By Keshav Bhat, OD
Health care providers, like other businesses, tend to think that our patients (or customers) are happy, satisfied and out there praising us to the masses.
In fact, satisfied patients may tell only one to three people–while dissatisfied patients will tell seven to 10 people (and this number could be much higher given the proliferation of social media) about their experience.
Loyal customers don’t just stay with your business; they also help you succeed by referring friends and colleagues. They exhibit behaviors that contribute directly to your growth. Conversely, detractors behave in ways that can take away from your bottom line. The success of your business depends on understanding all you can about how these customers behave and empowering your team to respond to them appropriately.
Understanding what prompts a patient to refer others to your practice will be a key factor in how you maintain and grow this aspect of your business. Think about every touch point the patient has with your practice. Starting from the initial phone call to decor, comfort of reception area to staff demeanor are all influencers in perception.
The simple act of asking someone to refer others to your practice is probably one of the hardest jobs of a doctor and his or her staff. To eliminate resistance, you may want to educate your staff on the importance of referrals, and then implement training and methods for approaching patients.
One way to help staff is to develop a script that staff can modify to fit each employee’s personality. The last thing you want is a “canned” monotone and insincere plea for new business. Conversely, you also do not want an overaggressive staff member constantly badgering the patient to the point of discomfort. A very simple, short message from you, the doctor, or technician may be: “Ms. Smith, we are pleased you are doing so well following your cataract surgery. I hope that you will tell all your friends and family about us so that we may also help them with their eyecare needs.” At this point, handing a business card or brochure becomes a very natural and expected gesture from the patient’s point of view. If this can be incorporated well, eventually the request for referrals becomes second nature and a normal part of the daily routine in the practice.
Giving a promotional item away at check out, such as a pen with your office logo with card attached is an easy way to show your appreciation. Be sure that the patients leave your office with a positive message from staff members such as, “Is there anything else we can do for you today?” or “Thank you for coming in.”
Send Patients a Thank You Letter
Below is a letter I send out to first-time patients in our office to bring in referrals.
At the end of the week, I take about 15-20 minutes to send an e-mail to all first-time patients. Below is a sample. The e-mail is saved as a “canned response” and modified to insert the patients name at the greeting:
Dear Mrs. Jones,
I want to personally thank you for being a patient at Austin Village Eyecare. As you probably know, our number one goal here is to provide the absolute best eyecare possible in a comfortable setting at affordable fees. I hope that you will agree that we are consistently meeting this goal. If not, we would like to hear from you as to how we may improve.
Did you know that new patients generally find out about our practice through word-of-mouth from patients like you? In the near future I would like to add some really good new patients who would be interested in receiving the type of eyecare that you have become accustomed to.
So that brings me to a favor I would like to ask of you. Could you please take a few minutes to think of some friends and family members of yours who may be looking for a new optometrist and let them know about us? Whether it’s one person, ten people or even more, your referral would be greatly appreciated.
There are a few easy ways to introduce friend and family to our practice.
1. Have them go to our web site. From there they can give their e-mail address and sign up for our free informative newsletter.
2. Ask them to “Like” our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/austinvillageeye. We are very “social,” as we give great health tips regularly, as well as hold contests and talk about other cool community events.
3. They may call our office at (704) 821-5009 and ask us any questions they may have. We also offer complimentary consultations, second opinions, and love to give office tours!
4. They can post a review of our services online to pages like Google and Yelp.
So, please feel free to introduce them to our office, and I promise we will take very good care of them. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to call me personally at 704.821.5009. Thanking you very much in advance!
Very truly yours,
Dr. Keshav Bhat
P.S. The referral of a friend or a loved one is the ultimate compliment you can give us. Thanks again!
Providing thank you letter templates and thank you conversation-starters for staff members–and yourself–helps ensure no patient leaves without knowing how appreciative you are of their visit to your office.
How do you thank patients, and encourage them to refer friends and family? Do you find it helps to have thank you letter templates on file, and to offer staff members easy ways to say thanks?