On Word-of-Mouth Referals

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

On Word-of-Mouth Referals

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You did an amazing job revitalizing her smile, so why didn’t she refer her friends to you for similar care?

It is likely that this happened because you never asked for the referral, or if you did, it was at the wrong time or in the wrong way.

We all dislike asking for referrals, as we feel that the quality of our work should speak for itself. And asking feels too much like the behavior of a pandering politician; we feel professionals simply should not behave like that.

We also know that asking for referrals can put the patient in a difficult and uncomfortable position. After all, what if the person simply wants to keep their personal health care choices private?

Referrals are the life blood of all health-centered / relationship-based practices. This is because referrals are the best way to replicate the kind and quality of clients we want to work with, which in turn allows us to do our best work on people who appreciate it and are willing to pay an appropriate fee to receive it.

And this is because “birds of a-feather, flock together” ; we culturally and interpersonally tend to socialize and spend time with those who share similar values, and health-centeredness is a strong value theme for many today.

So, what is the best way to generate the right kind of referrals for your practice?

The answer lies within the work of Robert Cialdini, PhD, whose research on human behavior is quite revealing. And what we know now is that simply asking for a referral is often not enough.

First, referrals are driven by feelings not just objective observations. Does the patient feel the same way about the outcome that you do? How about the process? They had to sit for the long appointments, injections, time off from work, provisionals, etc.. Do you really know how they feel about the WHOLE experience? Only those who feel that the outcome was worth substantially more to them than the time, energy, discomfort, and money invested are going to give you a glowing review.

The rest will just move on.

Also, the appropriate time to ask for a referral is key. It should only happen after the topic of how happy the patient is about the outcome has been brought up. In other words, it is a natural extension of an authentic empathetic conversation. To do otherwise – to force a conversation in the direction of your agenda – is manipulative, and the patient will immediately sense it and shut down.

Finally, Cialdini tell us that the old adage “give before you receive” holds true. The patient may feel that the transaction was completed, along with their obligations to you after the fee was paid. The best way around this issue is to give the patient a “Thank You Gift” AFTER payment and treatment is completed. This could be a gift certificate for a nice restaurant appropriate to the person’s taste. Then after giving the gift, and their expression of appreciation for the unexpected surprise, do you ask for the referral like this:

“We have really enjoyed working with you on the creation of your new smile. If you know of anyone who might appreciate our services, we would love to meet them!

Our initial visits are free and we would love to meet with them and help them in any way possible. We consider you as part of our practice family, and any friends of yours will be welcomed with open arms!”

Finally, print out before and after pictures to give to your patients regarding their smile. These should be portrait style pictures of high quality displaying their new and old smile.

79.9% of businesses say they have no formal process for generating referrals. If you are in that category, you need to do something about it right now.

Paul A Henny, DDS

Copyright © 2016. Thought Experiments, LLC.

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