Managing a busy medical practice is at times a daunting task. You need to be professional and at the top of your game, managing the financial side of the practice, diagnosing and taking care of patients, keeping the operational side of the business well-oiled, and, yes, you also have to provide superior customer service.
If you do, you’ll likely end up with patients who become brand advocates, telling their friends about your wonderful practice and greatly increasing your intake of new patients — and your retention of current ones.
It may seem like icing on the cake, but it’s actually essential to your practice. If you provide superior customer service that creates brand advocates, you’ll see benefits in all other areas of your practice as well.
According to webopedia, a brand advocate is:
"a person, or customer who talks favorably about a brand or product, and then passes on positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages about the brand to other people."
Brand advocates are 83% more likely to share information than the average internet user. What’s more, 54% of advocates view information-sharing as a form of relaxation.
Getting brand advocates is often as simple as providing an exceptional patient experience. However, turning patients into brand advocates isn't always going to be this simple. More times than not it is going to take some work on your end. Here are a few ways your practice can convert patients into brand advocates.
We’ll start with the simplest, but occasionally most challenging of tasks: remember your patients’ names. Encourage staff to remember names as well, and really go out of your way to make this one element central to patient relationships. Take time to learn tricks to better remember names if you need to, and encourage your staff to do the same.
Hearing your name makes you feel welcome and appreciated, less like a cog in the machine or a number on a spreadsheet. Especially in a medical office, where patients are already often feeling vulnerable, establishing this human relationship with them will do wonders. It’s not the only thing you need to do, but it potentially is one of the most fundamental things you can do to establish trust and the sense that every patient matters.
Of course, having said that, it is also important that you be natural. You’ve most likely experienced the awkward situation where staff are required to use a customer’s name. It feels creepy. Don’t do that.
Now, on top of your busy practice, this one might seem like something you don’t have the time for. But if you can manage to write helpful articles — or create videos, infographics or even a podcast, you’ll help to establish trust with your patients as well as giving your practice more authority.
If the content interests your patients, they will be inclined to share it, increasing your reach and helping you spread the good word about your work.
It is perfectly acceptable, too, to hire out this service. Finding a competent writer who can produce quality content can be a sound investment.
Personalizing their service and remembering key dates like birthdays can mean the difference between adequate service and a stellar experience. Sending birthday cards, giving small but thoughtful gifts at the end of a visit (remember those prizes from childhood dentist visits?), or simply send thank you notes when appropriate can all help to remind your patients that they are valued.
Another way that you can help your patients feel valued is to keep them in the loop about things that relate to them. Writing a monthly newsletter that they can opt into is one way to do this, but another way is to simply make sure that they have access to relevant information about their care. A lot of this can be automated and can be a part of the EHR system you use.
Don’t over communicate, but use your best judgment about what your patients would need to know to feel connected to the practice.
If you are in doubt about what over communicating looks like, ask. Your patients will likely tell you.
If you have a website, sprinkle really good testimonials from real patients throughout the site. This creates the social proof you need to feel that your brand is one that loves their patients and whose patients love them back.
It also encourages the patient who gave the testimonial to become an advocate, as they are now subtly a part of your brand.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that not every patient is going to become a brand advocate. You need to treat every patient with the same level of courtesy and service, but those who rate your practice as a 9 or 10 (on a scale from 1 to 10) are the ones who are most likely to become brand advocates.
Take extra care with these patients, looking for opportunities to allow them to share your practice with their friends and colleagues.
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