Successful marketing—and practice growth—begins with taking care of existing patients first.
Growth-minded healthcare clinics often assume that practice growth is exclusively a matter of bringing new patients through the door. Previous or existing patients who have already crossed your threshold are taken for granted, mentally considered “a done deal,” or “checked off the list” as permanently “captured” and in your practice.
Today, newly empowered patients are far from “permanently bonded” to any practitioner or practice. In healthcare (as well as in most product and service businesses), customer service, experience and satisfaction are core strategies for success.
The business or practice value of the “existing customers first” principle has long been appreciated…but, unfortunately, it’s often overlooked or relegated to a lesser standing in favour or finding and attracting new patients.
Here are some numbers from the business world:
- Acquisition costs are six to seven times greater than retention (usually more).
- The main reason for lost customers is the overall poor quality of customer service.
- Increasing customer retention by as little as two percent has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent.
- A five percent reduction in customer defection can increase profits by five to 95 percent.
- Unhappy customers virtually never complain. In they simply leave and never return.
At the risk of over-simplification, the needs and wants of most patients are to “feel good,” (that is, to medically address and resolve their health issue), and to have a “good feeling” about the provider, the practice and/or the process (i.e. patient experience). In the retail world, 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
The business and financial consequences for healthcare are widely understood as similar. What’s more, practitioner’s clinical skills and patient interaction are only part of the equation. The practice culture, and particularly the clinic staff, can make or break patient satisfaction. Consequently, a loss in patients and revenue is highly likely.
The bottom line is that, by any name, customer service, patient experience, satisfaction and retention, is not only a fundamental principle of good business, it is an essential strategy for growth and success in a healthcare practice, which translates to an overarching concept about healthcare marketing to take care of existing patients first.
Satisfied patients are ten times more likely to be repeat patients.
- The probability of ‘selling’ to an existing patient is over 60 percent (vs. 5-20 percent for a new prospect.)
- The top influence factor in healthcare provider selection is family and friend recommendations.
- Positive patient experience fosters referrals, word-of-mouth, and enhanced reputation.
Patient retention and a first-customer-first mindset is a fundamentally sound way to protect your existing revenue base, minimise the influence of competition, and grow the practice.