It’s interesting that since COVID changed all of our lives there has been less of a push in many dental practices for internal referrals. Initially, everyone was getting used to the “new normal” and then when they became accustomed to that state, they were getting used to the curve balls that kept coming their way both mentally and physically. Now that we are talking about the loosening of most of our public mandates, we need to start thinking about getting back to some of the basics. One of these “basics” is internal referrals in many offices.
No matter how much external advertising you do for an office, whether it is through social media, google ads or traditional ads you will always have 70% of your new patient growth coming from internal referrals. Use your software wisely and track the source for each and every new patient, whether it is an existing patient or an external source. If it is an internal referral you will want to thank the referring patient and if it is an external source, you will want to ensure that your funds are being spent wisely and reaping the expected results.
Many offices have a certain number of patients that they ask each day for a friend or family referral. Usually, this happens in a manner that may not be comfortable for the team members so the team member may stretch the truth a bit and say that they asked but didn’t actually ask. If your team feels comfortable asking for the referral it will seem genuine to the patient and you will have better results.
To make it more comfortable for team members, it is often easier to ask in a more organic way when a patient offers the office a compliment. An example of this is would be the patient who either finishes their hygiene appointment or a patient leaving the Dr. chair and they remark “ I really hate going to the dentist but I think ________ makes it fun.” The response for any of your team members to any compliment should be “ _____________, we love having patients like you in the office, you can feel free to tell your friends and family about us because we are sure they will be as great a patient as you.” It is human nature to respond to a compliment with a compliment, use this opportunity to ask for a referral without feeling pressured.
You can be unique and in line with RCDSO guidelines for thanking patients for the referral of a friend or family member. Check the guidelines and thank away, a great way to do this is to handwrite a thank you note, it can be simple, personalized and in our electronic age, the time taken for a handwritten note will be appreciated.
Set your goals for new patients from internal referrals based on an average of current numbers and then increase your goals at a steady rate. If you think about it, if you have 400 patients come through your office every month and you only have ten new internal referrals each month what is that saying about the quality of your patient visits? If you are delivering a great experience your patients will be eager to tell their friends and family.
You will also want to ensure that you have enough patient appointments available, if your existing patients feel that there aren’t any appointments available for them, they may not want to refer anyone else because it could just make it harder for the existing patient to find an appointment at their desired time. You will also want to have some pre-blocked, new patient appointments available so that any new patients can be seen within a week (or less) of contacting the office for an appointment.
Having these practices in place will ensure that your new patient growth will be supported with your most valuable resource, internal referrals.