How To Increase Your Patient Referrals


One of the keys to a successful practice is having an abundance of new patients calling in and walking through your front door.

How do you do that without racking up a heavy advertising budget that could eat away all your hard-earned profits?

Oddly enough, the answer is right inside your practice! Namely, word of mouth from your already existing clientele.

Patients who are extremely happy and enthusiastic about the service they have received from you and your staff will readily refer family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, without much prodding or coaxing.

It is amazing how willing an enthusiastic patient is to have others experience the same level of care that they themselves have received.

In many instances, they will go out of their way to get someone else to come to you because your team delivers fantastic service and results.

Contrary to popular belief, satisfied patients do not refer. Patients enthusiastic about your service do refer.

To illustrate this point, here is an example:

Let’s say that you are hungry, in a hurry and don’t have much money in your pocket. You might run out to a burger joint, taco place or chicken hut – something very fast. In a short amount of time, you are no longer hungry and it didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. So you could say that your criteria have all been met and you are satisfied, right?

Now let’s take the opposite scenario. Let’s say you go to your favorite upscale restaurant where it’s very expensive, takes several hours to eat and, if you’re like me, you eat it all because it is so delicious, and then you leave the restaurant with a bit of pain.

Question: If a friend asks you for the name of an excellent restaurant where they really take care of you and where he and his wife will have a great experience, which restaurant are you going to refer them to?

Answer: You most likely picked the second one. Why? Because you are enthusiastic about the ambience, top level service and care – even though it cost a lot, took longer and you hurt!

Now ask yourself: Do you want your practice to be like a fast-food restaurant or do you want to be a class act? If the answer is “a class act”, remember this: When referrals are not coming in the door in sufficient quantity, focus on improving service and this in turn will increase the number of enthusiastic patients leaving your practice.

Here are some of the ways that it might be possible to improve the service and care levels in your practice:

  1. Be sure to book your appointments in such a way that you can run on time. This is a courtesy point and impresses patients, even though they themselves sometimes run late.
  2. Send a thank you card to any patient that refers someone to you. This reflects that you really appreciate their help and encourages further referrals.
  3. Manners are an extremely key point in a healthcare practice or any other kind of business. From the front desk staff, to the dentist, the assistant and the hygienist. Patients respect those who treat them with respect and good manners.
  4. Care about your patients. If you really don’t care for them, you shouldn’t be treating them. Find something about them that you like and focus on that. If you are short on caring, they will do the same to you, i.e. badmouth you or not pay their bill.
  5. Give them the best quality dentistry for their money. Educate them so they want the best. When they have gone ahead with the ideal, they are much more likely to refer others to you.
  6. Have a mission statement for the practice so that the staff and you are on the same page with regard to quality of care and service to the patients. Focus on it until it becomes habit.
  7. After a major dental procedure, be sure to do a follow up call to ensure that all is well. Not all patients who are having difficulties will call you. This will show that you care about their well-being.

There are probably several thousand other ways to show you care. But there is no substitute for really caring.

When a patient is getting ready to leave the practice, do an “enthusiasm check”. For instance, ask “Is there anything else that we can do to be of service to you today?” or “Is there anything we could have done better today – we’re always looking for ways to evolve our practice to a higher level of care.” The key point here is that the staff must be on the lookout to ensure that the patient is in fact enthusiastic about your service.

Fact: The patient who is enthusiastic about the service they received in your practice will bring in 2 to 8 new patients to you – at no charge! A patient who is only “satisfied”, or worse yet, upset, will talk negatively about you to 10 to 12 people. Factually, they may keep coming back to you, but they won’t refer other people to you.

So take these simple steps to increase your patient referrals:

  • Deliver excellent technical service;
  • Make sure all staff care for the patient;
  • Do an enthusiasm check as they leave;
  • If the patient is not enthusiastic, find out what they are not happy with and work out how to remedy it.

And there you go. Simple but powerful steps which will lead to increased referrals, simply because you took the time and effort to improve your service level in all areas of the practice. So remember, when referrals are not coming in the door – focus on improving one area: service. Satisfied patients do not refer others to you, only enthusiastic patients refer.

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Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to The Art Of Management Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.

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