Active Listening: The Key to Patient Communication

Eric Welke Best Practices, Customer Experience, Dental, Guides, How to & Tutorials, Medical, Reputation Management Leave a Comment

There is little doubt of the importance of patient experience and satisfaction in the medical profession these days. There continues to be a fundamental shift from the traditional approach to medicine centered around doctor directed care to the emphasis on patient satisfaction and experience. (I have written about the difference between patient experience and satisfaction here.)

With this change in emphasis comes a number of other changes. One of these is the increased transparency of patient reviews on social media and search engines. Whether the shift to patient experience is a boon or bust, it is the reality and must be addressed.

Part of addressing the changing emphasis is the preeminence of your communication skills as a healthcare provider.  Communication has always been at the center of good healthcare, but it is doubly important now.

Downfalls of Bad Communication Skills

Not only is communication key to a patient centered approach to medicine, but the lack of it can have serious consequences. In fact, the vast majority of malpractice risk is centered around poor communication. Research shows that:

  • 71% of malpracitve cases were brought as a result of patient relationship problems;
  • The most litigious patients had the perception that their provider was uncaring; and
  • 25% of patients with malpractice suits reported poor delivery of medical information.

Malpractice, and the mishaps or accidents around it, is perhaps the worst-case scenario to poor communication. But it isn’t the only downside. Poor patient satisfaction and experience is the other.

With the ever-increasing transparency of everyday life brought to us by social media, the impact of poor communication skills can be instantaneous. Patients can rant and rave about a provider the second they walk out the door through a Google review. This review, once posted, is then seen by your current and prospective patients.

You can tell when someone has had a bad patient experience centered around poor communication just from reading the review.  Not only will a patient mention that they didn’t feel like they were being listened to, but the very fact of the negative review shows that the patient just needed someone to vent to.  And, unfortunately for your practice, that venting is now available for everyone to read.

Benefits of Good Communication Skills

With the downsides sufficiently covered, the upsides are pretty straightforward. With good communication and active listening skills you will not only be able to make a better diagnosis of the patient’s issues, but you will also build a stronger relationship with your patients.

Stronger relationships mean you will increase positive patient experiences and satisfaction. This leads your patients to be more likely to refer your practice to their friends and family.

The upsides are as big as the downsides. By practicing good communication skills, you will have better patient outcomes and your patients will become promoters for your practice. That should be the goal for each patient interaction at every level of contact your practice has with a patient.

When it comes to good communication in the medical field, and any professional service for that matter, active listening is key.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is the highest and most effective form of listening. It is more than hearing, which is just sound hitting your ears and your brain registering noise.  Hearing requires no feedback or intentionality to understand what the speaker is actually saying.

There are, according to Phil Hunsaker and Tony Alessandra in The New Art of Managing People, four types of listeners. They are:

  • Non-listener;
  • Marginal listener;
  • Evaluative listener; and
  • Active listener.

As a medical provider, you should strive to be an active listener in each and every one of your interactions with patients.  Active listening is the practice of seeking to understand the underlying meaning of what the speaker, your patient, is attempting to communicate.  Some patients, I’m sure you are aware, are better at communicating at others.  But that shouldn’t reduce your willingness to engage in active listening.

How to be an Active Listener

In order to be an effective active listener, you need to pay attention to, and beware of your own, body movements and posture as well as your patient’s.  Most of communication is nonverbal.

Most people have heard of the 55/38/7 percentage.  It has been around since the 1960’s and still has support in research today.  These percentages relate to the amount of communication that is related through different channels.  It means that:

  • 55% of communication is body language;
  • 38% of communication is in the tone of voice; and
  • 7% of communication is in the actual words spoken.

Being an active listener means you are paying attention to each of the three aspects of communication while telegraphing your own interest in what the patient is saying.  This generally means eye contact and developing facial expressions showing your interest and providing some, but not a lot, of verbal encouragement showing that you are, in fact, listening and understanding the speaker.

Furthermore, Forbes contributor Dianne Schilling gives 10 steps to be an active listener.  These are:

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact;
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed;
  3. Keep an open mind;
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying;
  5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your solutions;
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions;
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding;
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling;
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback; and
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues.

What speakers are looking for, and this applies heavily in a medical context, is empathy.  If you approach each interaction with the intention of being an active listener and also bring a healthy dose of empathy, you will certainly increase your communication skills.

By developing active listening skills, you can avoid the most common reasons given for a malpractice suit, avoid negative patient satisfaction, increase positive patient experience, and help turn your patients into promoters for your practice.

Please Don’t Gag Your Customers

Eric Welke Best Practices, Customer Experience, General, Guides, Legal, Online Reviews, Reputation Management, Small Business Leave a Comment

It’s often easier to learn from bad examples than from good ones.  Sometimes we learn best when seeing what not to do, instead of what to do.  This applies across all aspects of life, from relationships to parenting, and especially to business.

This post is about one way not to manage your business’ reputation.  That is, unless you want the Federal Trade Commission knocking on your door. Which probably isn’t in the best interests of your company.  I take it as a given that you are already actively managing your business’ reputation online.  If not, I humbly suggest you start.

The Gag Clause

One of the worst ways to actively manage your reputation is through the use of gag clauses, also known as non-disparagement clauses.  These are contract stipulations that threaten legal or other punitive action against a customer if they make negative comments about a business’ services or products after they have tried them.

That’s right, some businesses actually threaten to sue their own customers.  According to the Better Business Bureau, the increase in review websites has caused an increased use of these clauses.  But seeking to protect your reputation by stifling truthful reviews from your customers can backfire in a big way.

The Obligatory Side-Bar

In the spirit of full disclosure, I work for the FTC and am a co-founder of the company on who’s blog this is posted.  I sought and received ethical clearance before joining this venture and I am obligated to recuse myself from any matters where there could be any conflict of interest.  This blog post is written in my business capacity and does not in any way represent the FTC.  I was not involved in the matter discussed nor do I have any inside information.  With that lawyerly side-bar out of the way, on to the matter at hand.

The Set Up

Roca Labs is a supplement company that sells a “non-surgical gastric bypass” weight-loss product.  According to the company, its product curbs food cravings in a similar manner as if someone had received gastric bypass.

Roca Labs was sued by the FTC for unfair and deceptive trade practices for making deceptive weight-loss claims.  The interesting thing though, is that they were also sued for enforcing gag clauses that appeared in their terms and conditions.

Roca Labs’ Terms and Conditions prohibited customers from making any negative comments about Roca Labs or their products or services on “all forms of media, including and especially the internet.”  Clearly, Roca Labs knew how harmful negative online reviews can be.

The Clause in Practice

Roca Labs sought to limit all negative reviews, even truthful ones.  This is evidenced by part of their clause which stated they could sue “regardless of [the customer’s] personal experience.”  Posting a truthful, yet negative, online review would mean a customer would face a number of different repercussions.

If customers disclosed their negative personal experiences they faced threats of legal action, actual litigation, and/or charges for “the full retail price” of purchased products.  According to the FTC’s lawsuit, the “full retail price” of Roca Labs’ weight-loss products would trigger a price increase from $480 to $1580.  This has the effect of charging a customer $1,100 for posting about his or her negative experience.

Roca Labs’ stated reason for the gag clause was “to prevent one person ruining it for everyone.”  The FTC saw it a bit differently.

The FTC’s Side of the Story

According to the FTC, by restricting truthful reviews and testimonials, Roca Labs was restricting the amount of reliable information available to consumers.  Which means prospective customers would not be able to see the whole picture of real customers’ experiences with Roca Labs’ products.

By depriving the marketplace of honest reviews, the FTC argued that some customers may have purchased the weight loss system that, had they known about others’ negative experiences, would not have purchased the products.  This resulted in substantial consumer injury which also violated the FTC Act.

The FTC wasn’t the only party concerned about Roca Lab’s practice of gagging its customers.

The Amicus

Yelp, along with two other companies, filed an amicus brief.  Amicus curiae, translated means “friend of the court.”  An amicus brief is a brief filed by an interested party that is not an actual party to the case.  This rarely ever happens in district court, but it is excellent evidence that demonstrates how important legitimacy, honesty, and accuracy of reviews are to review sites.

Yelp made a number of different arguments, including the go-to free speech argument, but also pointed out applicable state laws that outlaw gag clauses (California and New York according to the brief), and from a public interest perspective. Yelp also drew attention to Congressional bills that would outlaw gag clauses. One of which specifically listed gag clauses as a violation of the FTC Act.

The Settlement

In the end, Roca Labs and the FTC settled.  This means that Roca Labs did not have to admit liability and there is not a legal ruling finding that gag clauses violate the FTC Act.  It does, however, show that the FTC takes the suppression of honest reviews seriously and is willing to throw its weight against companies that try to manage their reviews through the use of gag clauses.

Not only are gag clauses potentially illegal, but they can also produce a much larger PR problem, as the Union Street Guest House found out.  Stay tuned to this blog to find out what happened to them.

There are right ways and wrong ways to help your business’ online reputation.  Gagging your customers certainly isn’t one of them.  To find out how RenegadeWorks can help you manage your online reputation, visit us here or schedule a demo here.

 

Patient Experience: What is it & How to Improve it

Eric Welke Best Practices, Customer Experience, Dental, Guides, How to & Tutorials, Reputation Management, Small Business Leave a Comment

The healthcare industry is going through, and will continue to go through, massive amounts of change. Part of this is due to an increased focus on the patient as a consumer. This means that healthcare providers are being judged not only on the results of a medical procedure, but in the customer service aspects of how the entire process around that procedure is handled.

As Becker’s Hospital Review put it, the healthcare industry has moved from a “doctor knows best” mentality to one based on patient experience and satisfaction.

This is partly due to the development and reliance on Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys for reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare.

But it is also due to the increased availability of review websites such as Google and Yelp. These sites allow one patient’s perspective to be displayed across an entire market. All it takes is one patient’s negative review to turn away people looking for a new provider. The increased reliance on review sites and word of mouth marketing, however, can be a huge advantage to a practice that takes customer experience seriously.

All of these forces are causing the entire healthcare industry to focus on patient experience and patient satisfaction.

Patient Experience vs Patient Satisfaction

Patient experience and patient satisfaction are not the same thing, although they are often used interchangeably.

Patient experience, according to the Patient Experience Journal, is the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care.

This definition lays out the fact that patient experience is based on the patient’s viewpoint of all the touchpoints that he or she has with your practice. It also draws attention to the importance of your practice’s culture. If your practice develops a culture that is intentional about creating a positive experience, it will permeate through every interaction you and your staff have with the patient.

Patient satisfaction, on the other hand, is whether a particular patient’s expectations were met. Satisfaction is more objective than experience. Two patients can go through the exact same experience but have widely different satisfaction levels. This is because each patient is going to bring his or her own preconceived notions into the experience.

Don’t Focus on Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is an important aspect of any business, but especially in the healthcare industry. Patients that are unsatisfied could post a negative review about your practice or even file a malpractice suit. But focusing solely on making patients happy, instead of well, can be deadly.

Alexandra Robbins wrote about this problem in The Atlantic. She points out that, “by attempting to satisfy patients, healthcare providers unintentionally might not be looking out for their best interests.” And that, “an entire industry has sprouted, encouraging hospitals to waste precious dollars on expensive consultants claiming to provide scripts or other resources that boost satisfaction scores. Some institutions have even hired actors to rehearse the scripts with nurses.”

She continued writing that, “a national study revealed that patients who reported being most satisfied with their doctors actually had higher healthcare and prescription costs and were more likely to be hospitalized than patients who were not as satisfied. Worse, the most satisfied patients were significantly more likely to die in the next four years.”

So, clearly patient satisfaction should not be the sole focus of providers in this new consumer focused healthcare industry. Instead, focusing on quality care, and the experience throughout the entire process of that care, patient satisfaction will increase as a by-product of focusing on patient experience.

How to Improve Patient Experience

Patient experience should begin with the obvious. As a healthcare practitioner, you must provide quality care. That is your profession and the very basis of your business. Without that, nothing else matters. But there are other things that you can also do to improve patient experience.

It is important to say that you need to do some grunt work up front and to be intentional about any changes you make. Do not jump in right away with a major overall of your waiting room without knowing it will be worth the cost in an increase in patient experience.

Instead you should do some research and plan out intentional changes. There are a number of different things that can be done without redoing your waiting room that will have a quicker and more immediate impact on improving customer experience.

Patient Journey Mapping

One of the things to start with is developing patient journey maps. These are the steps that each patient will flow through from beginning to end. They will follow the same general path of pre-appointment contact (including marketing and your online reputation), scheduling an appointment, any pre-procedure testing or consultations, the actual care, and any post-op care or follow ups.

You should develop a few journey maps focusing on the different procedures your practice offers. A pregnancy will differ vastly from a rhinoplasty.

The journey maps should also be specific enough to see where each staff member could have an impact on the patient’s experience. Oftentimes, being intentional about mapping out the process and including your staff’s input is enough for a patient focused culture to begin to develop.

Once the patient maps are completed, you can look at each touchpoint and see how it can be improved. You should also be sure to focus on the process between each touchpoint.

Each interaction should flow into the next one and the handoff should be smooth. Improving the transition from touchpoint to touchpoint could be as simple as developing better communication so the patient does not need to answer the same questions over and over.

Patient Feedback

Customer mapping isn’t the only way to intentionally approach improving customer experience. Developing metrics and collecting data from your patients is also extremely important. It’s a good way to see where your practice can improve and to see how your practice is improving over time.

Your practice should develop both qualitative and quantitative data.

Qualitative data is more in depth such as focus groups or individual interviews with patients. This is normally accomplished through open-ended questions that get patients talking. The more feedback, the better you will be able to see where you can improve. Points of improvement can be very specific or very broad. But they are both important as you move forward developing better patient experience practices.

Quantitative data is structured so you can produce quick and hard facts as well as statistical knowledge, mostly done through surveys. Quantitative data can draw your attention to problem areas or to measure how you are performing across time and across a larger number of respondents.

Without developing patient feedback, there is no good way to judge whether your efforts are working.

Your Staff is Key

Lastly, but also most important, is focusing on your staff. By providing a positive and encouraging work environment, your staff will be better focused on providing care and ensuring patients are at the center of their work. By taking care of your staff, you will see an improvement in customer experience.

Ms. Robbins’ Atlantic article focuses on this aspect. She remarks that nurses are the key to improvements in almost everything stating “a better nurse work environment was associated with higher scores on every patient-satisfaction survey question.”

A happy staff will lead to better patient experience across the board.

Never Settle

Patient experience, in the end, is not just developing better processes or improving metrics. It is a way of approaching your practice with the intention of improving every aspect so you can better care for your patients physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Developing a culture that focuses on quality care and each patient’s experience means that you and your staff will always be striving to improve each and every facet of your practice. By doing that, you can be sure that patient satisfaction will increase and your practice will thrive in the new consumer focused healthcare industry.

The Referral Marketing Management Guide

Eric Welke Best Practices, General, Guides, Referral Marketing, Small Business Leave a Comment

“If you build it, they will come.”

Even if you have never seen Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, I guarantee you have heard those words.  Now, that may be a compelling reason to build a baseball field in the middle of Iowa, it is not, however, a sound business practice.

Unfortunately, that is how a lot of businesses approach referrals and referral marketing.

What is Referral Marketing

 Referral marketing is the intentional approach to developing more referrals from your existing customers.  It is a part of a wider concept known as word-of-mouth marketing, which is separate from traditional marketing such as print or TV advertising.

McKinsey notes the importance of word-of-mouth marketing stating that it is a primary factor behind 20-50% of purchasing decisions.   They classify three different types of word-of-mouth communications.  They are:

  • Experiential – which accounts for 50-80% of word-of-mouth activity.  This results from a consumer’s direct contact with a product or service that “deviates from what’s expected.”  It can be positive, such as a glowing review posted online, or negative, like complaining to a friend about something specific that woefully under-delivered.
  • Consequential – which is when consumers pass on traditional forms of marketing.  A good example of this is all the chatter generated about a really good, or really bad, Super Bowl commercial.
  • Intentional – which is when companies directly try to create a conversation about their product or service.  A celebrity endorsement is a perfect example of intentional word-of-mouth marketing.

Experiential word-of-mouth marketing is what most people think of when discussing the topic.  These conversations turn into a referral when a current customer relates their exceedingly positive experience along with a recommendation to another consumer. All businesses can benefit from these exchanges.

Unfortunately, it does not happen as often as you might think. While a large majority of customers who have a positive Customer Experience say they are willing to provide a referral, a minority actually follow through.

According to a Texas Tech University study, 83% of customers with a positive experience say they are willing to provide referrals, but only 29% actually do.

This is true across different industries with surprisingly similar results.

The Harvard Business Review reports that 68% of financial service customers said that they would provide referrals, but only 33% actually did, and 81% of telecommunications customers would give one, but only 30% did so.

The good news for your business is that your customers are willing to refer your business to their friends and family after a positive experience.  The bad news is that a minority are actually doing it. You can, however, change that by implementing a referral marketing program.

Referral Marketing Is More Trusted

By developing a referral marketing program, your business can tap into the most trusted type of media.

Word-of-mouth is, above all other types of media, the most trusted.  According to Nielson, 92% of people around the word say they trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of communication.  The key takeaways from that study are:

  • Close friends and family are the most credible sources of information,
  • Consumer trust in traditional paid advertising is decreasing, and
  • Consumer confidence in online and mobile advertising is increasing.

Businesses, however, are not taking these factors into account.  Most advertising dollars are still spent on traditional media campaigns.

McKinsey notes that as consumers have become overloaded by traditional media campaigns they have become skeptical and “increasingly prefer to make purchasing decisions largely independent of what companies tell them.”

A recommendation is 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase if it comes from a trusted source. It is best summed up when the article states: “it’s the small, close-knit network of trusted friends that has the real influence” over consumer purchasing decisions.  Developing a referral marketing program can help your business tap into that network.

Recommendations from friends and family are the most trusted form of communications, but if those recommendations bring in new customers, those referred customers are also more loyal and profitable than customers acquired through traditional media campaigns.

Referred Customers Are More Loyal and Profitable

People who come to your business through another customer’s referral are likely to end up being your best customers.  A study conducted by the Wharton School and the Goethe University in Germany demonstrates that referred customers really are worth the effort of actively pursuing referrals.

The study, which was conducted in the banking industry, analyzed 10,000 accounts over a 33-month period.  It found that customers who were referred were more likely to stay with the bank than customers acquired through other means.  In fact, there was 18% less customer churn for referred customers compared to others.

Not only were the customers more loyal, but they were more profitable as well.  Referred customers had a higher customer lifetime value.  This value, over a 6 year period, was on average 16% higher than other customers.

This was most felt during the first 2.5 years, after which they were equal to other customers that had not been referred.  So, your referred customers have a higher impact, and it comes right after the referral and lasts for an extended amount of time.

In the study, the referral program used an incentive program, offering a small reward of €25 to each existing customer that brought in a new customer.  One of the concerns was whether the reward would be recovered in the new customer relationship. The study found that, on average, the new customer’s lifetime value recovered the fee and had a return on investment over a 6-year period of 60%.  The referral incentive paid for itself and increased profitability.

The Harvard Business Review, reporting on the Wharton study, found that the age of the referred customers also made a difference on the customers lifetime value.  On average, younger referrals tend to be far more profitable when compared to non-referred customers of the same age.

Referred customers between 26 and 35 were 35.5% more valuable than non-referred customers.   Those between 36 and 55 were 22.7% more valuable.  But referred customers who were 56 or older, had a slightly lower lifetime value than non-referred customers by .5%.  Clearly younger referred customers have a much higher lifetime value.

Not only are referrals growing the size of your business, but referred customers can also be some of your most loyal and profitable.

Some Industries Can Benefit More from Referrals

Some industries can benefit more from referrals than others.  Those industries that sell a product or provide a service that tend to be more expensive or important to a consumer are more likely to benefit from referrals.  The more resources or more risk tied to the purchase, the more willing a consumer will listen to trusted friends and family regarding their own experience about your business.

The Wharton study backs up this notion.  The authors remarked that, “products and services that imply some sort of risk should benefit more than average from referrals because prospects are likely to feel the risk is lower when a trusted person has positive experiences.”

McKinsey also echoes these statements saying that customers require more research, more time, and seek more opinions for first time or expensive purchases.

The importance of referrals for these big ticket decisions, cannot be overstated. Some examples are medical care, legal services, buying a new home, or buying a car.  Each of these decisions are very impactful on a consumer so they will be sure to reach out to friends and family for any personal knowledge or recommendations they may have.

Keep Metrics on your Referrals

The Wharton study also noted that “a referral should be monitored closely to see if it is effective at identifying good prospects and if acquisition costs do not exceed the subsequent value of the customers.”  Collecting data from your referral program can greatly increase its effectiveness.

A customer’s total value is not only how many dollars they directly contribute to your business.  The Harvard Business Review has stated that a customer’s value is greater than what he or she actually purchases.

They remarked that, “in these interconnected days, how your customers feel about you and what they are prepared to tell others about you can influence your revenues and profits just as much” as what they buy.  In order to figure out that value though, you need to keep tabs on your referral marketing program.

The same HBR article discusses how to calculate a consumer’s lifetime value (CLV) and a customer’s referral value (CRV), which is how much they contribute to your business through you referrals.

It is not a guarantee that your most loyal customers, those with a high lifetime value, are also those who bring you the most referrals.  In fact, there is often no discernable relation between the two metrics.

If you keep records of who provided referrals and use your business’s sales data, you will be able to group your customers into four distinct groups.

In a perfect word, all of your customers would have a high lifetime value and a high referral value.  That, however, rarely happens.  Instead, customers might have a high lifetime value and a low referral value, or a low lifetime but high referral value, or even a low lifetime and a low referral value.

The good news is that once you have classified and grouped your customers into these four different categories, you can then target them with specific advertising focused on whichever one they are lower in.  The HBR article noted that you can move 4-5% of each group into a higher performing one with specific marketing for their category.

Not only will your customers bring in more business and referrals, but this type of targeted advertising has a much better return on investment.  The final return on average for this type of marketing has an ROI of 13.6 times compared to standard marketing campaigns of 4-6 times.

The more information and customer data you have on hand, the better.  You can adjust your messaging to determine which approaches and wording work best.  Not only can you figure out what works and what doesn’t, but you can use your data to run better organized and targeted marketing campaigns.  These specific and targeted campaigns can build a powerhouse marketing machine for your business.

Incentive Based Referrals

 Some referral programs, like the Wharton study, use incentives to bring in new customers.  They could be given to the new customer or the existing customer, or both.

Examples include a straightforward monetary reward for each new customer referred, an entry into a raffle to win a large prize, or a discount on future services.

You should, however, be careful of offering incentives that impart some sort of value, depending on your industry.  There could be legal or ethical restrictions to running an incentive based referral program.  Make sure to check with your professional organization or the state licensing board before starting up an incentive based referral program.

If you are in an industry that prohibits incentives for referrals, there are still things you can do to show your appreciation to a customer who referred a new one.  Something as easy as a handwritten thank you note signed by the whole office can be very effective at showing your gratitude.  By giving a personal touch, you can increase the existing customer’s already positive view of your business.

RenegadeWorks Referral Software

 There are many different approaches to referral marketing.  These could be as simple as training your staff to be intentional about asking current customers for referrals.  It can sometimes be difficult for staff at first, but the benefits far outweigh any temporary awkwardness.

Other options exist as well.  We have marketing software that make if easy for your business to ask existing customers for referrals.  These referrals are stored and easily accessed so your team can follow up with them.  Our software also has the capability to offer incentives or rewards if allowed by your industry.

Conclusion

 The issue is not whether you should run a referral marketing program, but how.  By specifically seeking referrals from your existing customers, you can get new customers that are more loyal, more profitable, and can form a stronger customer base for your business.

The Customer Experience Management Guide: Improve CX Strategy

Eric Welke Customer Experience, Guides, How to & Tutorials, Online Reviews, Reputation Management Leave a Comment

“Well, I’m never going there again.”

Those are words you hope to never hear regarding your business. It can, unfortunately, happen.

That phrase is proof positive that your business failed in its mission to provide a quality experience. You spent years of your life learning and developing your skills but sometimes the customer’s experience can fall short based on something other than those skills. These negative experiences, for the sake of your business, are hopefully few and far between.

If they do happen though, there are steps you and your employees can take to make sure they don’t happen often. These steps are not a list of best practices, but rather a guide on how to be intentional about each interaction with prospective or current customer, patients and clients. By being more intentional you can improve your business’ overall quality and reputation.

In short, it is a guide on why and how your practice or business can be intentional about providing the best Customer Experience.

What is Customer Experience

Customer Experience, or CX in business parlance, is not just a marketing phrase touted by business professors or consultants. Neither is it your customer’s satisfaction with the medical, dental, legal or other professional services you provide.

So what is Customer Experience? If we clearly define Customer Experience, it is, the cumulative impact across every interaction with your business as experienced by each of your customers, patients or clients. The specific interactions, however limited or brief, are called “touchpoints.” All of the touchpoints combine to create the overall “customer journey.”

Customer Experience, then, is the end result of how your customer feels about your business, as a whole, throughout the entire journey. Notice that it is centered on how the customer feels. Customer Experience incorporates the emotional experience which is just as important as the functional experience of the service rendered.

Touchpoints can be something as big as the actual service the customer is receiving or as limited as visiting your website. Touchpoints can be direct, such as a scheduling call where there is give and take between a member of your staff and the customer, or indirect, such as an informal referral from one friend to another recommending your business.

Not only can the touchpoints be direct or indirect, but they can take place across multiple channels. These could be as diverse as a telephone call, a website visit from a smart phone, looking up your Google or other internet reviews, or an actual in person visit. Each of these individual touchpoints has a cumulative effect on how your business will be perceived by your customers.

The final end goal should be to supply a service in an authentic way that meets the needs of a customer in an emotionally positive experience. That is being clear on the best Customer Experience definition and being intentional about it can greatly improve your business.

Improve Customer Experience

Why Should You Care about Customer Experience Strategy

In today’s economy where prospective customers can search for entire local industry and instantly see reviews of your business and your competitors, it is no longer enough to compete on quality or price, but you also need to compete on the entire customer journey.

In fact, 55% of consumers are willing to actually pay more for a better experience. You need to be intentional about the whole process from first contact to repeat visits. Those repeat visits can be a boon to your business. It is 6-7 times cheaper to keep customers than it is to acquire new ones.

According to research conducted by Bain & Company, 80% of businesses think they are already providing a “superior experience.” Customers, however, felt that only 8% of companies deliver on that level. Since Customer Experience is determined from your customer’s perspective, they have the final say on whether your business is meeting their expectations. There is clearly a disconnect between owners and customers.

By caring about Customer Experience analysis and introducing intentional changes to manage your customer, patient and client’s journeys, your business can, according to the Harvard Business Review, reap enormous rewards such as:

  • Enhanced customer satisfaction,
  • Reduced customer churn,
  • Increased your revenue,
  • Increased employee satisfaction, and
  • Increased collaboration across all functions of your business.

Specifically, McKinsey & Company observed that a “10% uptick in satisfaction leads to 2-3% revenue increase” and that “emotionally engaged customers are typically 3 times more likely to recommend a product and purchase it again.”

Recommendations and referrals are perhaps the best indirect touchpoint your business can foster and it is a natural byproduct of taking a Customer Experience improvement program seriously. If consumers have a good experience at your business, 72% of them will tell 6 or more people about it.

Also, consistently providing a quality Customer Experience design and strategy will lead to more positive and more frequent reviews online. The increase in reviews, both in rating and frequency, make your business more noticeable and attractive to people who are actively searching for a new provider in your industry.

In short, by taking Customer Experience analysis seriously, you have the opportunity to significantly increase your business’ quality and profitability.

How to be Intentional about Customer Experience Solutions

The first step in being intentional about your business’ Customer Experience training program is to develop Customer Journey Maps. These outline the individual touchpoints that each customer could encounter through their journey.

It is important to break down the touchpoints as specific as possible, and whether they are direct or indirect. Some examples of the specific touch points could be:

  • Visiting your website,
  • Finding your business through Google or another search engine,
  • Word of mouth referrals,
  • Scheduling an appointment by phone, email, or software,
  • A phone call confirming an appointment,
  • Customer, patient or client intake,
  • Sitting in the office waiting room,
  • Delivering the actual service, or
  • Follow up after delivery of the service.

Once the specific touch points have been identified, they can be arranged in the order a customer takes over their whole journey. Different types of transactions will have different maps so it is important to develop a few different ones depending on the services you offer.

With the maps completed, you can next delineate how each touchpoint connects to the next. The goal is to make each transition as smooth and easy for your customers as possible.

It is also important to think about what perception you want to impart from each touchpoint and how each member of your staff can help in that perception. Every interaction, no matter the level, should have some form of intentionality infused into it.

However, it is also imperative that you do not overly focus on the touch points at the expense of the journey. Each touchpoint should blend into and add to the journey in a logical and consistent manner.

Customer Experience Strategy

How to Improve Customer Experience

You can improve your business’ cumulative customer experiences “across multiple touchpoints and in multiple channels over time.” This does not mean, however, that you have to change everything about your business.

The simple act of deciding to be intentional about how to improve Customer Experience is often just enough to get the ball rolling. It is also best to start with the simplest and easiest ways to improve Customer Experience.

One way to implement an intentional Customer Experience design is by adopting new digital solutions. These can make collecting payments from customers easier. They can also make the process of scheduling and onboarding new customers a smoother process. Each touchpoint can be looked at to see if it could benefit from a new technological solution.

The adoption of digital solutions, according to McKinsey & Company, is only going to become more important. This is especially true since the number of inbound calls are constantly falling while there is an ever-increasing reliance on digital communications and interactions.

When implementing technology solutions, it is important to do it seamlessly and ensure they can be scaled to your needs. Technology, however, cannot be the only solution. In order to truly maximize Customer Experience training, a good balance between automation and human communications should be established.

When it comes to human communications, one business that can be instituted is to make sure that each employee that has contact with customers actively engages them. This is important for them to feel taken care of but also for feedback.

If a customer, patient or client has a bad Customer Experience, only 1 out of 26 will actually raise the issue. The rest of them just won’t come back to your business. Of those customers who don’t come back, 67% of that loss is preventable if the issue was resolved right away.

Perhaps the best thing you can do when it comes to how to improve Customer Experience is to have your employees focus on Customer Experience as well. Once they are on board with and understand the importance of the customer journey, they can impact each touchpoint in a real and positive way. Each interaction is an opportunity to improve the overall journey through a better customer experience improvement program.

McKinsey & Company provides a few guiding principles on how best to develop employees so they reinforce a positive Customer Experience:

  • Listen to and help your employees with their needs and wants so they can better focus on customer service,
  • Hire employees based more on their attitude than their aptitude since skills can be learned but good customer service starts with a proper attitude,
  • Share your Customer Experience training goals with your employees instead of only demanding specific rules of behavior,
  • Give employees autonomy and responsibility and let them develop best practices to help improve Customer Experience, and
  • Hire employees that can navigate multiple channels of communication.

Another way to help improve Customer Experience design in your business is to engage your customer, client and patient’s senses. This can best be accomplished in your waiting or conference rooms. The overall scents, sounds, and sight, something as simple as fresh flowers, can help add up to the best Customer Experience possible.

Each of these changes or enhancements should work together across the entire journey. In all, remember it is about customer or patient perception so you are trying to make things seamless and easier on the customer.

How to Keep Customer Experience Central in Your Business

Customer Experience management is about instituting new policies and continuing to develop them further. It should become a continuous way of running your business. Staff participation should be central which should set up a “systemic cultural emphasis” on the front-line employees helping to foster Customer Experience.

Each touchpoint needs to be able to adapt to different customer expectations. Flexibility and fluidity are needed for each customer journey. Each one will be slightly different which will require slightly different responses from different levels of staff. Different transactions in different organizations will require different processes.

Intentionally running your business with a clear focus on the Customer Experience definition also means you cannot set up completely rigid structures that cannot be changed from customer to customer because each customer will have different expectations.

Some customers will respond better to phone calls, texts, or emails, and your business should be able to support each customer’s preferences. By tailoring your processes slightly to each of their preferences, you can really show them that your business values them as individuals.

Finally, as technology continues to advance and reliance on digital solutions also grows, your business needs to be intentional about information and customer’s data security. Making sure your customers know their information is secure is just as much a part of Customer Experience analysis as anything else.

Customer Experience Solutions

Customer Experience Metrics & Measurements for Success

There are three ways to measure how your business is performing when it comes to a better Customer Experience. These are:

1) Customer Satisfaction (CSat),

2) Net Promoter Score®[i] (NPS), and

3) Customer Effort Score (CES).

Each of these Customer Experience metrics are not only informative, they help you to get a leg up on your competition. 70% of the best businesses in Customer Experience use feedback metrics, such as these.

Customer Satisfaction (CSat) measures customer satisfaction on a percentage scale from 0 to 100. This is figured by using a survey that asks your customers “How satisfied are you with the service you received?” on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highly satisfied.

Your business’ CSat is the percentage of surveys received that are ranked at the “5” level compared to the total number of responses. So, take the number of “5” responses and divide by the total number of responses expressed as a percentage. Generally, you want your business scoring in the high 80’s or 90’s.

The CSat is a versatile Customer Experience measurement in the fact that you can change the question to determine how you are doing on different aspects of your business so it can determine strengths and weaknesses. Its downsides are that those people who are mildly satisfied or mildly dissatisfied are unlikely to complete the surveys and it does not predict future behavior or loyalty.

Net Promoter Score® (NPS) measures how likely someone is to recommend your business to someone else. This is figured by using a survey that asks your customers “How likely are you to recommend our business to family or friends?” on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being most likely. The responses are classified in three groups: 9-10 are Promoters, 7-8 are Passives, and 0-6 are Detractors.

Your NPS can range from -100 to +100. This is calculated by figuring out the percentage of responses for each category compared to the total number of responses received, then subtracting the Detractor percentage from the Promoter percentage. Generally, anything in the positive range is good, with +50 being excellent.

The NPS is a beneficial Customer Experience measurement because it is limited to one question so it is likely that customers will respond to the question. Its downsides are that it is only one question so it presents a limited focus on your business and it does not guarantee that your customers will actually recommend your business to someone.

Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how much work the customer had to personally do to receive your service. This is figured by using a survey that asks “How easy did our business make it for you in handling your issue?” on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being very easy.

Your CES is the average of each of the received responses. The closer the average is to 5, the better your business is at interacting with your customers. Generally, any score closer to 4 or lower means your business needs to work on customer interactions.

The CES is a good Customer Experience measurement at determining customer loyalty, but it is limited in that it does not ask what the specific issues are that customers encountered that lowered their score.

There are limitless ways you could phrase the question and different ways you could order the responses.

With all three of the metrics, there could also be issues such as low response rates or random responses not actually reflecting how customers view your business.

These descriptions are quick overviews of the different ways your business can use for Customer Experience metrics to measure success. They are some of the best ways to get a feel for how your business is performing and to measure how your business reputation is improving over time.

Implementing a Customer Experience Improvement Program

Customer Experience is all about how your business is perceived by your customers. It is not just the process of how you deliver your service, but also the emotional connection they feel during the process.

By being intentional and improving your business’ Customer Experience definition and strategy, you can improve your business’ quality and profitability.


[i] Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.

10 Ways to Have a Terrible Online Reputation

Eric Welke How to & Tutorials, Reputation Management, Small Business Leave a Comment

How to have a terrible online reputation: the top 10 countdown

By following these 10 steps, you are sure to have an awful online reputation. And you are guaranteed to lose business and customers.

Ten: Do not care or pay attention to your online reputation.

If you pay no attention to review sites, bother to have social media sites, or even a personal website, you can save time and money. If you don’t care about your online reputation and since anyone with Internet access can post reviews about your business online (even strangers half way across the world who have never heard of your business before) then you are well on your way to failing.

You can keep holding your head high, as ignorance of your reputation can be blissful, especially if the ratings and online comments about your business are dissatisfactory. You will never know how the general public’s experience was and how you are losing potential customers.

Nine: Be Sarcastic

Forget being serious, sarcasm is the new way to interact in the virtual world of the Internet [hint: that was sarcastic!). The person on the other end of the screen may read your words in a different tone and understanding than you intend. So being sarcastic is a great way to offend or upset previous customers and potential customers. Not every culture or person grasps the idea of sarcasm, so they will take anything you type seriously.

Eight: Get into virtual fights and arguments

By arguing with previous posters about their rating or review of your business, you are standing up for yourself. You are making yourself look very disrespectful and saying you don’t believe what they have to say. By arguing comments, you will get peoples’ attention and they will not look in your direction favorably. Allow yourself to get heated and say things you know you will regret later. This will make you look unprofessional.

Seven: Post fake reviews and ratings on review websites

Writing or having other people write fake reviews about you or your business helps you look very untrustworthy. If you scoop down to that level, your reviews will be flagged and most potential clients will be able to tell how fake they are. No one wants to give their business to somewhere they don’t trust. Oh, and we won’t even mention the legal aspect of all this.

Six: The customer is always wrong

By having the attitude the customer is always wrong, you are literally turning people away from giving you more business. This can save your personal ego from taking a hit. Bending over backwards to make a terrible experience better can just be challenging and can cost you extra in the long run. By never making the customer happy and degrading their thoughts, you will save a lot of extra customer service effort.

Five: Have a vain attitude

When businesses or business owners act full of themselves, they are much less enjoyable to the public. Since no one wants to interact with a narcissist, you are sure to lose business and not have to deal with annoying customers, or any customers at all. When your self-loving attitude comes through over the Internet, you are sure to get worse reviews and ratings. Remember to never apologize, as you are always right, even though the world does not see every situation through your eyes!

Four: Do not put time into making your online reputation

You acknowledge your online reputation and have even made a website and social media sites to add to it, but do not update them or reply to comments/question on the different sites. By having little information from you on these different platforms, you are playing hard to get. You are making customers contact you for potential questions and any other information. A lot of people do not have time for that so they will find a similar business that keeps their online reputation up to date where they aren’t a mystery. They also don’t have to take the time to read your responses on comments or reviews since you don’t reply. They say communication is key to success, but ignoring the communication part allows you to be well on your way to failure!

Three: Ignore all your feedback

You are reading your reviews and even commenting back making yourself look active in improving your online reputation; however, you are actually ignoring any issues your business may have. The idea of reviews can make you better if you allow them, but you don’t have to let them change the way you conduct business. By ignoring all reviews, you won’t have to grow or make yourself better. It can be much simpler this way anyway. Especially if the same issues keep coming up in reviews and potential customers see you are not listening to your clients, they will not feel like you care and will not bring you business.

Two: Have terrible business ethics

Offer incentives and bribe customers to leave positive feedback for you. That way you can break the law and look unethical to the public all at the same time. You can also nag or cheat negative reviewers into either deleting their review or revising it to make you look better. The options here are endless!

One: Be a jerk

Tell the reviewer they are flat out wrong and you don’t believe them. Make sure they know their experience and feelings are invalid. Also tell them you will not make any adjustments to your business and they should go to your competitor. You want to be sure you have an “I don’t care what you have to say” attitude so more people can see how rude you are. Be as annoying and disrespectful as possible so you will be sure to turn away customers.

More business is more money. Less business is less money. The less business your online reputation brings in, the less money you have to worry about claiming on your tax returns!

Courthouse

Lawyers: Leverage Client Feedback for More Referrals

Eric Welke Legal, Referral Marketing, Small Business Leave a Comment

It’s no secret: Many law firms work every single day to acquire new clients. Most attorneys know the law exceptionally well, inside and out. Many are also very good at managing the business and financial elements of their practice. However, marketing and sales can be whole different animal.

And while a strong marketing mix of advertising, social media, and public relations can certainly go a long way in promoting your practice, none of these passive channels quite equal the value of a positive, direct client referral.

According to Wharton School of Business, a referral client costs a lot less to acquire and has a higher potential for retention and loyalty. Statistically, a referred client has a 16% higher lifetime value than a non-referred client.

Client referrals are one of the most powerful ways that you can use to grow your practice and are exponentially more effective than passive marketing methods.

Almost any sales professional can attest that prospective customers who came from referrals had the shortest sales cycle and convert roughly 30% better than leads generated from other marketing channels. In fact, an article published by the American Bar Association plainly states, “Whether using direct or indirect methods to encourage referrals—and you should be using both—smart law firms are embracing formalized referral marketing programs and building referral-oriented cultures in their firm.” People are more willing to commit to a firm that they trust — and the best way to build early trust is through a client referral.

Referrals are undeniably powerful, but how can you generate quality referrals for your practice? The most underused tactic for getting referrals is leveraging client feedback. In this post, we will look at some simple ways you can leverage client feedback to get more referrals for your practice.

So, How Do You Convert Client Feedback into More Referrals? 

Identify your advocates

Identifying potential client advocates can seem like a huge challenge for a busy law firm, but using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey can help make the process a little easier. Using an NPS survey can help you pinpoint potential advocates and turn your client feedback channel into a referral growth engine.

A Net Promoter Score is a client loyalty metric utilized across multiple industries to measure how happy a client is with your product or service. An NPS score is determined by sending out a single-question survey to your clients that asks: How likely is it that you would recommend our practice to a friend or colleague?

Respondents are asked to score their answer based on a 1-10 scale. Responses of 7 or 8 are labeled as “Passive”, and scores of 0 to 6 are considered “Detractors.” If a client responds with a score of 9-10, they’re labeled “Promoters” of your business. This group is most likely to provide referrals.

RenegadeWorks reputation management has taken the Promoter, Passive, Detractor methodology a step further and removed the subjectivity of the 1-10 scale from the mix. By presenting your clients with the simplicity of 3 options – Happy, Neutral, Unhappy – you know exactly where they stand and don’t miss out on those that would consider a 7 or 8 to mean, “Not perfect, but I’m still very satisfied”.

Follow up with your promoters

Just sending out a feedback survey isn’t enough. You need to follow up with potential advocates and keep the positive momentum rolling along. What’s the use of seeing a set of data with people who selected Happy/Satisfied if you’re not going to use it to your advantage?

You have to mobilize your promoters by engaging with them. Your promoters are your advocates. They are the people who took the time to select a positive response and pretty much raised their hands saying, “I am willing to recommend your practice to my friends.”

Once you have identified your promoters, you should formulate a plan to follow up and make it easy for them to refer your practice to their personal network. Consider using an automated follow-up tool (such as RenegadeWorks Referrals) to immediately reach out to your promoters with a referral incentive program.

If you have an employee at your firm who handles new business development, you can have them reach out personally and see if your promoter would be interested in referring your practice. The key here is to make it easy for your promoters to refer your services to their network of family, friends, and colleagues. Referrals and recommendations from real clients will outperform any billboard, print advertisement, pay-per-click ad, share button or social media campaign over the long term along with being significantly more cost effective.

Use promoter feedback for testimonials on your website

“One of the best ways to connect with prospects is by using stories from existing clients.”
– Alex Turnbull from Groove

People are more likely to trust your practice early on if they havesocial proofof your expertise. Groove, a helpdesk software practice, found that adding quality testimonials to their homepage, guest post landing pages, and email marketing led to an increase in conversions by up to 15%.

For a law practice, testimonials and case studies are one of your most powerful assets. A great way to get testimonials for your practice is simply by asking for client feedback and turning that exact same feedback that you receive into a testimonial on your website.

There are three ways you can approach this: One is by analyzing all the comments you get from your survey, and then personally emailing each respondent to ask for permission to use their comment as a testimonial.

The second way would be to send out a short survey soliciting client feedback from promoters. Let’s say you worked with a client recently and you know that they’re delighted by the results based on their response to a recent feedback request. This would be an ideal client to reach out to about writing a quick testimonial for your website.

Thirdly, if you are following up feedback by asking promoters to review you online at Google, Facebook, or industry specific sites like Avvo or Lawyers.com, you can even publish them automatically to your website. Your client has already posted their endorsement in the public forum and this significantly simplifies the process of keeping your testimonials current and relevant by streaming your most current 4 and 5-star reviews.

Turn passive clients into promoters by acting upon critical feedback

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder

People value service that goes above and beyond their expectations, and they tell others about those experiences. As a law firm, your top goal should be to provide the most elegant experience for your clients. This is done by creating exceptional experiences that cultivate long-lasting and positive client relationships. One of the best ways to turn clients into promoters who are likely to refer your practice is to act on their critical feedback.

Think about some initiatives you can implement to make your clients sit up and say, “whoa that was great.” Checking in regularly with the clients or a partner of the firm personally reaching out and engaging with the clients is a great way to boost these type of advocate-building experiences.

Offer a referral incentive to your clients

By now, you should be actively engaging with your clients and ultimately trying to generate as much feedback as possible. If you’re sending out feedback requests and actively engaging, you can also offer them a referral program where your client can gain some sort of incentive for referring their family, friends, or colleagues to your practice.

After you send out your one-click survey asking the client for their feedback, consider directing users to a thank you page asking them to share their testimonial/review on Google, social media, or via email. This will not only provide you with honest, invaluable and actionable business intelligence, but also make it very clear who is most likely to give you an exceptional reference.

Does your referral program need to be a cash offer or a drawing to win a 3-day cruise? No… in fact, your State Bar Association may prohibit compensating for referrals in this manner. However, you can add value to your clients by offering a VIP program, concierge level service, or even hosting an invitation-only golf event. Each of these examples shows you are genuinely investing in the relationship. If you get creative with it, you will set yourself apart from the rest and reap the benefits.

dental referrals

Dentists: Leverage Patient Feedback for More Referrals – Here’s How

Eric Welke Dental, How to & Tutorials, Referral Marketing, Reputation Management, Reputation Marketing, Small Business Leave a Comment

It’s no secret: Many dental practices struggle every single day to acquire new patients. Most dental professionals know their vocation exceptionally well, inside and out. They are also probably very good at managing the business and financial elements of their practice. However, marketing and sales can be a whole different animal.

And while a strong marketing mix of advertising, social media, and public relations can certainly go a long way in promoting your practice, none of these passive channels quite equal the value of a positive, direct patient referral.

According to Wharton School of Business, a referral customer costs a lot less to acquire and has a higher potential for retention and loyalty. Specifically, a referred customer has a 16% higher lifetime value than a non-referred customer.

Patient referrals are one of the most powerful ways that you can use to grow your practice and are exponentially more effective than passive marketing methods.

Almost any sales professional can attest that prospective customers who came from referrals have the shortest sales cycle and convert roughly 30% better than leads generated from other marketing channels. In fact, an article published by Dental Economics plainly states, “Nothing beats the power of a patient referral. Think about the people you trust the most. Do their word–of–mouth recommendations carry more value than a print advertisement in the Yellow Pages or a radio commercial? Of course, they do! The same principle applies to your current patients and their friends and family.” People are more willing to commit to a practice that they trust — and the best way to build early trust is through a patient referral.

Referrals are undeniably powerful, but how can you generate quality referrals for your practice? There are several ways to get referrals from your patients. Most often it is suggested that you develop a procedure to ask for them face -to-face as described at DentistryIQ in the article “Four easy steps to new patients“. However, most people find this to be very awkward and uncomfortable. In fact, there are many seasoned sales professionals who find it unnerving and are hesitant to.

The most underused tactic for getting referrals is leveraging patient feedback. In this post, we will look at some simple ways you can leverage patient feedback to get more referrals for your practice.

So, How Do You Convert Patient Feedback into More Referrals? 

Identify your advocates

Identifying potential patient advocates can seem like a huge challenge for a busy dental office, but using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey can help make the process a little easier. Using an NPS survey can help you pinpoint potential advocates and turn your patient feedback channel into a referral growth engine.

A Net Promoter Score is a patient loyalty metric utilized across multiple industries to measure how happy a patient is with your product or service. An NPS score is determined by sending out a single-question survey to your patients that asks: How likely is it that you would recommend our practice to a friend or colleague?

Respondents are asked to score their answer based on a 1-10 scale. Responses of 7 or 8 are labeled as “Passive”, and scores of 0 to 6 are considered “Detractors.” If a patient responds with a score of 9-10, they’re labeled “Promoters” of your business. This group is most likely to provide referrals.

RenegadeWorks reputation management has taken the Promoter, Passive, Detractor methodology a step further and removed the subjectivity of the 1-10 scale from the mix. By presenting your patients with the simplicity of 3 options – Happy, Neutral, Unhappy – you know exactly where they stand and don’t miss out on those that would consider a 7 or 8 to mean, “Not perfect, but I’m still very satisfied”.

Follow up with your promoters

Just sending out a feedback survey isn’t enough. You need to follow up with potential advocates and keep the positive momentum rolling along. What’s the use of seeing a set of data with people who selected Happy/Satisfied if you’re not going to use it to your advantage?

You have to mobilize your promoters by engaging with them. Your promoters are your advocates. They are the people who took the time to select the positive response and pretty much raised their hands saying, “I am willing to recommend your practice to my friends.”

Once you have identified your promoters, you should formulate a plan to follow up and make it easy for them to refer your practice to their personal network. Consider using an automated follow-up tool (such as RenegadeWorks Referrals) to immediately reach out to your promoters with a referral incentive program.

If you have an employee at your office who handles new business development, you can have them reach out personally and see if your promoter would be interested in referring your practice. The key here is to make it easy for your promoters to refer your services to their network of family, friends, and colleagues. Referrals and recommendations from real patients will outperform any billboard, print advertisement, pay-per-click ad, share button or social media campaign over the long term along with being significantly more cost effective.

Use promoter feedback for testimonials on your website

“One of the best ways to connect with prospects is by using stories from existing patients.”
– Alex Turnbull from Groove

People are more likely to trust your practice early on if they have social proof of your expertise. Groove, a helpdesk software practice, found that adding quality testimonials to their homepage, guest post landing pages, and email marketing led to an increase in conversions by up to 15%.

For a dental practice, testimonials are one of your most powerful assets. A great way to get testimonials for your practice is simply by asking for patient feedback and turning that exact same feedback that you receive into a testimonial on your website.

There are three ways you can approach this: One is by analyzing all the comments you get from your survey, and then personally emailing each respondent to ask for permission to use their comment as a testimonial.

The second way would be to send out a short survey soliciting patient feedback from promoters. Let’s say you worked with a patient recently and you know that they’re delighted by the results based on their response to a recent feedback request. This would be an ideal patient to reach out to about writing a quick testimonial for your website.

Thirdly, if you are following up feedback by asking promoters to review you online at Google, Facebook, or industry specific sites like HealthGrades, you can even publish them automatically to your website. Your patient has already posted their endorsement in the public forum and this significantly simplifies the process of keeping your testimonials current and relevant by streaming your most current 4 and 5-star reviews.

Turn passive patients into promoters by acting upon critical feedback

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder

People value service that goes above and beyond their expectations, and they tell others about those experiences. As a dental practice, your top goal should be to provide the most elegant experience for your patients. This is done by creating exceptional experiences that cultivate long-lasting and positive patient relationships. One of the best ways to turn patients into promoters who are likely to refer your practice is to act on their critical feedback.

Think about some initiatives you can implement to make your patients sit up and say, “whoa that was great.” Staff checking in regularly with the patients or personally reaching out and engaging with the patients is a great way to boost these type of advocate-building experiences.

Offer a referral incentive to your patients

By now, you should be actively engaging with your patients and ultimately trying to generate as much feedback as possible. If you’re sending out feedback requests and actively engaging, you can also offer them a referral program where your patient can gain some sort of incentive for referring their family, friends, or colleagues to your practice.

After you send out your one-click survey asking the patient for their feedback, consider directing users to a thank you page asking them to share their testimonial/review on Google, social media, or via email. This will not only provide you with honest, invaluable and actionable business intelligence, but also make it very clear who is most likely to give you an exceptional referral.

Does your referral program need to be a cash offer or a drawing to win a 3-day cruise? No… in fact, your State Dental Association may prohibit them. However, you can add value to your patients by offering a VIP program, concierge level service, or even hosting an invitation-only golf event. Each of these examples shows you are genuinely investing in the relationship. If you get creative with it, you will set yourself apart from the rest and reap the benefits.

The Complete Guide to Hotel Reputation Management

Eric Welke Guides, Hospitality, Reputation Management Leave a Comment

Lucy and her family are traveling to your area for a fun, relaxing vacation. Before they can depart, they have to make all their travel arrangements. Since Lucy has never been to your area, she decides researching hotels online will be her best option for finding an enjoyable place to stay.

She compares reviews on the popular website TripAdvisor. Lucy decides to make reservations and spend her money at a well-liked and highly reviewed hotel online.

So the question stems, did she make her reservations at your hotel? If your hotel strives to succeed in Hotel Reputation Management, there is a good chance she picked you!

Hotel Reputation Management Is Vital in Achieving Success

If you want to run a successful hotel, then you must understand hotel reputation management. So, what exactly is reputation management for hotels? It is the supervision and inspiration of your hotel’s brand on the Internet.  This often employs specialized software to help automate the process of managing your online reputation and reviews across the web.

If someone like Lucy goes to a search engine and types in hotels in your area, review sites and even blogs will pop up with a list of places for her to stay. Would she see your hotel? And would she decide to stay as your guest?

Reputation management is a unique aspect of the hospitality industry because not many other trades are as contingent on their online reputation for business. Think about it…all over the world, people are choosing their destinations for a business trip, vacation, major event, etc.

Guests are leaving their homes and comfort zones looking for a secure and welcoming place to stay. And in the 21st century, the Internet is often the first place they turn to for recommendations.

If you want to run a successful hotel and desire to see a steady flow of business walk through your doors, you have to understand and succeed in reputation management for hotels.

Chances are, many of your customers have seen your online reviews and take them seriously. Many of them have either chosen your place because of others positive comments; or on the contrary, the hotel down the street gained guests that would have stayed with you had you of better monitored your reviews.

Online Reviews Tell You More Than a Traditional Guest Survey

If you think saying the majority of guests decide on a hotel based on reviews is extreme, consider these numbers from a TripAdvisor survey: 53% of guests will only book a hotel with reviews from previous guests and 93% of people say reviews are important to them. Do you hear that…93% of your guests take value and importance in reviews! So what can online reviews do for your business? Think about it. Let it sink in.

Do you have mostly positive reviews? Or does your property need improvement? As Lucy scrolls through her options of lodging in her area, there is an 80% chance she will read at least 6-12 reviews before she makes a decision and books a hotel.

With such high statistics from consumers claiming reviews are important to them and listen to what others have to say, it is vital in todays market to stay relevant online and consistently monitor all review sites.

You Have to Know What Is Being Said About Your Hotel At All Times

You probably have a profile or perhaps even a few on different social media platforms and review websites, be sure to keep those active and up to date. There is nothing worse than when a potential guest goes to your Facebook page or yelp page and finds outdated information and even comments from others and you haven’t responded to. Be sure to only create profiles online if you the time and resources to attend to them.

Reputation Management goes beyond the property, it is about managing the overall customer experience. When you have multiple guests in and out of your door on a daily basis, it becomes nearly impossible for you to ask all of them face to face what they thought of their stay: what went well and what needed improvement. Many people want to be heard and want others to know their thoughts on their visit with you.

This is where an online platform comes in handy to the guest. In fact, customers are more likely to complain on a review platform than to the front desk or hotel manager.

Don’t just monitor your reviews, interact with them and truly take them seriously. When someone leaves a positive review, thank him or her and invite them back. In your response, it’s always helpful to reiterate an aspect of it back to show you are listening.

Take note of what is being done well. If a staff member is specifically named, praise them and let them know their hard work is being seen. This will encourage them to continue working hard in order to make guest experiences’ pleasurable.

Interacting with Comments Is Imperative

When negative reviews are written about your property, it is crucial you don’t brush them off or let them see you sweat or get angry. You need to respond with empathy and thoughtfulness. Dealing with comments needs to be dealt with in a timely manner. Here are some important guidelines to remember when a negative review is posted about your hotel:

-The customer is always right: Even when they are wrong…others are reading their review and want to see their experience. Begin your comment on their review with an apology and the acknowledgment a mistake was made.

-Understand they commented for a reason: Most people don’t typically go out of their way to make a negative comment for no reason. They probably feel they are justified for being upset. Validate them and remember others are watching your response.

-Always stay upbeat and optimistic: Transparency in your business is important and by staying optimistic that the issue can be resolved, people will put more faith in you.

-Never get defensive: If need be, take a moment to calm yourself. If you go on the defensive, readers will be deterred from your business and it will endorse your hotel as unfriendly.

-Correct facts, not opinions: By telling the customer their opinion is wrong, you are simply belittling the guest and making your hotel unattractive to potential customers. Focus on the facts instead.

-Be cool and collected: Staying professional with a touch of compassion can take you a long way.

-Turn it around: By responding, you have the opportunity to highlight your strengths.

-Own the issue: Don’t be afraid to admit your hotel made a mistake. The customers don’t expect perfection, but they will have a better response to you when you use a little humility.

-Share what has been done to avoid future mistakes: Format a plan and attack the issue at hand.

-Let them know you are available: Open the door of communication by giving them an email or phone number they can call to personally resolve the issue.

-Don’t use a template for responses: Guests will see through that in a matter of moments and find it insulting you chose not to take the time to make them feel heard and important.

Instead, take a couple extra moments to read and understand what the individual is saying and properly respond to each complaint or complement.

It will take a tad more effort, but it will show you have high standards and value each guest. Reviews can become your worst enemy or your best friend. You have to make the proactive choice to let them impact you in positive way, even negative reviews.

Most people reading reviews of your hotel will not expect 100% positivity. We live in a world of imperfection and guests don’t expect your business to be perfect. (In fact, some people will get suspicious of all positive reviews.)

Do take note that 66% of users on TripAdvisor said they ignore extreme reviews. What guests want to see is great customer service, that means acknowledging when a mistake is made and promptly and efficiently addressing it.

Reputation Management For Hotels Is Pointless Without Action

Without reviews, your business doesn’t have the chance to improve. Even if you think you are the best, there is always room for improvement. With the attitude that you cannot get better, you will fail. Reviews tell you where to improve. The guests have a different perspective than anyone working in the hotel.

They are a stranger to your business and by simply experiencing it as a customer, they can see areas of weakness or strength that you may be blind to. There is no sense in seeking success in the hotel industry if you refuse to listen to guest experience. You may truly believe you are doing a fabulous job, but your guests may have a different opinion. Use TripAdvisor to your advantage and keep striving to get better.

You exist for the public’s use and you want guests to keep coming back; and you want them to write positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and to recommend your lodging facility to friends and family. The more the reviews and the better the reviews, the more business through your door. The more you participate and respond in the reviews, the better you look to the public, and once again, the more business through your door. The website TripAdvisor plays a key role in reputation management for hotels. It is the largest and most visited website for world tourism. You are not simply selling a hotel; you are selling an experience.

If guests wanted just another hotel, they wouldn’t bother with review sites like TripAdvisor; however, the majority of travelers want a memorable experience and thus, making websites like TripAdvisor thrive. You have to go above and beyond in the world of customer service, food, atmosphere, cleanliness, etc. when it comes to running a successful hotel. Without this kind of success, you will not get positive reviews and this can actually affect your revenue.

Always Remember You Are in Business to Keep Business

It is becoming a known fact that guests are willing to spend a little more and stay in a different location if the reputation and online reviews for a hotel are highlighted in such a way they can’t resist booking their stay with you.

Guests are looking for an experience and they don’t want to waste their hard earned money. By putting an extra effort into a fabulous guest experience, the great reviews will come naturally. And when there are negative comments to be made, remember to take it seriously and don’t be afraid to adjust how your hotel runs to better please the customer.

It cannot be reiterated enough, online reviews management is the most important aspect of your hotel image! You have to be in the loop of what guests are saying about you and where they are saying it. The world will be able to tell if you are proactive and care about your guests’ experience simply by your hotel reputation management.

Use Reviews to Help Your Hotel Evolve

TripAdvisor also says that 80% of visitors to their site depend on the most recent reviews in making a booking decision. You have to stay proactive. Don’t look to collect reviews for a certain amount of time, but be continuously looking for what guests have to say. With response to recent reviews, you are staying relevant and potential customers have more confidence in your hotel.

Don’t just find satisfaction in guest reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, it is imperative you interact with the reviews as previously mentioned. Possible future guests reading reviews also look for personal interaction from the hotel, this can actually help them make a booking decision.

TripAdvisor states 68% of people polled made a final booking decision on similar properties because of the hotel’s personal responses to reviews. That is a lot of revenue coming in your door for simply responding to reviews!

Increase Revenue with Reputation Management For Hotels

Handling negative reviews can be tricky because the whole world is watching you. Imagine, Lucy has clicked on your hotel page on TripAdvisor and is reading through the most recent reviews.

Some are positive, but there are a few reviews where the guest claims to have had a bad experience for one reason or another. Lucy will become concerned, but looks to see if the hotel acknowledged them.

Thinking through her list of concerns, she first asks did you respond? And if so, what did you have to say? If you answered in a manner that showed respect and professionalism, especially apologizing, you have a greater chance of gaining Lucy’s business, as she likes your authenticity and transparency.

Gaining Lucy’s business means increased revenue. She may have a great stay with you and decide to write her own review and even personally recommend your accommodations to friends and family. So in summary, by your response to both positive and negative reviews online, you gain Lucy’s trust and she books with you.

She has a positive experience and writes her own reviews and tells others to stay with you. New guests make reservations because Lucy appreciated your response to your hotel reviews on TripAdvisor. This is cause and effect where revenue can increase.

With the existence of sites like TripAdvisor, the way hotels operate is changing. With every new review, your hotel has a better idea of what is working and what needs adjustment.

Sites like TripAdvisor are actually allowing for you to be in a better position to make or adjust policies, amenities, and services, even the retraining of employees based on guest reaction. Customers are talking and the hotels willing to listen are moving in the direction of success! If you decide to be an attentive hotelier, you are setting your hotel up for increased revenue and happier guests.

Stay on Top of Your Online Reputation At All Times

You have to monitor your reviews 24/7 in order to know what is being said at all times. You never know when a guest could have a complaint or even praise. With the popularity of the Internet and face-to-face interaction decreasing in today’s world, people often turn to the World Wide Web for their voice to be heard. It is up to you to monitor and respond in a timely manner.

The main goal of customer service, creating a happy guest (one who will return and tell others of their wonderful visit with you), hasn’t changed. It’s the method in reaching that goal that has transformed to meet the 21st century. And if you want to meet the desires of this world, you have to have a successful hotel brand management program.

Once you have effectively established your hotel reputation management, it can sustain itself with constant looking after. It will take a lot of effort, but you can make your hotel easy to find and a top result when searching for accommodations in your area. You have one chance to make a positive impression on potential guests searching the Internet for a place to stay, so make it count and convince travelers to book your hotel.

TripAdvisor Is The Number One Destination Review Website

There are many review sites online, from social media to personal blogs to Yelp, guests have an easy platform to review or comment on your hotel and services. But there is one that beats out all the others when it comes to most trusted: and that is TripAdvisor. Building a healthy profile full of positive reviews can boost your hotel and even bring in tourists from around the world.

TripAdvisor is leading the way in travel websites and brings in the most traffic when people are looking to do research on accommodations. By understanding the value of TripAdvisor, you can better attend to any comments on the site, constantly update your profile and encourage satisfied customers to leave a review on TripAdvisor. You have to understand the importance of TripAdvisor if you want to succeed in Reputation Management.

The Internet is open all day and night, which means reviews and comments can be written about your hotel at all hours. It can quickly become overwhelming, if not impossible to keep up with all the websites your hotel is mentioned on by guests.

New sites are constantly coming into existence, making the tracking of comments and reviews very difficult. In order to keep up with the extensive list of travel and review sites (even social media sites), it is highly recommended you invest in some hotel reputation management services/software.

Invest In Hotel Reputation Management Software and Services

Does it sound too extensive to monitor your reviews 24/7? RenegadeWorks is a great, affordable sight you can join to help you stay on top of your hotel reputation management.

RenegadeWorks helps hotels like yours improve customer experience. Frictionless surveys capture feedback at multiple business-customer integration points including website, point-of-sale, email, social media, mobile and offline.

RenegadeWorks Can Help Improve Your Guest Experience

RenegadeWorks is a 3-step process to increase your positive comments and reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. So how does it work?

Step 1: We will direct your guests to a quick 15-second survey with the option of additional comments.

Step 2: Customers are segmented into detractors, passives and promoters from survey results.

Step 3:Promoters are invited to leave a review on sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor. Passives are invited to connect on social media. And detractors submit feedback privately to management for follow up.

With RenegadeWorks, you can catch negative comments before they are posted all over the Internet. Wouldn’t it be best to enhance a guest experience before they degrade your image? There are additional features to RenegadeWorks you won’t want to miss out on. Like the personalized dashboard that will display reviews from all different review sites, such as TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp and Facebook.

With all your reviews in one place, imagine how much easier it will be to know what is being said about your hotel at all times. All you have to do is make an account with RenegadeWorks to better enhance your hotel reputation management. We invite you to give RenegadeWorks a try. You can sign up today for a Free Demo. You only have guest experience to improve and more revenue to gain with RenegadeWorks!

New Google Experiment: Google Posts

Eric Welke Google, Small Business Leave a Comment

“Is there a restaurant serving green beer for St. Patrick’s Day around here?” asked Sherri. “I don’t know, just Google it” replied Frank. Google is one of the most used search engines on the web. You can Google just about anything and it has quickly become the shining star of search engines. In fact, Google has been the answer to many arguments, bets, conversations, questions, and more.

In the conversation above, you can see the familiarity of simply saying, ‘Google it’. How many times have you looked to Google for the answer? It’s very interesting how Google has created a platform that has become apart of our daily vocabulary.

But there are some searches that don’t show results immediately in what we were looking for, thus Google has created a new innovation (still in beta). Google is constantly creating new ways to use the Internet and their newest development is called Posts. Google Posts simply allows you to post directly onto the results of a search for individuals and organizations.

Google Posts is a unique mix between a social networking platform and a search engine. It is a way to share new and relevant information about your local business. A user must get authorization to post, but once you do, you can post videos, photos, and text directly onto Google about your business.

Once the post has been published, it will appear instantly in the search results. You can even share your post from Google onto other social networking websites. Google is an Internet giant, so you might as well use it to your benefit. And using Google Posts can aid you in generating new business in new ways.

As you may know, getting your business as a top search result on Google can be difficult. You can do all the right things and put lots of effort into it and still not show up on the first page. Google Posts is a beautiful way to bring your business to the top of search results with your participation.

Generating Business

google-gUsing Google Posts can do amazing things for your small business. Lets go back to Sherri and Frank’s conversation. Remember, they are looking for green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. You happen to own a local Irish pub and of course, March 17th is a big day for you.

You want your business to get as many customers through the door as possible. You simply go on to Google Posts and post that you will be serving green beer to celebrate.

Sherri goes onto Google and when she types in her question, your recent post is the first thing to pop up. Her and Frank quickly leave for your pub to enjoy some beer and dinner. You now have 2 new customers in your door.

Imagine if that happened all night…people Google green beer or Irish pub in your area and before you know it, your pub is packed and you run out of beer and have made a great profit. And it’s all because you are staying up to date by posting on Google.

Free Advertisements

When you own a business, you want to be successful. There are many different aspects that must come together to create your own success. One of those is advertising. How will you gain new customers if no one knows you exist? There are many different platforms to spread the word of your business.

The best kind is of course free (because anything free is the best!). In a sense, Google Posts is free advertising. By frequently updating your posts on Google, you are able to freely advertise any specials, what you specialize in, positive feedback you’ve received, etc.

These “advertisements” can quickly be shared on other social media sites, easily making it a one and done deal. When someone searches for a business in your local area, they aren’t going to look too long before making a decision. Because of this, you want to make your business one of the top search results on Google.

The more you are able to post on your search result, the more chances you have at being one of the top posts to pop up. It is important to create engaging content on your Google Posts. When you create posts to pull your local business to the top of the search engine, you want to make sure potential customers are attracted to what they see from you.

Your small business can greatly benefit from Google Posts. You can reach potential customers in a stronger way than before. Today’s society moves fast and you have to keep up to be effective. In the 21st century, we are all inundated with an overwhelming amount of ads and they move quickly.

If you want to catch the attention of potential clients and customers, than you must make your business appealing with interesting and relevant posts on Google.