If you’re a private practice rehab therapist looking to grow your business, you have a lot of options for attracting new patients—from diversifying your revenue stream with unique services to boosting your marketing spend. A less obvious—but equally important—piece of the growing-your-practice puzzle: tapping your existing customer base to help you gain new customers. More specifically, I’m alluding to harnessing the power of happy patients to help spread the love to potential patients. How? By soliciting customer testimonials and reviews. Now, there’s an art to tactfully asking for glowing recommendations from your patients. Here are a few tips to help you piece together your strategy:
Understand the Difference
A review represents a patient’s true opinion.
It’s important to gather both testimonials and reviews from your patients. But, do you know the difference between the two? Reviews typically appear on third-party sites—like Yelp, Facebook, or Google—that are totally outside of your control. As such, each review should be a 100% true reflection of that patient’s opinion of you and your services. Because reviews are honest in nature, they’re not always guaranteed to be positive—which actually isn’t a bad thing. A good mix of opinions can give your business more credibility as well as provide you with an opportunity to respond to negative reviews in a kind—and human—way.
Testimonials make your business stand out.
Now, on the flip-side, testimonials are quotes you can use on your website or on other marketing materials—with patient permission, of course. These statements are always positive (otherwise, why would you post them?), and you can choose exactly what—and where—you want to display them. Although there are differences between reviews and testimonials, you shouldn’t always think of them as separate entities. What do I mean by that? Well, you can use your best online reviews as testimonials (as long as you obtain written permission from the reviewer). And this dual-purpose approach works both ways: if a patient agrees to provide a testimonial, you can ask him or her to leave you a positive review on one of the aforementioned external sites—get two-birds’ worth of feedback with one stone, ya know?
Patients can’t review you if they can’t find you.
Before you ask your patients to leave any reviews, make sure you have business profiles on multiple review sites. If you’re tempted to skip this step—don’t. That’s because, as as this Search Engine Land study points out, online reviews are crucially important: “72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” And to get the most bang for your review buck, you want to make the process as simple as possible for your customers—which means meeting them where they are. So, make sure you have a profile (i.e., a place where current and former patients can post their opinions) on popular review sites like:
Social media engagement boosts online visibility.
In addition to asking your patients to leave reviews online, you should ask them to “follow” or “like” your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Engaging with your patients online increases the visibility of your business and makes your brand more personal and accessible. (A word of caution about interacting with your patients online: make sure that your online behavior is HIPAA-compliant, and frequently perform and document a risk assessment to safeguard your patient information.)
Make the Process Simple
Happy patients are less likely to share unsolicited feedback.
Now that you get the gist of the “what” and “where” of patient reviews and testimonials, let’s talk about how you can get your patients to participate. The best way to get the positive feedback you crave is to make it easy for your patients to provide it (and I mean really easy). That’s because, as this Mashable article explains, “The average customer is not going to search for ways to leave your company a review (unless they have a negative experience to share).” So, to get good feedback—the kind you want prospective patients to see—start by getting ahead of your happy patients and giving them a way to leave on-the-spot reviews or testimonials. One way you can do this is to have an iPad available at your front desk with direct links to your review profiles. You could also include links in your regular newsletters or other email communications. If you really want to get this process down to a science, consider implementing a patient relationship management (PRM) software that'll not only help you identify your happiest patients, but also automatically send those patients email requests to review your practice online.
Get Some Guts
Many patients are willing to help—if asked.
If you’re having a hard time working up the nerve to ask your patients for reviews, I would encourage you to be brave and approach the situation with candor. All you need to do is simply explain why your patient’s opinion is so important to you. For example: tell the patient that his or her review or testimonial will go a long way toward helping other patients make informed decisions about their health care.
Written permission is legally required.
Now, if you do get a glowing review, an awesome photo, or a positive candid quote, don’t post it anywhere without express written permission from the patient. This is a legal requirement—and more importantly, it’s a way to demonstrate to your patients your concern and professionalism when it comes to protecting their private information.
Inject Some Fun
Reward testimonial participants.
One way you can make the the review and testimonial gathering process more fun is to offer your patients incentives. Now, I’m not saying you should buy reviews or feedback. In fact, you should be cautious and conservative with gift-giving in a clinic setting—period. To make sure you don’t violate the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), establish a clinic gift-giving policy that follows the Office of Inspector General (OIG) outline. As Tom Ambury explains in this post, that means spending:
- no more than $10 per gift, and
- no more than $50 in total over the course of a calendar year.
As long as you follow these guidelines, you can offer fun swag without landing yourself in hot water. And if you want to avoid monetary gifts all together, a handwritten thank-you note goes a long way in showing your appreciation.
Now, all you need to finish the puzzle—and grow your business—is to put that corner piece into place and solicit some killer patient reviews and testimonials. How do you get your customers to leave reviews or testimonials? Do you have any advice for other clinics? Tell us in the comments section below.
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