Learn the No. 1 reason chiropractic patients refer.
Early in my practice I didn’t get referrals. I was seeing many different types of patients, getting good results, and asking for patient referrals as I’d been taught to do. Soon, it became clear the patients weren’t the reason referrals weren’t coming in but that I was the cause—and it was I who needed to change.
New patient referrals are never about results alone. Patients expect they’re going to get results, and no one refers based on expectations being met.
Referrals also aren’t based on asking for them, especially not constantly asking as so many DCs are instructed to do. Over-asking hurts your referrals because it makes patients feel uncomfortable. People won’t refer someone they care about into an uncomfortable situation. That’s human psychology.
Referrals aren’t about gifting or prizes, either. You can always gift as a nice gesture for a patient who refers, but as a surprise afterward, not as an incentive. In fact, incentives to refer will hurt your referrals because referrals are about friendship and caring—not commercial incentives.
A friend indeed
People refer for admiration. And the easiest way to get admiration is through a great referral, because you get the credit for the experience the other person has. And that’s where the admiration comes from.
You get credit for their happiness, excitement, fulfillment, and any other positive emotion they experience.
Giving a referral for an amazing experience is a great way to fulfill your desire of seeking admiration, because that’s exactly what you get. And you can start making this happen more often in your practice without having to ask. Does anyone ever refer a friend to a mediocre experience? Never.
Moreover, no one refers to a merely good experience, either. People only refer to an amazing, remarkable, and memorable experience. Knowing this, you can start to see what it takes to make this work in your practice for your patients.
For example: I love referring people to a favorite restaurant of mine. Hidden inside an old building, you need to be told by another customer where it is.
There’s an exclusivity factor because no one’s strolling in off the street. And the experience inside is one you never forget. There are no windows and only 12 tables. The menu is filled with all types of meat, fish, and vegetable tapas. No matter what type of diners you’re with, everyone’s satisfied. And it’s “bring your own wine,” which creates more of a festive occasion with friends.
While I have no interest in the success or profits of the restaurant or anyone who works there, I bring people and tell others like crazy because I want to get the credit for them having an amazing experience.
That’s a way I get admiration. That’s how referrals take place in daily life. But what about the healthcare realm? In most ways it isn’t all that different.
The art of referring
There’s a dentist in Australia who is famous for his word-of-mouth marketing. He does no advertising, isn’t in the phone book, and has no signage. His office doors are locked unless you have an appointment, and you have to be referred to him by another patient in order to be seen.
When you walk into his practice, there’s a large espresso machine in the waiting room. It’s a five-foot-tall round Victorian model and your drink is given to you on fine china. He even has little ovens baking pastries for you to enjoy and to take when you leave. And you never leave empty handed.
He put TVs on the ceilings years before it was common to have them built into dentist chairs. Patients hold a device to alert him if they feel any pain while in the chair. Each patient gets their own lounge while they’re waiting with an assistant to tend to them.
Can you see why people want to speak to others about this experience?
Notably, he claims his dentistry isn’t much better than anyone else’s. He also doesn’t offer unique services patients can’t get elsewhere. What’s more, his fees are more than twice what most other dentists in his area charge for the same procedures.
An inspired practice
So how do you create an experience in your practice where patients are eager to refer others to you and get the credit for the experience they’ll have with you?
Start by asking yourself and your team this question: “Would a patient want to tell their friend about this part of my practice?” If the answer isn’t yes, then it needs to be revised if you want to start getting more referrals.
Another question to ask is: “Was there anything remarkable about this patient’s experience?” Ask this about every visit, not just the first one. And you need to have fun delivering an amazing experience to your patients, too.
When you start creating a practice where you give patients a remarkable experience, you don’t need to ask for referrals over and over again. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever ask, it’s just not as necessary. The possibilities here are endless and only limited by your creativity. Have your CA help you come up with ideas.
Also, notice what you refer others to in daily life. Think about how you can duplicate those concepts in your practice. Focus on the patients’ experience. That’s what they’ll remember and what they’ll talk about with others.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou
In the old era of chiropractic when insurance covered all care, patients more easily put up with mediocre experiences. But now that patients are increasingly responsible for payment, they won’t put up with a merely satisfactory experience. When patients have to pay out of their own pocket you’ve got to deliver the best experience and value you can offer. You’re not on your own as a solo DC, even if it feels that way sometimes. And you don’t have to practice in ways that don’t inspire you, even if you’re told that’s the only way to make it work. The last way you’ll get people talking about you and your practice is to be just like every other DC.
Josh Wagner, DC, attended Life University and is now in private practice in New York. He has authored e-books on fibromyalgia and nutrition, and most recently created The Perfect Patient Funnel System for DCs to strengthen their practices and minimize stress. He can be contacted through perfectpatientfunnel.com.