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Word of Mouth Referrals: What Are Your Patients Saying About You?

March 1, 2008 |

“So, how did you hear about Dr. Smith?”

That should be one of the most important questions you ask every single patient walking through your door. If you’re doing this correctly, 7 out of 10 of them should answer with one of your patients’ names.

A word of mouth referral is the absolute best advertisement you can incorporate into your practice. It’s also the cheapest form of advertising that you can invest in, and it takes so little time and effort.

Spending time now developing relationships with your current patients will grow your prospective patient list later. If your patients like, trust, and respect you, they will be happy to tell their family and friends about you and may even brag about your great work to everybody they know. Due to our Baby Boomer culture and TV shows like Extreme Makeover, it’s more acceptable to enhance your look and tell people about it. Use that to your advantage and get your patients talking about you and your great work!

Of course, you need commitment from your staff to make patient satisfaction your #1 priority so meet with them regularly to ensure they understand the importance of treating each patient with a warm and friendly attitude each time they call or visit. Also, be sure your telephone is answered by the third ring, call back when you say you will and don’t keep them waiting! Respect your patients’ time and concerns and they will reciprocate.

There are hundreds of ways to ensure you are getting the most from word of mouth referrals and here are just a few:

– During your initial patient consultation, before jumping right in, take two minutes and talk to your patient to build rapport. Easy icebreaker topics are their occupation, neighborhood or how they heard about you. That information is right in front of you on their patient information form they filled out. This helps you connect with them, builds their trust in you and helps the two of you communicate more freely since you are showing your interest and concern in them.

– Set expectations and live up to them. And, under promise and over deliver. If they are pleasantly surprised that they got more than they expected, they will shout it from the rooftops.

– Handle your post-op patients gingerly. Let them visit you for their post-op appointments through the back door so the pre-op patients don’t see them. They may not be at their best just yet and may be complaining so nobody who’s considering surgery needs to see that. You know they will be ecstatic after they heal but they may be going through a rough time now.

– Send post-op flowers to their homes with a note signed by you and make the first follow up telephone call yourself their first evening home. After the first night, your staff can make the additional calls and get you involved only if there is a problem.

– Thank your patients who have referred you and don’t wait!

  • have staff call them initially to thank them
  • write a personal note from you to thank them
  • call them yourself to thank them
  • send a little gift of appreciation for multiple referrals
  • invite them in for a complimentary peel or microdermabrasion for multiple referrals.

– Hold an annual patient appreciation day for your patients and their family and friends. Make it an event by serving wine and hors d’oeuvres and have drawings for free and discounted services.

The bottom line is always the same. Treat your patients well, respect their time and concerns and show you care. They will tell enough people about you that your practice will flourish in no time.
Catherine Maley, MBA is author of Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying and is President of Cosmetic Image Marketing located in San Francisco. Her firm specializes in growing aesthetic practices using PR, advertising and creative marketing strategies.

Call her at (877) 339-8833 or visit

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