By now, it should be clear that patients expect more than just excellent care: They want doctors to truly understand them; they want to be safe, respected, and involved in the process, and they base their level of satisfaction on a larger range of factors than you might think.
And when they don’t get what they want, they’re not afraid to make a change: According to a recent survey by HTK Marketing, 30% of patients have switched providers in the past and 14% are currently considering a switch. Patient loyalty, it seems, is hard to earn and all too easy to lose.
So, what drives patients to switch providers? According to the survey, 39% of those who had made a change cited a negative experience. (The rest either had a neutral experience, such as a change in insurance, or a positive one, such as a recommendation about another provider.)
The good news is that among those who had a negative experience, only 7% said cost. The bad news is that 54% said service issues and 45% said quality of care. Among the factors respondents cited for making a change were declining confidence, lack of respect, and lack of compassion.
Such factors take on even greater significance in aesthetic medicine. For one thing, the proliferation of minimally invasive procedures sets the stage for ongoing relationships via multiple sessions. For another, the patient seeking fillers today may very well consider a surgical solution down the road. Add in the fact that it’s far more cost-effective to retain current patients than to acquire new ones and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of generating patient loyalty.
As Christopher Khorsandi, MD, FACS, recently wrote in Modern Aesthetics,
At our practice, we emphasize lifetime patient value. Simply put, that means offering a range of products and services intended to meet the full range of patient needs — including those things the patient may not even consciously be considering. It also means providing those products and services with exceptional outcomes and superior patient satisfaction. These are the keys to developing patient loyalty and building strong referral networks.
These days, however, it takes even more. Increased competition, rampant discounting, and the patient-empowering nature of the Internet are all giving even the most satisfied patients the power to shop around. Providing great service and excellent outcomes may have patients walking out happy but getting them to come back again is the key to long-term loyalty and a better bottom line.
Follow up with post-care communication
Based on the questions posed on RealSelf, many patients are looking for reassurance that they’re recovering as they should. Keeping in touch via personalized, procedure-focused emails is a great way to reiterate appropriate protocols (which, in turn, helps minimize complications) while also demonstrating your ongoing commitment to their care. Together, that can lead to both increased satisfaction and long-term loyalty.
Implement a frequent-patient program
The more people who opt for fillers, injectables, and other minimally invasive procedures, the more “touch-ups” become a normal part of their health and beauty regimens, which also makes them ideal for programs that reward patients for return visits. As Dana Fox, president of Strategic Edge Partners, recently wrote in Modern Aesthetics, such loyalty programs require a genuine commitment but can result in as much as a 35% increase in sales across all service lines: procedures, injectables, skincare, and even surgery.
Dare to be different
While the focus of this post is generating loyalty among existing patients, the sheer number of those seeking to make a change presents a huge opportunity to attract new ones. They’re already looking for something different, after all, and doctors who directly address the issues that create their dissatisfaction are more likely to get their attention. Give them good reasons to choose you and you increase the odds that they’ll give you their loyalty in return.