What is your favorite type of new patient?

If you’re like many other dentists, you’ll probably say new patient referrals are the best.

Why? Well, for the most part, a referral is already sold on your practice!

By the time they’ve arrived for their appointment, they’ve already been “sold” “on you by a friend or family member – e.g., someone whose opinion they trust.

To that end, the treatment acceptance with this patient is usually far easier, due to the trust that their referring friend or family member has in you. Again, one less hurdle to overcome when presenting treatment.

And as you may have seen in some of the prior articles, in the post-COVID19 world, you’re going to need 30% more new patients than you did prior to the pandemic… just to maintain your practice’s productivity! And it’s with this in mind, that right now, working on getting more referrals is of utmost importance.

While I’m going to give you several tips to get more referrals in this post, if you really want to master the subject, I recommend that you do the MGE New Patient Workshop. At the MGE New Patient Workshop, we provide you with a number of ways to get more high-quality new patients. And one of the points we focus on is word-of-mouth referrals. Even better, the average attendee sees a 42% increase in their new patients! So, if you can, I highly recommend you check it out.

So, with that said let’s look at four things you can do right now to increase referrals in your practice.

1. Is your office environment up to par?

Do not discount the importance of your office environment. The way your office looks plays a HUGE role in the way people perceive you and whether they’re going to refer you or not.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to add a water feature in reception or buy granite upgrades for the front desk. That’s not what I’m talking about.

(Related: How Your Dental Front Office is Choking Practice Production)

What I mean is that your office environment should be neat and clean. This doesn’t cost much and it’s vital to your office image. Maybe your office needs a fresh coat of paint, or you need to hire someone to clean the stains out of the carpet or take a few hours to organize all the papers around the front desk.  Whatever it might be you should do this. When you see the same thing every day (e.g. your office), you can get “numb” to things that someone new might see.  Ever had a pile of papers or charts sit on your desk for days…weeks? Well, to “new” eyes that might look messy!  To someone who sees it every day, it sort of blends into the environment!

A good way to start on this point is to assume the viewpoint of someone who has never been to your office.  Then with this viewpoint, walk through your practice and really look around. Are there rips in the chairs? Are the baseboards dirty? Are there piles of papers sitting at the front desk?  Does your team appear sharp and professional? All of these things make a big difference.

Note what you find and get it handled! After all, this is a large part of your internal marketing.

2. How does your staff (and you) deal with patients?

We all talk about being friendly—and that’s a given—but what is that extra difference between being friendly and that warmth you create with somebody where they feel appreciated?

What it boils down to is making sure the patient feels important.

How do you do that?

By looking up when they walk in, knowing their name, knowing how to pronounce their name correctly, knowing how to spell their name correctly, etc. Even when you’re on the phone, make sure you take a second to look up at the patient walking in and let them know that you see them, that they are welcome, and that you’re happy they are at your office.

Another thing that shows you value the patient is not making them wait long amounts of time. Running on-time is a big factor in customer service. Ideally, nobody should wait longer than 10 minutes in reception. And if they need to wait in the operatory, explain to them what’s happening and preferably someone (i.e. your dental assistant) should stay there with them, so they’re not sitting alone wondering what’s going on.

(Related: 4 Tips for Hiring Great Front Office Staff)

If you find yourself running behind continually, schedule a free consultation with us here and we can help you figure out how to increase the efficiency in your schedule.

So, make sure you and your staff know how to treat your patients. Of course, your staff are busy, there are tons to do and there’s so much happening.  But you have to take some time to remember the most important thing in your office are your patients.  And you should always make them feel that way.

3. Make asking for referrals important to everyone in the office!

You can ask your staff to ask patients for referrals, but if it’s not continuously done and made important, and if there isn’t someone in charge of (and accountable for) patient referrals, you’ll find that your staff – no matter how awesome of a team member they are – will eventually stop asking for referrals.

Make it a game and make it exciting. The person in charge of referrals can hand out referral bonuses, acknowledge anyone who asked for referrals or handed out referral cards during the morning meetings, etc. Make it fun and exciting for your staff!

(Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Dental Office Stand Out from Everyone Else)

The key is to make someone in charge of new patient referrals who keeps it alive and has certain actions they do during the morning meeting or once a week at staff meeting to make sure staff are informed and that it continuously stays in their minds so they can continue to ask for referrals.

4. Asking for the referral: Scheduling the patient’s family members

Okay, so now what do you do when you’re actually asking for referrals?

When you’re asking for referrals, there are two different types of referrals a staff member can ask for and they’re handled differently. They are:

  1. Family members of that patient, and
  2. The friends or colleagues of that patient.

Family Member Referrals

If the family member is living with your patient, it’s easy for the patient to get ahold of them, and to some degree, they may have knowledge of that person’s schedule.

It could be a spouse, child, parent, etc. Usually, you can ask the patient to just simply schedule that family member by saying something like, “By the way, do you have anybody in your house who currently doesn’t see a dentist?” And if they say yes you can ask, “can you schedule an appointment for them?” And if they say no then you can say, “would you be able to get them on the phone so we can schedule them an appointment? It’s important to us that they get healthy too.”  And if you have a new patient special that you’re using in your marketing, you can offer this up as well.

Even if you schedule just one person a day this way, that’s an awful lot of new patients.  And your acquisition cost for these patients is ZERO!  Just your team members’ time to ask!

5. Asking for the referral: Handing out cards for the patient’s friends or associates.

This is when you would hand out a referral card.

Keep in mind that referral cards are a far less controllable way of getting new patients. They work, but the keys are consistency and numbers. You’re essentially throwing things out there hoping they’ll eventually come back to you. But, they are an excellent way to get new patient referrals from friends or associates of the patient.

(Related: 4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get More New Patients)

Again, the most important thing about your referral cards is that they go out consistently. Usually, they’re given out by the hygienist, so make sure the hygienist gives every recall patient some referral cards (usually 2 or 3) and goes over with them that these are for their friends. They could say something like, “Here are a few referral cards. You can give these to any of your friends or associates who aren’t currently seeing a dentist. We’d love to have more patients like you!”

Again, you wouldn’t hand referral cards out to family members as you would simply go ahead and schedule them while the patient is still in the office.

I hope these tips help! If you’re like me and like to take every area of your business up to a professional standard, and really want to become a pro at the marketing area in your practice, we would love to have you at the MGE New Patient Workshop. The average attendee sees a 42% increase in new patients, and 5,000 dentists have already generated over $750 Million in additional income using these systems. And the workshop can now be attended virtually from your home or office! Click here to learn more before the seats fill up.


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