Attracting patients to your practice is hard enough. Once you have them as a client, the last thing you can afford is to let them slip away. However, as you know from firsthand experience, patient retention is a major challenge.
The Cost of Acquisition vs. Retention
According to this infographic from Invesp, far more companies focus their time and energy on customer acquisition than they do retention, despite the fact that it costs five-times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.
It’s also true that the probability of selling products or services to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, whereas the probably of selling to a new prospect is just 5-20 percent. Existing customers also tend to spend 30 percent more.
While these numbers account for both service businesses and companies that sell physical goods, it’s pretty clear that customer retention is important and cost-effective when you look at the long-term health of your business. If you aren’t actively trying to retain more patients in your practice, something is wrong.
5 Tips for Better Patient Retention
Perhaps you don’t really understand how to strengthen your patient retention efforts. If that’s the case, you’re in luck. You should be able to immediately grow your patient retention rate by implementing some of the following tips and techniques:
1. Send Out Automated Reminders
Do you know what one of the biggest points of friction between the average practice and its patients is? Poor communication. This not only includes communication during the visit, but also in the days and weeks leading up to it.
In practices where appointments are scheduled far in advance – perhaps three to six months out – patients have to be reminded multiple times of their appointment day and time. From a time and effort perspective, this may sound unrealistic to you. However, thanks to online appointment scheduling programs – like Yocale – this process can easily be automated.
There are a number of different ways to send out reminders, but one of the best is to use SMS. Patients always have their phones with them and are more likely to see the reminder in a timely fashion than they are with an email or voicemail.
2. Provide More Personalized Service
Patients want to be treated more like a person than a file in your computer system. One of the simplest things you can do is provide more personalized service.
The first time you meet with a patient, take notes on their chart. Ask them about their job, kids, hobbies, and other relevant topics. Not only does this show them that you’re interested in them as a person, but it gives you the chance to ask them about how something is going the next time you see them. This sort of attention to detail can be a huge differentiating factor between you and the practitioner down the street.
3. Create a Good Waiting Room Experience
Something as simple as the waiting room experience you provide can have a significant impact on how people perceive your practice. More specifically, having a comfortable and attractive waiting room makes a big difference. This idea is supported by a survey of outpatient clinics in New York City, which found a direct positive correlation between aesthetically pleasing waiting rooms and patient opinions after a visit.
“Those who visited the attractive facilities reported better overall satisfaction with the quality of care received, their interactions with staff, and a reduction in anxiety,” Susan Spillman writes for PatientPop, a growth platform designed to help healthcare providers streamline their practices. “In addition, a comparison of actual time and patients’ perception of time spent waiting was underestimated by those who’d visited the attractive facilities and overestimated by those at the less attractive ones.”
4. Develop Referral Programs
People trust the opinions of their peers more than marketing materials and paid advertisements. When a friend suggests they visit you, it holds much more weight than a PPC ad they run across on Google.
According to one study, “The average cost of attracting a new patient through mass marketing is 10 times more than attracting a new patient through a well-conceived patient referral program.” Furthermore, patients who are referred are much more likely to turn into lifetime clients than those who just come in off the street. Develop some sort of referral program to encourage this behavior.
5. Increase One-on-One Interactions
Going back to point number two, patients want to feel like they’re valued. They have a desire for attention and personalized care. And while they can receive attention from your assistants and front desk staff, everything ultimately hinges on you – or whoever the primary practitioner is.
Without totally messing up your scheduling and making appointments last longer than they should, you have to find a way to enhance the one-on-one interactions you have with patients. Consider doing some of the tasks that your assistants would usually do – not because they’re incapable, but because it gives you more time with each patient.
Where Can You Improve?
According to the Invesp infographic, 70 percent of business owners acknowledge that it’s far cheaper to retain than acquire a customer. The good news for you and your practice is that there are simple, yet actionable ways you can retain more customers and boost your bottom line with very little additional effort. Be on the lookout for areas where you can improve and seize this opportunity to take your practice to the next level.