9 Strategies To Transform Your Patients Into A Referral Machine

August 2018 ISSUE August 1, 2018
Marketing New Patients/Treatment Acceptance
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Competition is increasing from the growing number of practicing dentists and corporate practices. That makes it harder than ever to attract the number of new patients needed to keep your practice growing. Before undertaking an expensive external marketing campaign, invest your time and attention internally by keeping your current patients happy to stimulate more referrals. 

Your existing patients are the key to your ongoing success and continued growth. They can also be a goldmine for new patients, as ambassadors for your practice. Here are a few ways to “wow” them, and encourage them to refer their friends, family, and colleagues to your practice. 

Running a high-quality practice is critical before patients are willing to refer other patients to you. Since patients can’t judge your clinical care, they evaluate you based on non-clinical factors, including their new patient experience, and especially how they're treated by you and your staff. Here's how to improve their overall experience and generate more referrals in the process. 

  1. Be on Time – Delays are the number one complaint patients have about their dental experience. Making patients wait sends two negative messages that can drive them away, and cause negative reviews. First, that you have little respect for their time. Secondly, that your practice is disorganized. Moreover, these negatives can subtly undermine patient confidence in your clinical expertise, inflicting further damage. 
  2. Listen – Let patients explain their concerns first. Be sure to give them uninterrupted time to discuss their dental and health concerns. Be an active listener: repeat back what you’ve heard to make sure you’re on the same page, before giving your diagnosis and recommended treatment plan.   
  3. Educate Your Patients – Describe the treatment options available to them and explain each option in layman’s terms. Outline the negative consequences if the recommended treatment is not accepted. Patients need to understand the risks of ignoring your recommendations. Be sure to discuss not only the oral health implications, but also the potential negative impact on their overall health. 
  4. Show and Tell – A picture really is worth 1,000 words when educating patients about their dental needs. Use an intra-oral camera, digital x-rays, mirrors, etc. to show the patient their specific dental problem. Better yet, make sure your hygienist does the same and reviews the potential problem with the patient before you arrive on the scene. 
  5. Pay Attention to Pain – Thoroughly discuss the probability and severity of pain in advance of treatment. Put the patient at ease, because anxiety intensifies pain, and the fear of pain intensifies anxiety. You need to break that cycle. Arrange a signal for the patient to let you know if they are in pain. This will lessen their anxiety, even if they never have to give you the signal. A patient who thinks you are ignoring their pain, or are condescending to them about it, will likely move to another practice. 
  6. Follow-Up – The best way to demonstrate that you care about your patients is to call them following major procedures to see how they are recovering, and to what extent they may need follow-up care. Even if you are unable to reach them, the mere fact that you called and left a caring message speaks volumes about your concern for them and your quality of care.
  7. Show Appreciation – Thank new patients for choosing your practice by sending thank-you letters after their new patient exam. Also, consider throwing an annual patient appreciation party with food, music, and contests. While it may not be appropriate for all practices, it can be a very effective practice- building device. 
  8. Survey Your Patients – What do your patients want? You won’t know if you don’t ask. That’s why an annual patient satisfaction survey is so important. Aside from providing important intelligence about your practice, it also engages your patients. However, it’s only successful if you and your staff are willing to make the changes necessary, based on the feedback received. 
  9. Ask for Referrals – While you probably know this is effective, you’re likely not doing it nearly often enough! Make sure you tell patients that they are valuable and appreciated, and ask for referrals any time a patient joins your practice, compliments you and/or your staff, or completes major treatment with a positive result. Use language like: “We love having you in our practice and would love to have more patients just like you. If you have friends, family members, relatives, or colleagues who need a dental home, we would be grateful if you would refer them to us.” 

Implementing these recommendations takes only a small amount of time, effort, and money. Yet, the small investment in these 9 strategies can yield supersized results, bringing in dozens more new patients each month. So, review them with your staff and get started today! 

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