By Charles Turner, OD
Patient referrals of friends and family are keys to practice growth. Track referrals and build valuable word-of-mouth recommendations.
ENCOURAGE PATIENT REFERRALS. Use welcome forms to let patients know you would like their referrals.
TRACK REFERRALS. Use practice management software such asGWIG to keep track and send thank you’s to referring patients. GWIG is $59/month or $49/month, if a year is paid for in advance, and comes with a mobile app patients can download for free.
NOTE PATTERNS. Notice which groups of patients refer the most and which patient groups could be encouraged to refer more.
My practice doesn’t leave referral generation to guesswork or good luck. We recognize the importance of patient recommendations, and we have developed a system to encourage, track and grow patient referrals to friends and family.
Last year, my most successful marketing campaign was word-of-mouth referrals. This generated 47 percent of the new patients we received in 2013.
Dr. Turner uses software Go Where I Go (GWIG) to generate referrals. The software, which costs $59/month or $49/month if a year is paid for in advance, comes with a mobile app patients can download for free. The above screen shows up on patients’ mobile device enabling them to just tap an icon on their phone or tablet to refer.
Welcome–and Plant Seed for Referrals
For new patients: On our Welcome to the Office form.
For existing patients: Upon check-in, the front desk checks that their vital information and insurance are accurate, and we add one extra step. We keep them up to date on their “referral point status.” We might say: “Mrs. Jones, you currently have 4 points. Don’t forget, when you get to 7, we buy you a free pair of prescription glasses, sunglasses or a year supply of contact lenses.” By reminding them of their status, this refreshes our thank you program with patients who have been with us for years.
If you practice in a state that does not allow thank you programs like this, I would recommend sending personal thank you notes to your patients. This small gesture is still appreciated very much by patients.
ASK & CAPTURE
No matter how the patient scheduled, asking how they were referred is just as vital to us as their phone number or their insurance information. My front desk staff knows that referrals are a necessity prior to the patient moving on to the next step in the exam cycle. Include referrals with your mandatory data collection.
The administrative dashboard Dr. Turner and his staff access in the GWIG referral tracking software. From this dashboard, the practice can see the referral history of each patient.
Prior to 2014, my referral tracking system was: Welcome to the Office Form, Excel Spreadsheet for name and point tracking, e-mail for “thank yous,” staff persistence to ask for and track the referrals and thank you e-mails every Friday. This process takes daily persistence, but is well worth the extra effort.
In the first quarter of 2014, I have been using a new software called GWIG, or Go Where I Go(gwig.com), which has two components; a free mobile app for my patients to refer my office, as well as a dashboard for my business to accept and track my referrals. The software will track any referrals, not just the ones that come in from the free mobile app. My patients love our high-tech referrals on their mobile devices, and my staff likes that their referral tracking has been streamlined.
Because of this software, I have been able to eliminate spreadsheets, 90 percent of my staff tracking, and we can now enable our strongest sales force–our customers! I also use GWIG to track all of my marketing endeavors. You can enter “Radio Commercial” or “Newspaper Ad,” and you can enter in any patient that mentions the ad, or comes in from a marketing endeavor. This allows me to track visibility from any marketing initiative. Because of this tracking, Iknow that word-of-mouth referrals are my best marketing.
Software cost: $59/month, or $49/month if you pay for a year in advance.
The referral counter cards Dr. Turner has in his office to remind patients of the practice’s referral program in which patients are rewarded with discounts after referring seven people.
TRACK & ANALYZE
The dashboard gives visibility to: Your top referral sources, the number of referrals they have generated, and who referred patients. By comparing my referral sources to their spending habits, you can learn quite a bit about your office.
I compare referrals from contact lens patients, sunglass wearers and glasses wearers. By doing this, I have a new level of business intelligence that can influence my inventory, my prescribing habits and my marketing.
As with any office intelligence, step one is information gathering. Wouldn’t it be nice to thank your top patients who refer your office? Wouldn’t it be great to know which product sales generate the most referrals to your office? This process has de-emphasized reviews in our office. Why do we care about being reviewed, if we can be referred? And, that’s another feature I like about the GWIG software.
NOTE REFERRAL PATTERNS
Top Referral Patients at our office:
Moms: Because we count kids and spouses as referral points, Moms are No. 1. This is fantastic, as Moms are our target demographic for growing our practice.
Employees who work together: Most co-workers who work in the same company have the same insurance, and the same time at the water cooler. If everything is created equal between you and a close competitor, why not use your thank you program to set you apart! Human resource directors for businesses are great targets for a thank you program.
One-Day CL wearers: These patients refer more than their re-usable counterparts. Not only do they refer more, they refer patients who are interested in one-day contact lenses. A win-win for an office.
Non-traditional work hour patients: We work until 7 pm on Wednesdays, and we recognized a slightly higher referral rate among our patients who come to those appointments.
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Charles Turner, OD, practices at Island Eye Care in Daniel Island, SC. He is a consultant to VISTAKON, aDivision of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.