9 Ideas for Increasing Patient Loyalty

Currently, the cost of acquiring one new patient is estimated to be $282, while the estimated cost of retaining a patient is $57. Patient retention is one of the biggest concerns in owning and marketing a practice, and given these estimates, it’s easy to understand why.

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A practice acquiring 30 new patients per year is spending an average of $8,460 to do so, while a practice focused on building patient loyalty is only spending about $1,710 to retain their current clients. And, as you may have already learned, one of the biggest busts in marketing your practice is running a “new patient special”, as it never guarantees to keep a new patient coming back.

The following ideas are intended to help you retain patients beyond their first visit:

1. Make a Great First Impression – Despite the common belief that a patient’s first impression is formed in your practice, their in-office visit may not actually be their first point of contact. When researching providers, many patients look at your website, social media profiles, mailers, and networking groups to formulate their first impression, so be sure you are representing yourself well across all channels, not just in your office.

2. Host a Patient Appreciation Event – Select one day each month or every other month as your Patient Appreciation Day. On this day, verbally thank each patient you see, and let them know how much you value their patronage. You could even present them with a small gift, such as a $5 or $10 gift card, depending on your budget. Each patient is not only likely to feel valued, but is also likely to recommend your services to their friends and family. Also, you can randomize the day each month to avoid patients catching on and scheduling their appointments according to your appreciation schedule.

3. Use Social Media to Interact with Your Patients – It’s no secret that people like doing business with friendly and familiar faces. Interact with your patients on social media by congratulating their achievements and encouraging their endeavors. You can use your practice Facebook page or Twitter account to announce your patients’ achievements and share their successes with all of your followers. Just be sure you get their permission before featuring them on your page. Remember, you don’t always have to promote your services to build patient loyalty; you just have to show you genuinely care about your patients.

4. Make Your Patients Feel Important Year-Round – In order to make your patients feel like they’re part of your family, you have to treat them like family, even when they aren’t in your physical presence.  Send patients birthday cards and anniversary cards celebrating their patronage to your practice.  Include a handwritten note with a meaningful message.

5. Make New Patients Feel Welcomed – Following a patient’s first visit with a thank you card is a great form of customer service. Making new patients feel important and appreciated even after just one visit will make them more inclined to return. If your patients are tech-savvy, consider sending a thank you email, in which you can include a link to your social networks and details about key differentiators in your services.

6. NEVER Be Late for a New Patient Appointment – If you have a patient who is visiting for the first or even second time, be sure you are punctual. Nothing is more likely to turn a new patient away than having a delayed appointment. When you know you have a new patient scheduled, do your best to stay ahead of the clock and avoid excessive waiting room times.

7. Offer a Complimentary Service to Your Loyal Patients – If you know a patient has a big upcoming event, such as a wedding or prom, and they’ve been your patient for years, offer them a complimentary service such as professional teeth whitening. This unexpected gesture will thrill patients and make them likely to refer your services to others.

8. Communicate Clearly – In a recent study, 93% of patients said a clear explanation of required services was a major factor in whether they would return to the dentist or not. When you have a first-time patient, they often don’t understand which recommended services are necessary and which are just suggestions. Additionally, 33% of patients think their dentist tries to sell them unnecessary services, so be sure you aren’t miscommunicating with your patients, as it’s likely to scare them away.

9. Establish and Advertise a Patient Rewards Program – People love good deals, especially when the deals are backed by excellent service. Try implementing a patient rewards program where patients who remain loyal over a set amount of years can earn free services, such as teeth whitening or deep cleanings. Giving patients an incentive will encourage them to stay loyal to your practice.

While the cost benefit of investing in recalling current patients is evident, there are other benefits as well, namely an increase in new patient referrals. Studies indicate happy, loyal patients are more likely to recommend your services among their individual networks, providing you with valuable word of mouth marketing that generates new patients without any added expense.

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