This is question asked by a new member on Bald Truth Talk forums about having a hair transplant consultation and it is touching on some issues that I've spoken about before so I think it is time for a blog post about the subject.
A hair transplant consultation is always "worth it" if you are trying to find information regarding your candidacy for a hair transplant. In fact, it is essential if one is to know for sure whether or not a hair transplant is even possible. Make no mistake, doing one's own research is essential because you have to know enough about the procedure so that the doctor doesn't sound like he's speaking Greek when he's explaining your case to you. I know several very kind, compassionate hair restoration doctors but when you've been doing hair transplant surgery for years and years it gets more and more difficult for doctors, and even consultants, to break things down into every day lingo that the average patient can understand. That is why websites like my own, and a few others, exist; so that anyone that is curious about their hair restoration options can educate and even arm themselves with the most legitimate and unbiased information possible.
What to Expect From A Hair Transplant Consultation
There are two ways to get a hair transplant consultation. The first is to simply call your clinic of choice to schedule an in house appointment. This itself can be an exercise because sometimes it is not as simple as agreeing on a day and time. Why? Some clinics will ask you a series of questions before they confirm your appointment and let you in their doors. This is the way they "qualify the lead". This is a typical and well used sales tactic that basically pre-qualifies the patient before the doctor has seen them. By pre-qualifying a lead a few things will be learned about you.
- Your age - This is the first thing that they'll want to know and this is what will tell them the most about you. If you are in your teens, you're lucky if they'll even stay on the line because teenagers and hair transplants do not mix, which means they will be wasting their own time because teenagers have to have parental permission and most parents won't allow their children to undergo cosmetic surgery. There are extenuating circumstances of course but in general this is the first hurdle. If you are in your early to mid-twenties, it is assumed that you are either just out of college or not yet in a stable enough job that allows one the freedom to spend the money necessary for a hair transplant. This doesn't preclude anyone in their early to mid twenties from finding the money, it's just that clinics that study their sales stream understand that it is unlikely that a hair transplant will be happening. Now, if you are in your late twenties and on up then you'll more easily pass this particular area of the questionnaire. This is because at this age most people have been in the workforce long enough that they have built up their credit and/or they have some extra money saved up for a procedure.
- Your profession - This goes without saying but obviously if you are in a traditionally low paying position then it is unlikely you'll be able to afford surgical hair restoration BUT a smart clinic will know that one cannot always judge a book by it's cover but this still gives the clinic an idea of what to expect from you.
- Where you live - Specifically, they'll ask for your address and THIS is one of the biggest biases one can expect during an interview, and believe me, YOU are the one being interviewed (in the minds of the clinic personnel). Most clinics have the idea that they have what you want so it is in their power to accept you are deny you. This is untrue but we'll touch more on that later. Once they have your address they will either look it up or they may already know the area but regardless of how they look at it they will make a financial judgement about you based on where you live. Sometimes they may even look up your property value (but first they'll see if you are even a homeowner) and make assumptions based on this information.
- Marital status - Oddly, this question will be asked but it is legitimate because they'll know if you are the final decision maker or if their is someone else involved. If you're male, and married, they'll joke around and say "you have to check with the boss, right? Hahahaha!". Ugh! It's such a bad line. Anyway, this is something they'll want to know so be ready.
- Reference - "How did you hear about us?" This is common and it is also legitimate because they want to know where their marketing dollars are working. Was it a forum? A billboard? TV? They will record this on their form before you even arrive.
There are other questions you'll be asked but these are the basics JUST TO GET AN APPOINTMENT with some, not all, clinics. They'll use this information to craft a custom consultation for you. This is not to better inform you but to better "sell" you, or convince you, that you should have a hair transplant with them. This is not how it happens at all clinics but the ones that care about their sales and marketing will ask these and other questions. Others will accept your appointment without anything more required than your name and phone #. In reality, neither one is better than the other because if they gather a lot of up front information they are also in a better position to tell you that you are not a candidate which will save you a lot of time.
Should I Pay for a Hair Transplant Consultation?
This is a great question. One thing I learned is that too often patients expect consultations at their hair transplant clinic of choice to be free of charge. I don't know where this started or how long ago but I'm certain it was an effort by someone to undercut and get an advantage over local competitors. Unfortunately this practice has spread and sometimes patients will roll their eyes in actual disgust if a clinic charges for a hair transplant consultation.
Here is why I think clinics have every right to charge for their patients for a hair transplant consultation. In many hair restoration clinics, a large percentage of people are not candidates for surgery for a number of reasons. These can range from having insufficient funds to having an insufficient donor area and even having unrealistic expectations. In some clinics, depending on how motivated and aggressive the sales department is, four out of every ten consultations will not be a candidate for surgery and of those six remaining that are candidates three won't commit to surgery. So this means that roughly 3 out of every ten consultations will convert to a sale. That's not a good ratio and what the other 70% of consultations are getting is an hour of free education by exceptionally educated specialists; 7 hours worth in fact.
I think that clinics should charge a fee for a hair transplant consultation and this is why. One hundred dollars, even two hundred dollars, is a small price to pay for education that will literally change your life, one way or the other, especially when you are already willing and able to spend upwards of ten thousand dollars, or sometimes much much more to get the hair that you want. Does it not stand to reason that spending a fraction of this money is worth knowing if this desire is going to be productive or destructive? Why should such incredibly important and valuable information be free?
Joe, not every clinic will be honest with me so that fee doesn't guarantee an honest assessment during my hair transplant consultation.
This is absolutely true but if you have done your research and have vetted what you feel are reputable clinics then you WILL get relatively honest answers about whether or not surgery is right for you. There are no guarantees but the right amount of self education will help you to find honest and reliable hair restoration doctors. You can also do a few more things that I'll discuss later that will help to ensure you get relatively honest answers about your candidacy. Keep in mind that when you pay a consultation fee this money is not always gone forever. Many clinics charge a fee but this fee is deducted from your final bill if you wind up having a procedure. This is not always the case but it is in some clinics. If they keep the fee, consider it a fee for a professional education from a specialist, be it a doctor or a well trained and experienced consultant. In the end, it's a small price to pay.
Ok, How Do I Get Honest Answers?
First, download the Hair Transplant Mentor™ Doctor Interview Form. Print it out to take with you to your consultation. This is a list of 25 questions that you can ask the doctor or consultant that you have your initial consultation with.
Second, you want to wait until the basic introductions are over and everyone is settled in for the consultation before sharing this next bit with your doctor or consultant. Tell them that you have been researching online and you have joined The Bald Truth forum or Hairloss Experiences forum and you've been reading a lot. This will tell the consultant or doctor that any basic language should be thrown out the window because you are obviously educated even to a small degree. This automatically puts people on notice that you are not a local that just found them in the phone book or walked in off the street.
Third, allow the consultation to proceed. The doctor or consultant will take charge (usually) by asking you a series of questions that they've asked hundreds if not thousands of times. Your answers will be written down and this will give them an idea of your physical candidacy as well as your financial candidacy. They do this by inserting questions randomly that touch on money or hobbies or whatever it is you do for work AND for play. For instance, if you SCUBA dive you probably have some money because diving is not a cheap sport. After several questions have been asked and the chatting is well underway you can tell them that you are not only a member of several forums but you are also a student of Joe Tillman and HairTransplantMentor.com and that you have a list of questions you would like to ask. That's when you pull out the questionnaire you downloaded and printed before you arrived. The interview form asks some easy questions but it also asks some tough questions. The tougher questions are not only meant to be answered they are also meant to illicit a response via body language and composure. If the questions are difficult you'll see a change in how they present themselves. Some may get nervous, some may stammer, others may cease looking you in the eye and get fidgety. Various indicators will reveal themselves if you have any experience noticing these things. Hell, some doctors or consultants might just ask you to leave! If they do, the interview form has done it's job. NEXT!
But Joe, what if I'm doing a virtual consultation? How can I do all of this through email or through a form?
Good question! You have two options here. At some point you'll be on the phone with someone from the clinic so you can simply do all of the steps above but on the phone. The basics are the same and the steps are the same. It isn't quite as effective since you don't have the luxury of watching their reactions to your questions and statements but you can still hear mannerisms in their voice. The second option, and is something I feel is much more preferred and effective, is a Skype hair transplant consultation so you can be face to face with your consultant, or better yet, your doctor. If you don't have Skype then you have been living in a cave. It comes standard on every Windows PC now and is included in many phone and tablets from the factory. It is also an easy download.
Joe, I'm already scheduled for surgery and I just learned about the Hair Transplant Mentor™ Doctor Interview Form? It's too late for me.
No, it's not. You can still print out the form and take it with you for your pre-operative hair transplant consultation. This is almost standard because the clinic, if they care to begin with, will want to make sure you are ready so they'll ask you to fill out some paperwork but they'll also talk to you to see if you're feeling ok and have any final questions. That's when you pull out the interview form and let them know you've been studying on the forums and on HairTransplantMentor.com. This is also where you can tell them that you fully plan on documenting your procedure online in real time with monthly updates. If your clinic has mislead you in any way, deliberately or not, their knees will wobble and their voices will crack. It is at this time that you will see what you need to see and whether or not you should get up and walk out, deposit be damned.