Referrals and New Patients
Many new patients are referred by successfully handled new patients.
When you start something new, you try to talk all of your friends into doing the same thing so you will feel you are doing the right thing. For this reason, the new patient is most interested in his dental care and more likely to tell his friends about you. The patient is more impressionable during the initial stages of his treatment. Therefore, first impressions are extremely important.
1. New patients can account for a large portion of the yearly production. Because of this, it is imperative that the new patient be handled with red carpet treatment to encourage his referral. Whenever you receive a referral, and you thank the patient whether in person, by phone, or letter, be sure to add that you hope he or she will continue to recommend you to others.
2. Referrals? Ask for them! Asking your patients for referrals is difficult for some doctors, but you can become more proficient with practice.
The direct approach: During the last visit with the patient, one good way to ask for referral is to state that there will not be a need to see them again for a while because their treatment is complete. You can say, “We have really appreciated seeing you and your family and will be glad to help you in the future. Here is one of my cards for a friend of yours that may need help.”
The indirect approach: Upon completion of the treatment, write a note to the patient and enclose two or three business cards. The note could read: “I want to personally thank you for your cooperation during your dental treatment. It is a pleasure to have you in my practice.”
3. Whenever you receive a compliment, you can use it as a springboard for a referral request: “You’re the first dentist to see me on time,” or “Boy, that didn’t hurt at all.” Respond with “Thank you, I’m always happy to hear good things about my practice. I’d be even happier if you’d tell some of your friends about us. Please take several of my business cards to share with them.”
4. When a patient has insurance and your assistant/insurance coordinator learns this, have her say, “Did you know that your company offers some of the best insurance in our area? Please tell your coworkers that if they need quality care, the doctor will be happy to see them. “I’ll give you some cards.”
5. The doctor and staff should never be without professional cards. You never know when you will be able to leave your name for that future patient. Also, you can run into patients while shopping, for instance, who just happened to talk to a friend that needed a dentist. Give them a card. Cards can be left with a special “Thanks for the good service” written on the back of your card when you receive good service at a restaurant, nail or hair salon, dry cleaners, etc. You should learn to leave business cards cleverly.
6. Another way to generate new patients: use new resident greeting services (such as Welcome Wagon) or a letter to new residents; attend social functions in the community.
7. When referring to Specialists: Give strong referrals, but be fair when the patient suggests their own referral. There is nothing wrong with asking the patient first if they know a specialist they would prefer to go to. Consider asking the specialists to whom you refer to take your emergencies when you are out of town. Ask the specialists for your share of referrals. If you are a specialist, distribute your referrals to your referring doctors. A specialist should ask the referring doctor to call his office and actually make the appointment for the patient; this greatly lessens the chance of “getting lost” between doctors.
8. Since it is known that “word of mouth” is the most workable method of promoting your practice, it should not be underestimated the value of confidence that can by instilled in your patient while in your office.
Strive to build confidence in your patient about your capabilities. It is very effective if someone other than the doctor talks about the good treatment he does. The patient needs to be told that he has made the right decision in choosing the doctor.
The staff’s verbal support of the doctor to the patient is very valuable. When the staff really believes in you, ask them to tell people what a fantastic doctor you are. When they really have confidence in you, they are willing to tell this to your patients. And don’t forget to validate the patient about how wise he was to have the treatment done.
Remember, every person working in the practice is in the new patient business.