5 ways to increase word of mouth referrals for your healthcare practice
Why are word of mouth referrals important?
Even as we are at the forefront of the digital landscape, word of mouth referrals seem to be the king when it comes to the most trusted referral source. Around 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family. That’s a hard statistic to beat! The only way ahead is to embrace this tradition of word of mouth referrals.
As a healthcare practice, you might have some reservations about creating a word of mouth referral program, but trust us implementing this will have a huge impact! Word of mouth referrals are not just limited to real life, they can very well be translated to the digital landscape as well. Patients are more informed and conscious about their healthcare choices and gladly share their experiences online. These also act as a word of mouth referral in the digital world.
If you broadly have a look at it, the advantages of word of mouth referral marketing include:
1) Increase in the number of patients without having to spend money on paid marketing methods
2) Increased patient loyalty.
3) Improved Digital reputation
The majority of times when people are evaluating medical practices to visit, they will take their friend or family’s word for how good or bad the practice is – people inevitably tend to trust someone they already know. If a patient had a good experience at their healthcare provider’s practice they will happily recommend it to their friends and family.
These new patients that you just gained came to you without any extra marketing spending.
People make recommendations with great care about their own reputation as well. So when a patient recommends your healthcare practice to someone else it’s probably because they have that much faith in the service you provide.
You might be thinking what can you do to trigger these referrals from your patients. Let’s have a look.
How to trigger word of mouth referrals?
While you cannot control what patients say about your practice once they leave your office, you can certainly follow some steps that can help trigger good reviews. Some of the ways in which you can ensure this are :
1) Provide Exceptional Patient Care
Patient experience encompasses the entire array of interactions that patient goes through when they visit your practice. This means from the time the patient enters your practice to the time they leave, each step of the patient journey should provide a great experience for them.
Non-verbal and physical statements also play an important role in contributing to an exceptional patient experience. These statements can be architectural, kinetic, or generous in nature.
Architectural statements are spaces and designs in your practice that catch the eye of the patient. Kinetic statements include observable physical actions or activities that are made part of the patient experience For example if you have a pediatric practice, interactive games and puzzles in the waiting area for the children to play with is a good idea. Generous statements would include actions or services that go beyond what the patient has paid for. One of the very common examples of a Generous statement is ‘receiving a candy after a visit. These non-verbal statements tend to stay with the patient and help act as a ‘trigger’ for word of mouth referrals.
As a healthcare provider, you perhaps provide a patient with the most important service of their lives. To be mindful about the kind of experience you create isn’t just something that will help trigger word of mouth referrals but also your responsibility. When you provide reasons for patients to talk about your service, they will do it.
2) Collect Patient Feedback
How would you know if the care you are providing to the patient is exceptional? Is there something lacking from your end that could help improve the patient experience? How will you know about these? You ask the person who is at the receiving end.
You might have decided and planned that you are going to provide exceptional care to your patients, but is it really translating? You can only know this if you ask your patients for feedback.
They can exactly let you know how their experience at your practice has been. Patient feedback will help you identify areas where you can improve to provide the best in-patient experience.
Another thing that goes hand in hand with collecting patient feedback is implementing the said feedback. If patients see that their words have been paid attention to and replicated it will make them feel valued. Ultimately this loop of patient feedback will help you improve, identify good practices and replicate them, increase patient engagement and help build a positive correlation for patients with your practice.
3) Network with other physicians
People seek credible sources for finalising services according to their needs. Aside from friends and family, doctors also hold immense power in their opinions. Doctor referrals accounted for over 63 million referrals in 2016.
It is a good idea to acquaint yourself with other medical professionals. Meet up with them over healthcare conferences or maintain a connection with them over social media platforms. Positive relationships with other medical practitioners can encourage them to send suitable referrals along your way.
4) Maintain an Online Presence
Maintaining an online presence will help word of mouth referrals in two ways :
a) It will help the existing patient to corroborate their referrals with information about you on the internet.
b) It will help when the potential new patient does an online search about the recommendation they just received. Here they might also look for other patient reviews to help make a final decision.
In short, you need to provide your existing patients with resources to help support their claims. You can do this by making sure you have a social media presence and maintaining your listings on review platforms.
5) Consider creating an incentivised word of mouth referral campaign
You can also consider offering strategic referral rewards to motivate happy patients into referring others to your healthcare practice.
Create patient referral campaigns that will encourage your patients to share their experiences by rewarding them for achieving specific milestones. Patient referral campaigns are a smart way to encourage word-of-mouth marketing in healthcare.
Some ideas can include:
Offer gift cards for referring friends
Offer friend & family discounts
#Bonus Point: Provide patients with content.
A golden rule of thumb that every healthcare provider must remember is that, if a patient intends to refer your service, you need to make it easier for patients to support their claim about your practice.
Confusing? Let’s break it down. If for example what a patient most liked about their experience at your practice was how easy it was for them to fill the intake form, how can you make it much easier for the patient to convey this information to others? You need to give them the resource with which they can prove their point.
You may send weekly or monthly newsletters to your patients keeping them informed about your services, and any changes to those services, or include health articles from you that prove your mettle as a thought leader in your industry.
The bottom line here is that providing exceptional care to your existing patients is the penultimate way to ensure that they talk about you to their friends and family.
Word of mouth referral marketing is a great way to get more patients to visit your healthcare practice. A thing to note is that it goes hand in hand with your online reputation management strategy. Word of mouth referrals are real-life markers of your credibility and reputation while online reviews and your online presence are digital markers of your reputation. To obtain maximum results you need to pay attention to both of these strategies.
Some stats that you also need to pay attention to regarding referral marketing are that :
Referral leads have a 30% higher conversion rate than leads from any other channel. Referrals account for 65% of companies’ new deals
According to a Forbes article, 54% marketers say that referrals have a lower cost per lead than other marketing channels
Bottom line is, that providing the patients the care that they deserve and going above and beyond is what will make them speak about your practice to others. Remember that and your word of mouth referral strategy is already good to go!