The people you help will be more than happy to help you in return.
To me, a referral system relies on a simple three step process.
- Be referable
- Identify your best referral sources
- Find ways to motivate your sources to give you referrals
I can’t help you entirely with the first step because in large part it depends on your ability as a dentist. It also depends on your ability to hire and lead your staff to such a high degree that you all, collectively, create an amazing experience for the people who come into contact with your dental practice.
Most dentists have heard of, if not read, the book Raving Fans. The author, Ken Blanchard is famous for a lot of things. You have probably read or heard him say…
“Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing better. Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans.”
Creating Raving Fans seems like a logical concept. If your patients are raving fans, they will likely rave about you to the community. Given that word-of-mouth referrals are the best way to grow your dental practice, having a bunch of raving fans doing your marketing for you is a really good thing.
OK, so how do you go about creating those raving fans?
Ken answers the question by referencing the customer service program at Zappos.
“Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, understands what great customer service — or, as they call it at Zappos, WOW service — is all about. Once you read the following excerpt, you’ll understand two things. First, you’ll figure out why Zappos quickly became the biggest online shoe store. Second, you’ll know the company is not exaggerating in calling it WOW service.”
Seems pretty easy. All you have to do is WOW your patients and viola, you will have raving fans.
OK, so how do you create a WOW experience for your patients?
Hint: it doesn’t always have to do with dentistry.
The Doctor Who Didn’t Know Anyone
A friend of mine went to visit his new primary care physician. He found the doctor on a list of doctors in his area who met his needs both from a medical and financial point of view. As a result of the visit, which was nothing more than a routine first visit, he found out he needed the services of a medical specialist, or an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT).
The doctor had his assistant print off a list of ENT’s in the area and present it to my friend. There were at least 15 specialists in the area to choose from. My friend had no idea who to pick, so he asked his new doctor for his opinion.
The doctors response was that he didn’t know any of them.
My friend told me that he was actually very frustrated. He felt a very strong negative feeling as a result of the realization that he needed to make an uninformed choice. He clearly felt that his new primary care doctor was not useful.
Worst of all, my friend has told this story to a number of people in the community.
Yes, just like in the restaurant business, a person is far more likely to say something about you to more people when their experience is negative than when it is positive.
So not only did this doctor miss out on a simple opportunity to WOW my friend, he created a “customer” who will not be giving out any positive reviews or referrals.
What could he have done differently?
Opportunity to WOW a Patient Lost
Doctors give the standard insurance referral that has more to do with insurance protocol than giving an endorsement. Doctors can also give his or her opinion on a specialist, and help the patient make a choice.
The first kind of referral doesn’t put you in the category of WOW. The second kind, the kind where you actually spend some time knowing who the best doctors in the area are, and then extend yourself by giving your patient the ability to make an informed decision indeed put you in the WOW category.
This applies to just about anything your current patient needs, including dental specialists, electricians, plumbers or just the latest good book you are reading.
Create WOW by Being Useful
There are a bazillion ways for you to create a raving fan by bring your patients to the WOW feeling. One super easy, not time consuming and very cost-effective approach is to know the people in your area who can help your patients solve the problems that you don’t solve.
In a sense, both in your conversations as well as your web presence, you should become your own version of Angie’s List by having at your disposal a list of resources that you are willing to endorse when a patient has a need.
Dentistry is more competitive now than it has ever been. Insurance is changing. Big companies are buying up small practices, making it hard to compete cost-effectively. Group practices are becoming more the norm where patients have the luxury of a one-stop-shop experience for them and their families.
How are you going to get beyond just ability to survive? How are you going to thrive, and achieve results you never dreamed of before?
Simple. Just become useful.
As a dentist you have the ability to peer into the lives of your customers unlike most other businesses. Your patients come to you, sit in your chair, and tell you about their lives. If you ask the right questions, you can uncover opportunities to become a useful resource to them.
If you spend a little time getting to know the best resources in your community, you will naturally go above and beyond what your patient expects of you, give them a sense of WOW, and have them telling everyone they know about how awesome you are.