of them) can either throw a busy schedule completely off-kilter, or turn a not-so-busy schedule into a day of chatter that you don’t get properly paid for. Here’s our strategy for reigning in the chatty ones without being rude.
1. Use a Clock. You really can’t be on time if you don’t know what time it is. Same goes for your clients.
That may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many practitioners don’t have a clock in their office. A watch can work, but it can be hard to glance at your watch in some situations—a clock may work better. Better yet, try two—one that you can see, and one that your patients can see, too.
2. Take Responsibility
Practitioners with real chops for managing time will tell you that an appointment isn’t just a meandering conversation. It’s a guided, structured interaction. And the guide is you, not the client.
An appointment that ends right on time isn’t luck. It’s not because of a cooperative client, or the ability to simply shut someone down mid-sentence and say, “Your time is up.” Appointments finish on time because the practitioner controls the appointment, not the client.
If your appointments run consistently late, you need to accept that it’s within your control to change that.
3. Lead The Interaction
It may be your job to guide the appointment to a timely finish, but talkative clients can be very persistent. Here a are a few tips to taking control of the appointment flow:
- Re-state the time frame. Chatty clients tend to forget how much time is available. You can gently remind them up front by saying, “We only have until 2:30, so we should get right to it.”
- Don’t ask “How are you?” with verbose patients. Stick to more closed questions that are specific to your patient’s complaint. Instead of “How are you?” try, “How are your headaches?”
- Don’t ask open-ended questions after the halfway mark. With verbose patients, you’ll need to start closing sooner. Don’t open up a whole new topic, or ask for more information after the midpoint. The first half is for them, the second half is for you – you need time to diagnose, treat, create a plan, explain, etc.
Any suggestions for keeping a runaway appointment on the rails? Let us know in the comments!