In 17 years of private practice and the 10+ years I've been coaching I can’t remember having ever met a Dentist who didn't believe that word of mouth is the most effective and powerful method for generating quality new patient referrals. Having said that, I can count on one hand (with fingers remaining) the number of Dentists I've met who have both recognized and have been able to successfully take advantage of the fact that social media is the biggest and best platform for generating word-of-mouth referrals for your practice.
Forgive me if I sound a bit sarcastic here, but creating more positive word-of-mouth (and hence, MORE quality new patient referrals) doesn't require that you possess a genius IQ to figure out and implement successfully.
EXERCISING A BIT OF COMMON SENSE: Reveals that the key to generating MORE quality referrals each month lies in keeping your existing (and new) patients happy (i.e., “thrilled and delighted”) by proactively and thoughtfully creating and managing the experiences they have with you at every touch point in the Dynamic Patient Journey. Doing this results in radical improvements in retention as well as substantial (and relatively predictable) increases in new patient traffic in the form of referrals.
NOTE: If you’re not familiar with the Dynamic Patient Journey, you should be. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that the game has changed… you’re no longer in control… your patients are. If you continue playing the game using yesterday’s rules your referrals, new patients and production will continue to decrease.
It should come as no surprise to you that the rapid transformation of how people share information and communicate with friends, family-members, co-worker (and even total strangers) has all-but eviscerated the tried-and-true referral strategies of yesteryear (which BTW, are the primary models still being taught by PMC’s and DMC’s today).
It’s a safe bet that there are but a handful of docs (practice management and dental marketing companies too) who have figured out how to make the logical leap from offline referral generation to a full-blown referral generation strategy using social media.
A new study on consumer trust in advertising by healthcare providers, Nielsen finds that word of mouth remains the most-trusted form of advertising in the eyes of consumers as they shop for a new healthcare provider and or specialist (what would we do without Nielsen’s surprising revelation?)
In the study which compared various forms of advertising, 84% of the respondents showed a high to average level of trust in “recommendations from people I know,” while 68% felt the same way about consumer opinions posted online. That last statistic should open your eyes to the fact the Google reviews and/or comments left in social media platforms DO MATTER to your existing (and prospective new) patients. Note that both of those stats are significant increases over a previous study.
For the sake of helping make a point I’ll state the obvious: When it comes to patients, there are two types: new patients and existing patients. Word of mouth works when your existing patients (and Joint Venture Partners) tell others about you (i.e. “function as advocates on your behalf”). Some of the people who were on the receiving end of that positive word of mouth will schedule a new patient appointment in your office, accept your treatment plan and become long-term patient in your practice.
In order to get your word-of-mouth/referral program kicking in on all eight cylinders, it behooves you to invest the necessary amount of time, effort, and money on creating and managing patient “experiences” along every touch-point in the Dynamic Patient Journey (DPJ). To acquaint yourself with the DCJ you may want to read a recent article I wrote on how to improve your Dental Marketing Success via the Dynamic Patient Journey. It’s a short read and by investing a few minutes doing so you’ll be in a much better position to improve your patient retention and increase your referral traffic.
By studying the infographic I created (below) you’ll find important and relevant information necessary to improve patient retention and to increase referral traffic in your practice. You’ll also see (quite clearly) why it’s essential to strategically create and manage the experiences each of your patients has along every touch point in the Dynamic Patient Journey.
Before you check out the awesome infographic below, consider these three main points.
NOTE: The following data has taken into account patients who switch Dentists due to an insurance-related decision
- Why Do Patients Leave Your Practice
82% of patients polled said they switched to a new Dentist due to a poor experience.
That’s an awfully big number for something like that. Are you willing to lose patients for something that can (and should) be fixed?
- Why Patients “Stick” (i.e., “Stay in your practice”)
Patients stick around for just the opposite reason: good or great experience in your practice (while in the office, through communications, billing, etc.), i.e., they are treated well. But here’s the kicker: If you drop the ball, realize it then act fast… they can be awfully darn forgiving.
92% of patients say that they would go back to their Dentist after a negative experience, if they received an apology; a discount and/or were offered proof of enhanced customer service.
Even when they have a negative experience in your practice, you can win them back fairly easily… if you take immediate and proactive action.
And then, there’s this to consider:
- Retained patients mean more profit and less stress for you
It’s a lot less expensive to retain patients than it is to get new ones. It’s less work AND less money.
Makes it kind of a no-brainer, doesn't it?
And don’t forget, when you lose a patient, you’re not just losing their money. You are sending them to your competitors. Plus, they might take others with them with their word of mouth, which can be negative, just as easily as it can be positive.
Oh, did I mention that repeat patients tend to spend more?
So take a look at my infographic. Study it. Memorize it. Learn the lessons it holds, and share it with your employees, your office manager and your Dental Marketing Assistant.
What systems do you have in place to improve the experiences of your patients at every touch point with you?
ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ll be covering specific ways to improve patient retention in a coming article (soon) that you may want to read.