Last updated on December 7th, 2022 at 12:29 pm
If you’re sitting down at the end of the day wondering why you’re not getting more referrals…well, you need to read this post.
Referrals don’t have to be hard to come by. In fact, you can steadily increase your new patient numbers every month – it just takes a little out-of-the-box thinking.
If you’d like to increase your referrals, you need to stand out from every other office.
I’ve never heard a patient tell their friends, “You’ve GOT to go to this dental practice I visited. It’s JUST LIKE every other practice in town!” You need to do something special to get people to send their friends and family to your office.
Sure, that’s easy to say… but how can you stand out? How can you be different from the practice a few blocks away?
Well, I have a few tips:
1. It starts with good communication, and a warm, caring attitude from the entire team.
Good communication and customer service are hard to beat and can really make you stand out to a potential customer. Even more so than technology. I have never had a patient come to our office because they “heard we had a Schick 33 Smooth Edge Sensor!”
(Related: 6 Mistakes that Dental Front Offices Make)
Why friends and family refer is because of their experience at your office. That’s what sets you apart.
From the moment the patient called our office we had a receptionist who was bright, caring and in good communication with the person on the phone. They were focused on why the patient was calling, not on who their insurance carrier was or that we were an expensive office or how much money the patient made — and I’ve seen offices do that!
A potential patient is usually calling because they have something going on in their mouth that they need a dentist to handle, so let’s focus on that and how we can help them!
So, we established smooth, friendly, patient-centered communication and got them scheduled. That was part one. Once they came in, I wanted to set our office apart from every other dental office they’d been in. And to that end, I always gave new patients an office tour, which is the next point below.
2. Give an office tour to new patients when they arrive.
Yes, we had a coffee machine, water and magazines. But, I wanted to do more. I gave new patients a tour through our office.
I wanted the patient to meet everybody they could meet and let everyone know this was a new patient. We maintained good, upbeat exchanges and that set us apart. I walked them through the front area, I’d show them where the assistants were, where the sterilization area was, I’d take them to where the restroom was in case they needed to use it, and then take them back up front. And that whole time we’re walking around, we’re talking. I’m letting them ask questions while they see the office.
Try the office tour, we saw it make a big difference. Once they felt at home in our practice, we told them a little bit about our mission.
3. Share your mission statement with patients and give a thorough case presentation.
I often hear from patients or see positive online reviews of MGE clients’ offices that say things along the lines of, “Wow! No other dentist has taken the time to explain things the way you did! I had no idea it was so important. Thank you!”
That sets you apart from your competition!
Patients are so used to seeing dentists that just sit them back for a minute, give a few instructions to the assistant, tell them very briefly what they need, and then send them up to the Financial Coordinator to finish presenting treatment and collect the money.
If you actually sit down with the new patient and express your practice philosophy and what you are trying to accomplish with them, and then thoroughly explain their treatment plan and address any questions or concerns they have – that’s something that will stick in the patient’s mind. That’s how you get a long-term patient that accepts comprehensive treatment, comes back for recall appointments, and refers their friends and family.
And this doesn’t need to take a lot of time. You don’t need to spend an hour with the patient chit-chatting and making small talk. It’s about having effective communication – not necessarily long conversations. We teach this at the MGE Communication & Sales Seminars.
And let’s talk hygiene. In most practices, the hygienist is the person that the patient spends the most time with. This is an excellent opportunity for the hygienist to educate the patient on oral health, hygiene, dentistry and your practice. When I’m looking to hire a hygienist, I’m looking for great interpersonal skills in addition to clinical competency.
4. Step into the patient’s shoes to evaluate your patient experience.
If you’re going to give an office tour, first you need to make sure this is going to be a positive experience!
What I used to do periodically, and you should do too, is walk outside my office and then turn around and look at it through a new patient’s eyes – and then walk through the entire new patient experience as if I was a new patient.
I would imagine I was a new patient seeing everything for the first time, and then I would turn on my phone camera and start recording while I entered the office and went through every step a new patient would take during their first visit.
I would check a number of things, including:
- How did the office look from the outside? The parking lot, signage, office exterior, etc. Is there a big pile of trash? Do I know where I should park? Do I know where the front door is?
- How did the entrance look when I opened the door and walked inside? If you’re in a larger building with an atrium, elevator, etc., walk through it like a patient would. Is there a big crack in the wall? Are the elevator buttons broken? Is it clear how to find your office’s suite?
- Is the reception area tidy and professional, and is everyone greeted promptly with a smile? If the receptionist is too busy to greet people or looks flustered, you may need to make some changes or add an extra person up front. If there are lots of papers and notes visible at the front desk, you may need to clean up and possibly get a filing system or something under the desk so that patients don’t see a mess.
- Experience the wait. Patients often wait at least a few minutes before they’re seen, so you should sit down in a waiting room chair. Look around. Check out the magazines. The TV. The wall color, the carpet. Things may need to be cleaned or repainted. And if patients are often waiting more than 10 minutes, you may need to make some schedule changes (see this article from Dr. Ken Cirka on the subject of running on-time.)
- Walk through the office as a new patient would while being brought back.
- Go back to the X-ray area.
- Visit the restroom.
- Sit down in the dental chair, and lie back as a patient would, so you see the light and the ceiling.
- Go through the checkout procedure up front.
- How are the staff? Are they friendly? Are they dressed professionally?
Once you’ve done all those things, then at some other time when you’re not at the office and are undistracted, watch that video and make a note of everything that isn’t ideal. You will find simple things that can be done to tidy up, shorten wait times, correct the staff on certain procedures, etc.
You may think you don’t have the budget right now to renovate your office, but you can do a lot with just a little bit of money by repainting, replacing carpets, lights, chairs, etc.
5. Come to the MGE New Patient Workshop!
This was just a tiny piece of what we teach at the MGE New Patient Workshop. We cover the entire new patient acquisition process – from marketing, internal and external, social media, internet marketing, customer service and the new patient experience. We go through a range of things that you can do to improve your word-of-mouth and retain patients long-term!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at JeffS@mgeonline.com or call us at (800) 640-1140.