Loyal patients are the most profitable, and it is a known fact that referred patients generate the best return on investment. What is interesting, though, is that a lost patient has a greater value than a potential patient. In fact, according to a study conducted by Marketing Metrics, a business has a 20 percent to 40 percent chance of winning back a lost customer, versus a 5 percent to 20 percent chance of converting a new customer into a paying customer. The same applies to your medical practice.
Are you ready for some bad news? Well, it is inevitable: Your medical practice will never be able to keep every patient happy all of the time. Darker forces will be at work and they will lure patients away from your practice to your competitors.
Issues around your quality of service might arise and leave your patients unhappy, whether due to a computer or human error. It is naive to think everything will run smoothly all the time, even with the best intentions and the best staff training. Everyone, including you, can have an off day.
But it is not just your practice facing these challenges. Most practices lose patients at some point. These could be people who have walked away and never returned, and many practices do not even bother to find out why. The problem is, when you lose patients, you have to go out and find new ones to replace them, which is an expensive and time-consuming process.
Let us not get too negative about it, though. Remember that it is far easier to sell to someone who has dealt with your service before than it is to a new patient. While a bunch of flowers or a free service may work you back into the affections of your lost patients, in some cases that just may not cut it. This calls for a look at successful strategies that will win back even the most disheartened patients.
If you are still not quite sure that it is worth the hassle of contacting lost patients who may not make it easy for you, then consider this: The cost of winning back an old patient is far less than acquiring a new one. Economically, it makes sense.
While most healthcare practitioners are beginning to understand the value of the patient experience and are developing better services to boost their brand image, only a few medical practices – the extraordinary ones – do not just stop there. They go beyond just providing an enhanced experience and strive to exceed patient expectations during the entire patient lifetime. These practices focus on both existing patients and those they have lost. They understand that to be a brand leader, it is essential to identify and fix the patients’ pain points before they escalate.
One of the biggest reasons to win back lost patients is that it is easier to sell to them. They know who you are and what services you offer, and you do not have to invest much time and effort into building your brand image in front of them. In addition, your existing patients, through their recommendations, will help you win new patients. Bill Gates wrote in his book Business @ the speed of thought, “Your unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” An unhappy patient is an incredible source of valuable insights. With this in mind, let us get into the strategies to win back your lost patients.
Why Do Patients Leave?
In order to retain patients, it is important to understand what is driving them away. Some of the reasons may be beyond your control. However, here are some of the reasons that you can fix.
1. Poor Patient Service
Poor service is one of the top reasons why patients bail on practices and never return. According to a study, 78 percent of people would simply abandon a business due to a poor service experience. In addition, with just 4 percent of dissatisfied customers actually reporting problems, you can be hard-pressed to find out where you dropped the ball.
Failures in service can happen at any point, from the initial phone call to the follow-up phase. Patient service blunders can also happen on channels where engagement takes place, including social networks, emails, over the phone, inside your office and many more.
2. Waiting Room Woes
The onboarding stage, where you assist the patient starting with an initial phone call to helping them fill out forms in your office, is critical for retaining patients. Considering the amount of work you put in to get the patient so close, it is painful to lose them shortly after that. Waiting rooms in most medical practices are not appealing. Not only do they lack privacy but they are also over-crowded and uncomfortable. Because waiting rooms are patients’ first interaction with your medical practice, it can ruin the entire patient experience.
If the patient is feeling confused or nonexistent sitting in your waiting room, he or she will fail to understand the full value of what you have to offer. This is the most natural point for a patient to decide that he or she does not want to continue with your practice and bail on you.
3. Lack of Continuous Communication
That first success point is great if you can get the patient through the initial registration process and onboarding. However, your interactions and responsibilities do not end there. You have the entire patient lifecycle moving forward, and you need to keep checking in with patients to ensure they are benefiting from your treatment and are feeling cared for.
If communication drops off and there is no development in the relationship, the patient may start wondering whether the value is still there. If your patients do not understand how to leverage your service and feel the value is diminishing, you will be risking a reduction in the overall lifecycle of the patient.
4. Natural Events
Very few patients stick around for the full life cycle. Almost every patient will churn and there are a number of natural reasons that may lead to this, including patients relocating out of the city or financial reasons. These reasons often have very little to do with anything you or your team failed to do.
5. Pushing Too Hard
Your patients are going avail themselves of your service for a very specific reason: They have a problem and are looking for a solution. Once they have a solution, they may not require your service until they have identified another problem. That means you cannot just motivate them with aggressive tactics or harass them with upsell or cross-selling emails to get them to come back to your practice. When the majority of your interactions with a patient involve attempts at upselling with little extra value, you can expect to lose some patients. It will not take them long to find another healthcare provider who does not persistently hound them for money.
Steps to Win Back Unhappy Patients
Not many factors will affect your reputation more than the way you respond to complaints from unhappy patients. Patient experience has always been an integral part of developing brand loyalty. In fact, it is the center of the business model that helps most medical practices thrive. And now that the Internet and social networks have given patients the platforms to publish opinion and feedback about their healthcare providers, it has become even more challenging for practices to provide great patient service. So what can you do to make sure that you properly respond to an unhappy patient so that you both experience the most pleasant outcome possible? Is there a way you can make unhappy patients helpful to your practice so that instead of treating them like a problem, you see them as an opportunity? Yes, there is.
Each dissatisfied patient has the potential for becoming your key source for valuable insight – but only if you are willing to listen. In the same way that you show your existing patients that you care about them by valuing their feedback, you can take proactive steps to win them back. Keep in mind, however, that you must first assess if you want to win them back, because not every patient is an ideal patient. In that case, at least make sure the patient leaves with a sense that he or she has been served justly.
Here are four ways to win back unhappy patients:
1. Contact your lost patients: The very first step to turning an ex-patient to an existing one is to try to renew your contact with patients who were regular visitors. Call with the intention of asking them to revisit your practice if they still require your service. At the same time, try to figure out the reasons why they put an end to their business in the first place. Explain to the patient how your practice or services have changed and convince them to visit you again if you figure out that they were not satisfied with your service. You must understand how to handle an irate patient, and do not point out any faults on their end.
2. Analyze the problem: Make sure you understand and analyze the issues why a patient has left your practice. If it a recurring problem, take steps to fix the process and restore your service levels to a high standard. However, if you discover it is a result of poor patient service, then apologize and take complete ownership. Empathize and relate to the patient. Admit your mistakes and ask how you can make the situation right. Making the patient feel understood may make things easier for you.
3. Offer solutions: Once you understand what went wrong and why the patient stopped visiting your practice, you need to come up with a plan of action in order to rectify the situation. Vague promises are exactly that – vague. You will stand a greater chance of winning over lost patients if you present them with specific solutions to their problems. However, make sure the solution matches the level of discomfort they experienced with your service or staff. Of all the ways to retain lost patients, providing them with effective solutions is one of the best.
4. Regain Patients’ Trust: The ultimate goal of your efforts is not just to win back the patients’ business – it is to win back their trust and loyalty, and a genuinely kind gesture can soften even the unhappiest of patients. Never stop expressing your appreciation because the last thing you want to do is win back a patient who becomes unhappy a second time. Retaining patient loyalty is a round-the-clock job. When a patient leaves, getting him or her back takes just as much effort. You will need to give your team the resources and the inspiration they need to regain your patients’ trust and business.
Converting unhappy and lost patients into valued patients will dramatically impact your repeat business. Everyone knows problems happen and service occasionally disappoints. It is how you make up for the inconvenience that will make the difference. You can distinguish yourself from your competition by the way you make things right. Patients will come back to your practice over and over again when they know you will be willing to address any problem that arises.
At Practice Builders, we can help you make informed decisions about what strategies will help you regain lost customers and build brand credibility. We can also help you attract new patients and retain existing ones. Our teams will make sure your brand credibility works hand-in-hand with increasing patient engagement and retention. Contact us today.