Build patient loyalty

May 30, 2014

An important aspect of any marketing program includes 2 primary aspects. First, and most obvious, is the need to attract new patients. This aspect of marketing includes everything that is done to make people aware of your practice and your services. It includes efforts put into brand recognition. Common aspects of focus in this area include search engine optimization, web page improvements, and traditional advertising.

An important aspect of any marketing program includes 2 primary pieces. First, and most obvious, is the need to attract new patients. This aspect of marketing includes everything that is done to make people aware of your practice and your services. It includes efforts put into brand recognition. Common points of focus in this area include search engine optimization, web page improvements, and traditional advertising.

The second aspect of marketing is designed to retain your existing patients. This includes every effort to keep the patient satisfied enough to not be lured by someone else’s effort to take her as a new patient. It may include recall, satisfaction surveys, and loyalty programs.

The power of recommendation

Both of these aspects can be tremendously enhanced with a commitment to building a strong relationship with the patient and her family. It is easy to see where this relationship building can help build loyalty with existing patients. If you are able to do a great job making your patients feel welcome and comfortable with the care you give, why would they go anywhere else? The better the relationship, the less likely the efforts of others will be successful. 

But to understand how these relationships can attract new patients may take a little more of an open mind. Consider how most people make a final decision about any purchase. There are endless opportunities to research and learn about choices available. But people still want a recommendation from someone who has been there. We used to think that the recommendation needed to come from a friend, but the truth is that online reviews are becoming the primary influencer of many purchase decisions. In small towns, they may still talk about your practice at the beauty parlor, but if someone really wants to know about you, she is going to Google you.

Marketing programs designed to build patient loyalty help retain your existing patient base and increase your new patients. Arguably then, it is the most critical aspect of your practice growth. 

Individualize the patient experience

In our office, we have developed a patient preference protocol that is designed to collect, recognize, and act on individual patient preferences to simply make them feel a little special when in our office. We are all responsible for collecting patient preferences via our conversations throughout the visit. If something good (or bad) has happened recently, we try to capture that as a conversation piece. For instance, a new grandchild or a new puppy is big news and might come up. Consider how special that person feels if you ask about it next time the patient visits. 

We also try to notice pins, t-shirts, or hats that people wear to promote an accomplishment they are proud of. When she wears a marathon t-shirt to our office, we see it as an opportunity to talk about running and have a system to ask about it next time. Or perhaps he wears a Vietnam hat honoring the VMO-6, his platoon-what a great chance to thank him for his service. 

Recognizing the patient preference helps only if there is a system to collect the notes. We designed notepads that are small enough to fit into a pocket as a place to collect these observations. Everyone is expected to keep a pad in their pocket and capture a patient preference when they can. It takes 10 seconds. There is a convenient place to deposit the forms. The final step in the collection process is to have a team member collect the forms and document them.

Every EHR system has a place for documenting unofficial data, and this information goes there. You don’t want this showing up in a referral letter. But once that place is identified, the doctors need to build a habit of looking for the information and saying something to the patient. Just imagine the feeling you would get if you mention a new puppy to your doctor, and a year later she asks about it. You will feel like the only patient that doctor has. That is exactly the experience you are trying to create. And nothing is better about building loyalty.

Doing a good job, taking care of patients, and being competitive is all part of it too, but nothing compares to creating exceptional experiences. To set yourself apart, simply make a commitment to doing this better than anyone else.

It is also worth putting effort into having your happy patients complete online surveys. Dr. Kyle Edwards of Woodstock, GA, explains that anything to encourage people toward leaving positive reviews is time and money well spent. He gives a coupon for a free bottle of lens cleaning solution just for completing an online survey. There are a number of online services that automate this process for you. But first, put some energy into making sure the reviews will be positive.ODT