One of my favorite television commercials of all time is a UPS commercial from either the late 90s or early 2000s. It features a startup company (remember the dot com boom and bubble?) launching their new website, nervous, hoping they get orders.

Many of you researchers can relate to this. You launch a new study, implement a new recruitment campaign, and you hope and pray that you are able to reach your target enrollment. In fact, you spend so much time preparing recruitment and for the research itself, sometimes you aren’t prepared to handle the influx of prospects that you’re hoping for.

Let’s watch the aforementioned commercial to see how this played out:

As you can see, this group of people was completely unprepared for the deluge they began experiencing. They never thought about what they would do if their sales efforts succeeded and how they would handle the prospects.

We see the same thing quite often with our clients. They begin generating prospects and leads, but they aren’t able to accommodate them. Leads aren’t handled promptly or properly, and they turn stale, they never convert into butts in seats.

Now, please understand, I’m not criticizing anyone in this position. It is just a very common situation that we see. And it makes sense; how many of you have the budget in place to fund a small call center that can promptly speak with all prospects? How many of you are able to respond to leads after-hours or during weekends?

So, before you launch your next recruitment initiative, make sure you have a plan to accommodate the prospects that you’re hoping to generate. Here are a few suggestions:

One, Be prepared to receive a large number, perhaps a majority, of your prospects outside of regular business hours. If you can’t have a call staff working after-hours, you’re not alone! But, at a minimum, you need to have an email auto-responder that lets them know you’re going to call them as soon as you’re back in the office. This should exist regardless of what time of day you receive leads—let them know what happens next, when it happens, and what to expect. If it is going to be a bit of time before your staff can call them, be upfront with them. Otherwise, they may fear you forgot about them.

Two, If you do plan on having someone available to answer calls from prospects, or someone charged with calling prospects once their info comes in, make sure they actually have time to do it. At a minimum, they should be able to return calls three times a day (morning, after lunch, and late afternoon). However, keep in mind that research shows that after the five-minute mark, your chances of getting the lead on the phone decrease several hundred percent! Making time to return calls should be a top priority for this staff member, and it cannot be overlooked or pushed to the next day. It should be understood across your department that Jane or John is required to make/return calls each day, and that nothing can override that—no matter how busy you may get.

Three, Consider a live chat component on your website. If your staff can’t make or receive calls, but can type back and forth from a computer or device, this could work for you. However, be very careful: if your goal is to be HIPAA compliant, please know that this isn’t a simple solution.

The worst thing you can do is cause a prospect to feel like you don’t care about them, or that you forgot about them. When this happens, it isn’t uncommon for the prospect to go to the entity’s Facebook page in a rage, leaving a nasty review or comment for the world to see. We’ve seen this happen quite a few times, and it can damage your reputation among other prospects, affecting your ability to recruit.

If you can’t promptly handle and respond to all prospects, don’t worry, as you’re not alone. However, follow these tips to ensure you have a plan in place that lets the prospect know what to expect, and a process for your team to efficiently respond to them as best they can.

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