If nobody’s aware that your patients are satisfied, does it even matter?
Related: 9 Essential Steps to Improve Doctor Ratings Online
Yes, of course it matters — but it isn’t helping your marketing. Word-of-mouth and online review websites are the dominant resources patients use to select their doctors. Which means that in 2017, taking charge of your online and offline reputation management isn’t optional. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive plan to:
Following these steps will put you on the fast track to a magnetic reputation that attracts the patients you want.
Before you pursue ratings, reviews, referrals or any other sources of feedback, it’s important to establish a foundation for your online and offline reputation. Without a solid foundation, you’ll always feel like you’re plugging holes and bailing water, instead of sailing. Let’s pause and take a look in the mirror. Here are the areas of your practice that you should scrutinize:
Do not skip this step. Optimizing these basic aspects of your practice is necessary to generate consistent positive reviews and patient referrals. If any of the above factors are substandard, it can overshadow even the most brilliant physicians.
Finally, managing your reputation is a team endeavor. Much like hiring the perfect person for your front desk, you’ll need the proper person to monitor your online presence. Doctors don’t usually have the bandwidth to patrol their own profiles, so give your reputation management the attention it deserves by hiring and delegating appropriately.
Now that you’ve laid a solid foundation for building a great reputation, it’s time to come out of your shell and engage past, current and prospective patients.
Start Generating 5-Star Reviews - There’s only one path to consistent patient reviews — you have to ask for them. At Healthcare Success, we use sophisticated software to automatically:
Sophisticated software is an effective way to engage patients in a prompt, professional manner. And if you’re a medium or large practice, your substantial patient base may mean that a programmed outreach system is the only practical way to consistently generate positive reviews. However, requesting patient feedback with occasional, manual email blasts is better than waiting for patients to initiate an online review themselves.
WARNING: Soliciting reviews requires careful wording and timing. Do your homework or hire a professional… or you’ll potentially alienate quality patients.
Provide Patients With an Outlet for Complaints - This doesn’t necessarily mean you should request negative feedback, but you should make it easy for patients to voice their dissatisfaction to you directly. Also, patients should know that if they were to contact you, you’d consider their issue, take action and, hopefully, resolve their problems. Although it may be uncomfortable for you, it’s better to hear complaints straight from the patient (in a private, controlled setting) than to read them online. Treat each encounter as an opportunity for progress. That way, your practice will improve over time and your flow of negative input will shrink.
Get the Word Out With a Patient Referral Program - The best way to attract new, quality patients is to leverage your present patient base. But your current patients will only feel motivated to refer you if they love your practice. Recalling Step 1, this is one of the many instances where a clean office, friendly staff, and short wait times will pay off.
Understandably, some doctors are shy about asking patients for referrals. It may feel awkward at first, but you still need to do it. And, what you may not realize is that patients appreciate being asked. (Hint: When the doctor does the asking, it's more powerful and effective.)
An easy and effective way to ask for referrals is to give patients a referral card. You might an acknowledgement for both the referring and referred patients, such as a restaurant gift card or a small gift. Your referral card should include:
The new patient should bring the referral card to their first appointment. Ideally, your patient referral system will create a perpetual cycle of new patients. After patients hear about you from a friend or family member, they’ll check out your online profiles. Then, after reading your 5-star reviews, they’ll see you for treatment and post a review themselves. Finally, they’ll refer other friends and continue the cycle.
Once you establish a strong online presence, you’ll have to deal with the trickiest aspect of reputation management: the omnipresent Internet. It’s easy to thank someone for positive feedback, but a nasty online review can create a groundswell of negative emotions — anger, insecurity and hurt feelings are all common reactions. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often, but handling these situations well requires a level head. I'll use this opportunity to reemphasize the importance of selecting the right person for each reputation management responsibility.
Here are the seven deadly sins of reputation management. Avoid them whenever possible:
Reputation management takes time and effort, so don’t be afraid to start small and chunk out the work. For instance, setting up both patient referral and automated outreach systems at the same time is a recipe for chaos. Avoid overwhelming yourself and your staff by focusing on one significant improvement at a time. Finally, remember that your reputation is, in large part, under your control. Manage it wisely.
Marketing a healthcare organization can be challenging - even painful if you don't approach it with the right knowledge, tools, and guidance. By reading about mistakes and lessons others have learned the hard way, you can boost your marketing effectiveness and take a shortcut to success. Discover how to avoid these "Seven Deadly Sins". Plus, join over 30,000 of your fellow healthcare providers with a free subscription to our Insight Newsletter.