Dentistry focus: The virtue of a patient survey

Communicating with customers is one of the most important things to get to grips with in business life. So, to get an idea of what your patients really want, why not consider using a quick survey?
This can be one of the most valuable and important audits you can perform because it can not only be completed in your waiting room, but can give you a really useful overview of your practice and an idea of where to go in the future. 

The right questions
By thinking about what you want to find out in your survey, you can then ask the most appropriate questions.

For example, you could ask your patients to grade how they rate your customer service on a scale of one to 10 and break this down further into areas of attitude – listening, explaining and communication.

Asking questions which only require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer are not going to give you much insight and asking ‘textbook’ questions will only result in getting textbook answers and will not tell you much.

In order to get the most objective results to your survey, it’s also worth making it anonymous and putting a box in reception to collect the questionnaires. People are far more likely to be open and honest if there is no chance of repercussions.

Some payment plan specialists, such as Denplan, can not only help you put together your patient survey, but they can also offer a ‘mystery shopper’ service to rate your levels of customer service against those of your competitors, so you know what competition you face in maintaining patient loyalty.

Tailor-made training courses are also available on topics such as customer care and complaints handling, which can all be invaluable when looking to retain and grow your patient base.  

Promote good feedback
You can even use the results of your patient survey to promote your practice, as great statistics offer really powerful messages to both existing and potential patients. Finding out what your target audience reads, watches or listens to will really pay dividends and will make the relationship with your target media more successful. And the best thing is… you can include this type of question in your survey!

Having identified publications you would like to appear in, it’s worth looking at what types of articles they feature and a few quick calls to introduce yourself to news-editors and journalists can be of great benefit. However, before submitting anything, always ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the reader’? This can help you create more valuable and informative copy, which is far more likely to be published.

Some payment plan specialists also offer free PR services to their members, to not only write up news releases, but to research the most relevant media and liaise with them on your behalf.

Cycle of success
By promoting your survey findings, either to your local press or in your practice newsletter or literature, you are ensuring that the right people are seeing the right messages. This means you are getting a good return on your investment, as this communication can often lead to the retention for your existing patients and the interest of potential new ones. You could also do a follow up survey the following year to see if your improvements and changes have paid off.
In addition to your patient survey, it may be worth asking any new patients to fill out a short questionnaire.

This way you can record how and where people heard about you, which will, in turn, give you a good idea on where to focus your marketing activity in the future and where your current patients are likely to see your latest news. You could also offer some kind of tangible incentive to encourage your patients to refer you to a friend.

Patient surveys can help you unlock what your patients really think about you. So, if you’ve been bogged down with regulation and recession over the last year, now is the time to reach out to your patients and drive forward your business once more. 

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