What Patients Really Want (Part Five)

//What Patients Really Want (Part Five)

What Patients Really Want (Part Five)

[ Read Part One ]
[ Read Part Two ]
[ Read Part Three ]
[ Read Part Four ]

An Inside Look at the National Survey of Public Perceptions of Dentistry


The Crown Council was given the opportunity to help fund a significant study meant to identify public perceptions of dental health and the role dentists play in providing dental health services. We jumped on the opportunity because we felt it was time to see what was really on people’s minds when it comes to the dentist.

What we have attempted to do is translate the scientific data into a practical, easy plan for your practice in the form of understandable survey findings and some associated solid suggestions for your practice. Some of the results will not surprise you. Others may expand your vision of what you should be doing. Yet other results may be a little unsettling.

Survey Finding #5

The most powerful form of marketing in dentistry remains … word-of-mouth!

While this finding may not come as a surprise, it should be met with some comfort. Survey respondents were asked if they would be very likely or a little likely to find a dentist in different ways.

Here’s what they said:

  • 27% said they would look online. The internet is a small but rapidly growing source and force in dental marketing not to be ignored.
  • 40% said they would look in the phone book. This traditional resource is alive and well, but may be shrinking due to the internet.
  • 43% said they would turn to a professional referral service like 1-800 Dentist.
  • 55% said they would turn to their dental insurance provider directory.

But the last option received a dramatically higher rating as being the place where patients would look most to find a dentist. 81% said they would look to the advice of friends and family to choose a dentist. 81%!

Word-of-mouth still rules dental marketing. There are a couple of messages here when it comes to marketing your practice.

First, there is more than one way to do it and there is more than one source patients are turning to in order to find you. This survey measured just a few; word-of- mouth, referral services, insurance companies, and the internet. Others include direct mail, radio, TV and more. Do you know which methods are the most effective for you?

Second, are you testing other methods besides what you are doing now, to see what else you could do that might work better?

Third, every market is different. What works there may not work here. You have to see for yourself what works best for you.

Fourth, if I were to tell you that there was a target market for your practice where you could potentially reach over 80% of the prospects with one very inexpensive marketing technique, would you be interested? I think you would. So what are you actively doing to promote more word of mouth marketing for your practice?

The survey says 81% prefer to find a dentist that is recommended by someone they know. Here is a quick word-of-mouth marketing checklist to see how you measure up in dentistry’s most powerful form of marketing:

Are you giving your patients a great experience in your office that compels them to talk about you? If so, what do they talk about? What do they say? What do you want them to say? When was the last time you reviewed with your team the step-by-step system you use to make sure your patients have a great experience in your office? How about the verbal skills everyone on the team is supposed to use? In our work with even the most experienced offices, we’ve noticed that these systems and verbal skills are the first things to slip unless they receive continual attention.

Are you actively asking your patients for referrals? For years we have recommended that one of the items on the morning huddle agenda should be which patients you are going to ask for a referral that day and who on the team is going to ask those patients. Typically asking at least two people is a reasonable goal. But if the topic does not receive the attention in the morning huddle and the assignment is not made, it rarely happens.

Before you can make the assignment, are you confident that everyone on your team knows how to ask? Simply asking, “do you know of anyone who needs a dentist?” is probably not going get the response that you want. So do you have a proven dialogue that the entire team has been trained in that, when followed, will help get the results you want?

Many times we don’t ask because we don’t know how. And because we don’t know how we don’t get a very good response when we do. Take the time to train the team so they have the confidence to ask that comes with the competence of knowing how. (If you would like a step-by-step approach including verbal skills on how to ask for referrals, just call the Total Patient Service Institute at 1-877-399-ToPS)

Are you tracking how often you ask for referrals and how many you ask for? Each day when you make the assignment to a team member to ask, are you tracking how many conversations they have so that at the end of the week or end of the month you can see how well you are doing as a team in this area?

Do you have a recognition system in place where you acknowledge, thank and show appreciation to those patients who do refer others? Have some type of system in place that you follow so that you don’t have to remember each time to do something to thank a patient who has referred someone. As a word of caution, in some states it is technically illegal to give anything of monetary value to anyone for referring a patient to your practice. At the same time, it is not illegal to give a gift to a patient just because you like them or appreciate them. In other words, it is possible to show appreciation to a patient without directly tying it to the referral. Just letting them know that you appreciate them as a patient will encourage them to tell more people about you.

Do you reward your team members for their personal efforts and successes in getting more referrals for the practice? A friendly contest from time to time might encourage every team member to ask more.

So here’s the question: is promoting and encouraging word-of-mouth a concentrated and ongoing effort in your office? I think you would agree that everyone recognizes how important it is. But do you have all the systems in place to make sure that it happens on a regular, consistent, routine basis? Take the time to review and renew your system so that it works every day in your practice.


Findings from the Crown Council-funded survey on what dental patients really want have been summarized, in five parts, on this blog. They are described in full in the FREE e-book, What Patients Really Want, by Steven J. Anderson, available here.

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By | 2021-11-30T10:06:44-06:00 December 1st, 2021|Photo|
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