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.