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    Why patient referrals are key to growing your practice

    A dentist explains why he relies on positive and negative feedback from patients to grow his office.

    I recently sat down with Dr. Bret Osborne from Osborne Dental in South Jordan, Utah. I first met Bret when I was working for a company called Dental Intel. I remember he was working in a small clinic with just two operatories at that time. I am convinced that Dr. Osborne is as nice of a person as you will find anywhere. I recently reconnected with Dr. Osborne and found out that he has been able to grow out of that two-op practice and into a larger, nicer space with five equipped operatories and room for a few more. I immediately asked if I could sit down and interview him about his growth strategies.

    Patient referralYou have been able to grow tremendously over the last few years. What is your number one strategy?

    Our number one strategy has been and probably always will be getting patient referrals. We always want patients to be having a good enough experience that they are willing to tell their friends and family about us.

    Tell me a little more about that because I think every dentist wants more patient referrals. How do you get patients to send friends and family?

    I have always said that you don't know what you don't know. I think that kind of goes without saying though. We have applied this concept in our dental practice by asking how the patient is doing or how their appointment was at multiple points in the office. If you are taking good care of patients and you ask them how their appointment has been so far (if I ask), or how their appointment was (if the front office asks at the end), you might be surprised by how many people have nice things to say about the office or the staff. We piggyback on that enthusiasm to get patient referrals.

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    Can you give me an example of how that would look?

    Sure! In fact, I think you walked me through something similar to this when we worked with you at Dental Intel. Here is how that would look:

    The patient would say something along the lines of, "Oh, my appointment has been great! Everyone is so nice here!"

    I would respond with something like this:

    "I am so glad to hear that! We really do try to take excellent care of each and every patient. You know, patients telling family and friends about their experience is one of the main ways that our practice grows. We would love if you would share your experience with your family and friends too!"

    It does not always go exactly like that, but it typically follows the same outline.

    That sounds simple enough. I know a lot of people give referral incentives. Is that something that you do?

    Well, yes, and no. We always make a point to try to exceed expectations, so we try to get them to send family and friends without telling them we are going to give them a gift. Then we send them a gift if they refer someone and they are even more excited. As long as we treat their family member or friend well, we have seen the referral rate increase after we send a thank you gift that was not expected.

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    Adam Smith
    Adam Smith got his start in the dental industry working for a company called Dental Intel. He was their first data analyst and worked ...


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