Retention: 21 Ways to Keep Your Patients, Part 1
By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA
One of the most difficult practice parameters doctors deal with is how to keep patients coming in for care. We all know the health benefits of chiropractic and try to educate our patients every day on lifelong care.
You use all the practice management scripts for patient education, testimonials, videos, health care classes, brochures, reports of findings - and they still don't get it. Why? Somewhere, there has been a communication breakdown. You have failed to deliver value for their investment and the patient feels unappreciated. Andrew Carnegie once said, "The biggest key to success is the ability to get along with other people." That's called communication.
Doctors get caught up in the latest therapy gadgets, advertising gimmicks, treatment techniques and protocols, and forget they are dealing with people. The number-one success tip I give new doctors is to significantly improve their communication skills. They already have the technical knowledge as a doctor; now they need to get people smart. It's the little things you do or don't do that patients remember.
It is critical to understand the art and skill of patient retention starts with your very first interaction with a patient. The first rule for getting people to do what you want is to get them to like you. How do you go about doing that?
- How You Make Them Feel. How someone feels about you is greatly determined by how you make them feel about themselves. You can spend all day trying to get someone to like you, but it's how you make them feel when they are around you that makes all the difference. It's the basic human need for value and appreciation. An example: Thank them for selecting your office out of the dozens available in the area.
- Establish Rapport. Rapport builds trust, allowing you to build a psychological bridge to someone. How do you start? By matching or mirroring posture, body movements and speech - particularly hand gestures and rate of speech. People always feel more comfortable around someone like themselves. If the patient talks slow, you should talk slow. If they have their hands in their pockets, you should do the same. Simple, yet extremely effective.
- First Impression. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The best way of generating a favorable first impression is the easiest one to do: smile! Smiling accomplishes four powerful things: It conveys confidence, happiness and enthusiasm, and most importantly, it shows acceptance. All other subsequent behavior is consistent with the first impression.
- Sense of Empowerment. Sixty percent of people will change their minds within three days of making a major purchase/decision. Their brain often churns with, "Did I make the right choice?" Cut that off immediately and congratulate them on making the right choice/decision in deciding to get help from you. Fend off "buyer's remorse" or at-home support system sabotage.
- The Law of Inertia. Sir Isaac Newton postulated that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. When you get a patient moving in the right direction of care, they will most likely follow through. Why? People have a strong need for consistency. Get them committed to a few treatment sessions. Establish a pattern early and stick to it.
- The Law of Expectation. People will do what you expect them to do. Speak and act directly, clearly and confidently. Your beliefs about yourself and your world create your expectations. Your expectations determine your attitude. Your attitude determines your behavior and the way you relate to other people. And the way you behave toward and relate to other people determines how they relate and behave toward you. The more confident and positive you become, the more you will believe yourself destined for great success. You will generate a more powerful force of attraction around you and patients will find themselves wanting to stay.
- Effective Leadership. Leadership means thinking in terms of the other person. You can motivate any action if you appeal to desires, needs and wants. Keep in mind that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Walk your talk.
- Human Nature. Become interested in other people and you will get them to like you faster than if you spend all day trying to get them interested in you. It's called listening. You can get someone to go on endlessly about themselves if you simply ask questions, shutup and then listen. Ninety percent of a good clinician's diagnosis comes from the patient history.
The other 10 percent is confirmed by examination. Active listening is what most doctors don't do. Be different.
- Pen to Paper. One of the secrets of sales success comes courtesy of Zig Ziglar. Yes, you are in sales. You sell yourself and chiropractic every day. If you don't, you won't be in business very long. When explaining or outlining a treatment plan, use a pen and paper in front of the patient. Keep the pre-printed material to a minimum. People always tend to believe things in writing, whether it's true or not. Examples include: pain scales, phases of care, goals, re-evaluations, etc.
- Appeal to Emotions. Appeal to a person's emotions in order to persuade. No matter how rational and logical your explanations, if you don't arouse emotions, you will have great difficulty influencing people. Ninety percent of decisions are based on emotions. We use logic to justify these decisions. Explain the facts in an emotion-based statement and give clear, specific benefits that appeal to desires. Example: "Complete your care plan and you can run that marathon this summer without pain."
Part 2 of this article is scheduled to appear in the Oct. 22 issue of DC.
for more information about Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA.