Getting patients to work for you

This article is powerful and could make you about £55,000 better off. It focuses on the psychological principle of reciprocity, whereby you give something to someone and they then feel obliged to return the favour.

The power of reciprocity can be used to get your patients to write testimonials about what great care and service you and your practice provide.

Patient testimonials are the strongest way to close a sale. The proof they provide about the services you offer rocks beyond all else, and marketing guru Dan Kennedy agrees. He likens the effect that a shoebox of testimonials has on a business to pouring jet fuel onto a fire.

There is nothing you can say that will come across with the same level of credibility and impact as if someone else says it for you. Especially when that third party has no vested interest in your business and is simply enjoying the excellent service you have given them. Testimonials let those who’ve been there before tell your future customers all about it.

Testimonials can be written, spoken or recorded, although simple ink and paper is a good way to start. How you choose to fill your shoebox is up to you, but what’s most important is making sure people are willing to help you do it. Once you’ve got your patients putting pen to paper, be certain to have your solicitor write a very short and simple draft release authorising you to use their words when marketing your services.

The psychological trigger of reciprocity is important when it comes to boosting the number of testimonials you receive. One fail-safe way to ensure you get lots of testimonials is to ask your patients for them during their highest point of reciprocity.

This point occurs when they’re thanking you for something that you did for them. This is your cue to turn the tables and ask them for a small favour in return. For example, Mrs Jones is thrilled with the look of her brand new veneers. She’s full of joy as she sees her new smile for the very first time. She tells you how thrilled she is and thanks you from the bottom of her heart.

Then you say: ‘Mrs Jones, I am so happy for you. You look incredible.’ After a short pause, you can then ask her to do you a favour and write down, in her own words, about how great she’s feeling.

At our practice, we have never been turned down at this point. In the patient’s eyes it’s the very least they can do and they want to do it. It’s no imposition and makes them feel better for helping you.

The number of testimonials you get is more important than their quality. However, there are steps you can take to ensure the testimonials you get really reflect your practice’s star quality. One of these is to show the patients examples of what you are after and what your patients have written before.

Here’s an example of a testimonial a pateint wrote for one of my coaching clients: ‘Before my teeth were repaired they were cracked and yellow and looked awful. I didn’t want to smile and I would cover my mouth when I laughed. I was so embarrassed. Dr Smith told me there was hope for my teeth, and there was. His wonderful dental team was so kind, thoughtful and reassuring through the whole process. Today I no longer cover my teeth when I smile.’

I didn’t fabricate this example, so how did my client get such a great testimonial? He simply asked for it during the highest point of reciprocity and then showed the patient examples.

This approach works even when patients have only had simple procedures done, as long as they have just expressed their delight. Once this has happened, thank them for their kind words and ask them to put down their words on paper.

Some of your patients might express a wish to go home, write their comments up on their computer and print them out on a professional looking letterhead. Don’t let them. Handwritten notes look more genuine and personal. Also, only a tiny fraction of those who promise to send their comments into us at a later date ever follow it through.

Once you’ve got your testimonials, make photocopies of each one and place them in smart looking folders or photo albums. Fill as many folders with these testimonials as you can so they are in easy reach for every member of your team to show off to patients.

Evidence shows that a full album can help boost your case acceptance and will also increase your profits. I’ve told you what to do, now put my words into action.

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