“Listen to the customer”, With Douglas Brown and Brianna Socci of UBERDOC

Listen to the customer, they will teach you what they want to buy — physicians are overwhelmed with office technologies. The average physician spends six hours per day on tasks outside direct patient care. We knew we needed to bring physicians to our platform, not shove our technology in their face. Every time you speak to a […]

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Listen to the customer, they will teach you what they want to buy — physicians are overwhelmed with office technologies. The average physician spends six hours per day on tasks outside direct patient care. We knew we needed to bring physicians to our platform, not shove our technology in their face. Every time you speak to a customer, listen to them. And I mean really listen to them. They’ll tell you what they need every single time.

As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brianna Socci, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at UBERDOC, Inc. She is responsible for day-to-day business operations and technology development. Brianna has grown the UBERDOC network to over 4,000 physicians, and expanded the network by over 150% nationwide between Q1 and Q3 of 2020. She leads an international development team to advance product capabilities, and in response to COVID, added telemedicine to the UBERDOC platform all within an aggressive startup budget.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was looking for something different, where I could have an impact on something big. I wanted a challenging opportunity that allowed me to take control and create something. I’m a single mom, and I wanted to defy the odds and pave a path that someday my daughter could look back on and say “Wow, that is super cool what my mom did.”

I’ve always been passionate about solving big problems and helping people in need. When Dr. Paula Muto approached me about launching UBERDOC, I couldn’t pass it up. Paula and I knew we could make a difference in healthcare.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

We turned some big heads in businesses that noticed us right from the start. Some big companies came after us, and we had to defend ourselves. It was like David fighting Goliath. With a name like UBERDOC and a platform that stands up against the insurance oligarchy, you can imagine who started to take notice. Fighting for our legal right to grow our business was a distraction from our growth plan, but it motivated us even more. We sure weren’t running a neighborhood lemonade stand anymore. We were in the big leagues.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My Aunt Maria has been my rock for my entire life, but especially the past 5 years since starting UBERDOC. When I took the leap to quit my previous job and start a company in Boston, my daughter and I moved in with her. She has been my right-hand in raising Olivia. From helping out with school work, to dropping her off at tennis lessons, or looking after her when I’m on a business trip, I couldn’t do any of this without her. Thank you, Maria, we love you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” — Unknown

It is so important to raise our daughters to demand equal treatment, and to demand equal pay. We need to create a world where our next generation of women do not need to break glass ceilings, because we have already taken care of eliminating them.

I think about this every day as I raise my daughter. I want her to see strength in me and grow confident in herself. She is already showing that she can do great things. I can’t wait to see her soar.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

UBERDOC is a fast pass to a doctor. Patients pay a single, transparent price to skip the line and go directly to the top physician of their choice. There’s no fuss. You find a doctor, an appointment time that works with your schedule, and pay a flat price all at the push of a button.

I founded UBERDOC with Dr. Paula Muto, who is a general and vascular surgeon. She has been in solo-private practice for over 25 years, and has seen firsthand how difficult it is for patients to access the care they need. We wanted to develop a simple solution that involved the only two stakeholders that matter in healthcare, the doctor and patient.

Patients wait on average 24 days for a doctor’s appointment, and there are a lot of patients who just can’t wait that long. The delay is not only caused by the fact that physicians are so busy, but also the time it takes physicians and their offices to retrieve insurance authorizations. Why should there be a middleman in the way? We connect the patient directly to the specialist. If you want to see a specialist, you go.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

With UBERDOC, patients can bypass referrals, insurance restrictions and delays because they have complete control over their appointment and service.

By eliminating the red tape created by insurance, physicians are able to put a few seats aside and keep costs low for cash-pay patients.

Say you twist your knee playing basketball — rather than ending up at the walk-in or trying to get an appointment with your primary to get a referral, with UBERDOC, you book a priority appointment and go directly to the orthopedic. Most patients have a deductible, and are already paying cash for care through an HSA/FSA. We keep costs low and enable patients to avoid approvals, skip the line, and get fast, quality care.

What really makes our company stand out is the access to priority appointments and the cost transparency. The patient knows the cost of the appointment before they make it and there are no surprise bills afterwards.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

Our mission with UBERDOC was to create price transparency for patients and restore the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors wanted that, and patients wanted that. In healthcare, isn’t that who matters?

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

The price of healthcare has only increased since we launched UBERDOC. In 2016, we thought UBERDOC was a great option for patients who thought paying out of pocket was worth the convenience. Now, out-of-pocket healthcare costs were up 14% between 2017 and 2018, and two thirds of adults are worried about the costs of surprise medical bills.

Now more than ever, the convenience and transparency of UBERDOC is needed. Our patients have access to information and technology, and we let them use that to self-manage their health. Nobody gets to tell our patients they are not approved for care.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

When COVID hit, traffic in offices decreased, so we knew we needed to offer a delivery method that made patients more comfortable. In Q2, we added telemedicine capabilities to our platform and it has been a tremendous value add for not only the patients, but the physicians too. Now our patients can get access to any doctor on our network from anywhere they want. Telemedicine creates even more accessibility for our doctors and our patients.

We are excited about some new features that will allow government agencies to use the UBERDOC platform for client assessments and certifications.

The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?

The hardest part about being able to scale our company has been securing venture funding. The statistics speak for themselves — only 2.2% of VC funding was given to female founders in 2018. Raising money has been a challenge, and VCs give money to entrepreneurs they know. Unfortunately, Paula and I aren’t part of the “club”, so getting access to that funding network was tough.

But we fought through it. We used self-financing, friends and family, and grew our own grass-roots investor network. We did amazing things on small budgets. We prioritized our efforts on developments that would make an impact in the market. We kept growing, and eventually, we got noticed. With improved messaging, and a mission that others in the business value, investors came forward.

Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?

Form strategic partnerships. When it is time to scale and expand offerings, you will most likely need products and technology solutions that are not necessarily in your wheelhouse. Rather than developing them from scratch yourself, find a friend who is already doing it, and doing it well. That allows you to focus on your core business and leverage partners for adjacent development and delivery.

When we needed telemedicine capabilities, instead of developing our own, we partnered with VSee, who already had a sophisticated telemedicine technology that we could easily white label. We were able to quickly integrate them into our business, thereby expanding our offerings and growing business for each of us.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was recently a keynote speaker for a webinar hosted by an organization in Tokyo. I was speaking about building technologies and expanding sales teams on a start-up budget, which I referred to as a “ramen noodle budget.” Seconds after, I realized I was speaking to a group of people who probably don’t think of ramen noodles as the 0.29 dollars Maruchan packages we get at the supermarket.

Always be aware of your audience. You may need to adjust your sales pitch to fit their needs and culture.

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

Everyone at UBERDOC is part of the sales team. Our customers include doctors, patients, employers, and even communities. Customer service is paramount for us, so we are always trying to improve it. We have gotten REALLY good at getting doctors on our platform. Since Paula is a physician, and in the trenches daily, we know firsthand the struggles physicians are facing, and how to develop a technology that easily complements their existing workflow. We have also made it REALLY convenient for our patients; with three easy steps, they can make an appointment.

Everyone at UBERDOC puts the customer first. We don’t call it “sales,” we call it “onboarding.” Doctors come aboard our specialist network, and patients come aboard our service network. We created onboarding processes for doctors and patients. Our whole team knows every step of the onboarding process from our first contact to the first matching appointment. Our job is to make that process as easy as we can for the customer.

Get to know your customers. Stop and listen to them. Understand what they need and give them something that isn’t disruptive, but fits into their day-to-day operations.

Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Hyper-focus on priorities — as an entrepreneur, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity, and open every door, hoping it is the silver bullet. But you NEED to focus. Bandwidth and resources are already spread thin in a start-up. Rather than trying to juggle multiple projects, pick one or two and execute them really well. At the beginning, we were targeting so many different groups of patients. By going after so many, our message was too weak to make a big impact. Instead, we picked and few and infiltrated those markets heavy.
  2. Listen to the customer, they will teach you what they want to buy — physicians are overwhelmed with office technologies. The average physician spends six hours per day on tasks outside direct patient care. We knew we needed to bring physicians to our platform, not shove our technology in their face. Every time you speak to a customer, listen to them. And I mean really listen to them. They’ll tell you what they need every single time.
  3. Respond, don’t react — not everyone is going to love your idea like you do, and that’s ok. Listen to the feedback, and then respond to it. We have made some snap reactions, and got defensive, when investors didn’t understand our mission. Later, we learned to adjust our messaging and better demonstrate the value of our business.
  4. Be content with the slow times — entrepreneurship is a roller coaster of emotions, there will be a lot of highs and a lot of lows. If you have a slow week, don’t view it as failure. Use the down time to clear your head and prepare for the craziness that is bound to come the following week.
  5. Take a risk and move forward — measure the benefits and calculate the risks of every decision you make. You can steer a ship sailing in the wrong direction a lot easier than you can steer one that hasn’t left the dock. We spent a lot of time chasing business with hospitals, and then realized there was so much bureaucracy involved. We found independent doctors were much more agile, so we pivoted our marketing towards them.

What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

Evolve. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. But the world changes fast. You may need to reinvent your business based on where the market is going. We reinvented this year with telemedicine to support our market needs in the pandemic.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

We always tell our doctors to tell their doctor-friends to join. The more physicians on UBERDOC in one community, the better it is for patients. Most likely their colleague is dealing with the same frustrations in their office.

For patients, we target groups of people we think would benefit from UBERDOC. For instance, college students. They’re away from home, their primary care physician isn’t nearby, and they need to see a dermatologist right away. By partnering with universities, we can offer students and their parents an alternative to care, right when they need it.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

First off, my customers can reach me directly. Most have my cell phone number. They know they have my ear. UBERDOC demonstrates that we understand their problem and can solve it. Even if we don’t have the specific solution right now, we show them how to service it today and where on our roadmap that solution will be available in the future.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

Our customers really believe in what we are doing. UBERDOC is a movement, and we’re working with our customers towards the same mission. When we make the customer experience delightful for both the doctor and the patient, they stick around.

We have a variety of plans and subscriptions to accommodate everyone. The doctor can right-size their participation, and the patient knows that seeing a doctor is only a click away.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that every child growing up today should have access to the tools they need to succeed, and the guidance to instill knowledge and build their confidence to reach their potential in whatever it is they dream to do. Our future lies in our youth becoming the best versions of themselves, and they need us to show them the way.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

This is so cheesy and embarrassing, and I don’t think I’ll ever get a private meal with him, but I absolutely love Leonardo DiCaprio. My fascination with him started in 1999 when I was five years old, and I used to watch the movie Titanic on repeat. If you remember, the movie was so long and came in a set of two VHS tapes. Now that I think back, I have no idea why my parents allowed their five-year-old to watch a movie with a steamy love scene and sinking ship.

From Titanic on, I obsessed over all of his movies. My sister has a photo of me sobbing on the floor the night he won an Oscar. I made her promise me to lock that photo away for good.

He was actually filming a movie recently in Boston, and my friend and I spent days collecting all of the information we could so I can accidentally fall into his arms on set. I have yet to meet him.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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