Article by: Dr. Gina Dorfman of YAPI
The best new patients are those who come from personal referrals because they are more inclined to trust us. Statistically, patients who were referred by other patients have 37% higher retention rate compared to others (Deloitte).
Ideally, patient referrals are your leading source of new patients. If this is not the case, you need to evaluate the experience that patients have in your office. Patients who are merely satisfied do not go out of their way to promote your practice. They might mention your name if asked for a good dentist but will rarely become brand enthusiasts who refer tons of others.
So how do you get more personal referrals? Below are five ways to bring in the kind of new patients you want.
#1: Create Remarkable Experiences
Seth Godin, a marketing guru and the best-selling author, explains that to be remarkable means to be remark-worthy. If you want people to talk about you, give them something worth talking about!
The first step in getting a lot of personal referrals from your existing patients is to improve your patient experience. Look at your practice through their eyes. What can you do to improve their experience? How can you make every visit meaningful?
The old adage, “People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care” comes to mind. What can you do to let your patients know you care about them?
The littlest things can produce huge results when it conveys to your patients that you care about them as human beings. For example, offer fleece blankets to keep warm or neck pillows to make them comfortable. Other ideas include applying lip balm during treatment to prevent chapped lips or offering dark glasses to protect their eyes from light and debris.
A phone call to check on a patient following a difficult procedure or emergency appointment is another way to let them know that you truly care. These small gestures can go a long way in earning their loyalty. Take pride in creating experiences worth remarking about.
Of course, patients will also appreciate minimal wait time and getting in and out for an appointment as efficiently as possible. Other ways to impress your patients are by using the latest in technology, speaking in patient-friendly language and maintaining an immaculate office that smells great (and not like a dentist office). Above all, provide friendly service and gentle care. You don’t know much about their dental visits at other offices but aim to be the best. Not every patient has previously received great dental care. You know you’ve done a great job when your patient says: “Nobody has done this for me before.”
#2: Build Relationships
In dentistry, we are in the business of forming long-term relationships with our patients. Every encounter is an opportunity to build on this relationship. Patients will be touched when you remember that their birthday is July 5 or that the name of their Yorkie is Finn. Take the time to connect with patients on a personal level. Hire team members who genuinely like people and love to connect with and delight others.
#3: Find Common Ground
According to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Liking principle, we like people who are similar to us. We tend to gravitate toward those who share similar interests, opinions or background. And we are more likely to comply with the requests made by people we like. Patients that relate to you and feel as though you understand them will think of you as a friend. Those are the ones who will be likely to refer others to your practice.
#4: Show your Gratitude
Another one of Dr. Cialdini’s principles of influence is the Consistency principle. It explains that once we make a choice, we tend to honor that commitment. Once your patients position themselves as brand enthusiasts for your practice by referring others, they are likely to continue to refer others. They may even share positive comments about you online, especially if you ask.
Help nurture their commitment by expressing gratitude for their referrals. A small token of your appreciation can produce even more referrals and positive testimonials. Try a personal thank you at their next visit, a handwritten thank you card or even a small thank you gift. If your patients give you positive testimonials, display them proudly and prominently on your website or on a brag-board in your office.
Asking for referrals can be uncomfortable. Many people don’t like to ask because it feels like a selfish act. The reality is, it’s not selfish at all! You are essentially helping someone else find a great dentist. You should ask for referrals with confidence and know your goal to share your great service is altruistic.
What is the best phrasing to sound confident? After some practice, you will feel confident when you ask. Let’s say you are speaking with a patient and they express how happy they are to have found you. This is the perfect moment to add: “Thank you for sharing this, I am so glad you are happy! I know how hard it can be to find a dentist you are comfortable with. I’ve certainly heard my share of horror stories. “ Your patient might chime in with their own horror story or relate an experience of someone they know. You should listen, emphasize and then say: “If you know anyone who is looking for a great dentist, please pass on our information to them.”