Asking Your Patients for Referrals
Your patients often think you are busy enough and are not looking for new patients. This perception can be caused by appointments not being available when the patient wants to be seen, or a busy front office area when the patient is checking in or out for their appointment. If you have ever been asked “Are you accepting new patients?” it should be a warning that you may be sending the wrong message.
It is up to you to ask for referrals and thank your patients for their continued support. Sending follow-up thank you letters is good etiquette, but often not enough to encourage patients to refer friends and family members. The following are some scripts to consider when asking for referrals.
During the morning huddle, pick a couple of patients to ask about family members who have not yet become patients or are patients and are overdue for recall appointments or have unscheduled treatment.
Ask at the beginning of their appointment: “Hi, Mrs. Brown (or first name if okay), it is good to see you today. We were wondering why we have not seen Jon for his routine professional exam and cleaning?”
If the response is that he has been busy, ask: “Would it be okay if we contacted him to schedule an appointment?” Response is positive. “Do you have a phone number or email address where we may contact him?”
In the case of the family member who is not yet a patient: “Mrs. Brown, we have enjoyed having you as our patient and would welcome your husband (and/or children) to our practice. If you would like we can schedule an appointment for them while you are here.”
When you have completed a course of treatment and the patient is happy with the result, this is the time to ask for referrals. During the morning huddle, identify patients that fit this category or patients that in the past have had dentistry that has made a difference in their health and appearance. The “Kodak” moment is when the work has been seated and the patient is raving about how good it looks. This is a great time to obtain a written testimonial and a photo from the patient (make sure to have them sign a release showing the intent to use the photo and testimonial for marketing purposes).
Along with this exchange, you would tell the patient the following: “John, we are delighted that you are happy with the outcome of your dental work. We would love to treat your family and friends and invite them to our practice. We would be happy to contact them if you think that would be okay.”
If the patient says that they would rather refer them, respond with: “Thank you very much, we are looking forward to seeing them in the near future.”
If you use a service that contacts overdue patients online, you can consider designing a promo offer blast that will go to all the patients within the category you decide upon. Letting your community know that you are there to serve and are always welcoming new patients is imperative to the practice growth.
To send the message that you are always welcoming patients, follow-up with patients of record who are considered inactive because they have not been in for their recommended hygiene visit. Patients generally welcome reminder calls from healthcare providers and respond by scheduling at the time of the call or by making a note and calling back later to appoint. Patients lose track of time and are often surprised to hear that they are overdue for their professional hygiene appointment. Practices that use online services to remind patients find that the response to a telephone call is often more successful in setting the actual appointment.
In order to be positive and upbeat when making outbound calls to unscheduled patients, it is recommended that each person working in the business office make only 5 calls a day from recall and unscheduled treatment plan lists. Be prepared before calling by checking the chart notes for information in regards to the patient and check to make sure the patient is not already scheduled.
For more training on how to build your practice, sign up today for Front Office Training offered at McKenzie Management.
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