“One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made in the past,” says Dr. Tim Banker, Greensboro, N.C., “is to take loyal patients for granted — while spinning our wheels trying to get new patients. We now let loyal patients know how much we appreciate them.”
Having loyal patients yields many benefits (beyond the obvious):
• Loyal patients, by definition, have more trust in your recommendations.
• Loyal patients tend to be more tolerant of minor problems, delays and the like.
• Loyal patients are the most vocal in telling others about the quality of care, and service they received.
• Revenue grows as a result of repeat visits and referrals
• Costs decline as a result of the efficiencies of seeing “experienced” patients who require less paperwork and explanations.
• Costs also decline as the need for advertising and practice promotion decrease. (It costs five times more to acquire a new patient than it does to retain an existing one).
• Employee retention increases because of job pride and satisfaction, which, in turn, creates a loop that reinforces patient loyalty and reduces the cost as hiring and training and leads to productivity gains.
• As costs go down and revenues go up, profitability increases.
Retention vs. Loyalty
Don’t confuse patient retention with patient loyalty. If you’re the only chiropractor in town, you’ll retain your patients. Suppose, however, another practice opens up in your area. Will your patients remain loyal?
Loyalty implies a choice. Did you know that there are degrees of loyalty? For example, our own market research has shown:
• 10 percent to 30 percent of chiro-practic patients are fiercely loyal and not likely to switch to another office.
• 25 percent to 50 percent are more or less inclined to stay with the same DC. Unlike the “fiercely loyal” group, they can be, and often are, “lured” away by other offices.
• 10 percent to 25 percent really don’t care where they go or whom they see. They tend to select chiropractors based strictly on cost or convenience or because a provider is listed in a directory from a managed-care plan.
“Core service doesn’t generate loyalty,” says Stephanie A. Busty, a training specialist at New York City’s Beth Israel Hospital. “ It’s getting the service up to extraordinary levels. We want to exceed expectations. We want to knock their socks off.”
Action step: Let loyal patients know how much you appreciate them, and strive as a team to upgrade more middle-of-the-road patients into that “fiercely loyal” category. For example, tell a long-term patient of record, “As I was reviewing your chart this morning, I noted that you’ve been with our practice for almost five years. Thank you for your confidence in us. We’ve really enjoyed having you as a part of our practice.”
Say it, of course, in your own words. Or write it, if that’s more comfortable. (People like to get cards and letters!) As an old saying goes, people love doing business with those who appreciate their business.
Bob Levoy is a seminar speaker and writer. He can be reached at 516- 626-1353.