Focus on patient loyalty, not satisfaction

April 1, 2010
If a $100,000 piece of equipment were missing from your dental office tomorrow morning, how concerned would you be?

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If a $100,000 piece of equipment were missing from your dental office tomorrow morning, how concerned would you be? How hard would you work to recover it? What steps would you take to make sure it did not happen again? I am betting you would be tremendously concerned, you would not stop looking until you got it back, and you would make darn sure it didn’t happen again.

I have a very important question for you. Would you take the same steps if you lost a loyal patient? I hope so, because a loyal patient’s value is considerably higher than $100,000.

I have never seen the figures for dental practices, but the average U.S. corporation loses half its customers every five years, half its employees every four years, and half its investors every two years. I do know this: patient loyalty can be the difference between having a moderately successful and a wildly successful dental practice.

There are four kinds of patients in your practice

  • Loyal patients who say, “My experience far exceeds my expectations.”
  • Satisfied patients who say, “My experience meets my expectations.”
  • Apathetic patients who say, “My experience is a little short of my expectations.”
  • Unhappy patients who say, “My experience falls way short of my expectations.”

Unhappy patients usually march away from your office. Apathetic ones slip away. Satisfied patients are fine and make up the majority of most dental practices, but loyal patients are definitely a cut above.

They create positive word-of-mouth advertising for you, usually complete the comprehensive dentistry you propose, rarely miss a visit, refer other people like themselves to you, and fly back for recare visits if they move out of town.

You should focus on patient loyalty, not patient satisfaction, and here’s how. At an hourly team meeting:

Calculate what a loyal patient is worth to your practice

  • How much money does a loyal patient spend in your practice during a 10-year period? I’ll bet it's way more than the average satisfied patient. As an example, let’s say the loyal patient spends $7,000 the first year and an average of $500 a year for the next nine years. $7,000 plus $4,500 equals $11,500.
  • How many people do loyal patients refer to your practice in a year? Multiply that number by 10 to get the number of people the loyal patient refers to you during a 10-year period. As an example, six patients a year times 10 years equals 60 patients.
  • On average, how much do each of the 60 people spend in a span of 10 years? Let's say it's $6,000 each. Multiply $6,000 times 60 people for $360,000. Add the original loyal patient’s $11,500 to the $360,000 to get $371,500.

So each loyal patient is worth $371,500 to your practice. That figure doesn't include all the people the 60 patients refer to you!

After you calculate the value of a loyal patient, ask the Loyalty Question

“How can we treat our patients so they are compelled to tell other people how great we are?” I urge you to spend the rest of the hour coming up with creative answers to the question.

Some of your answers will include gifts and activities that cost money, and many of your answers will include little unexpected things you can do for people.

In fact, little unexpected things that you do for people have more power than big expected things. Doing excellent dentistry is a big expected thing. Sending people handwritten thank you notes is a little unexpected thing.

Satisfied patients lead to average dental practices. Loyal patients lead to excellent dental practices. Make the move to loyalty today!

To receive a free, one-hour DVD of Dr. Booth’s Comprehensive Case Acceptance in-office, DVD-based program, please send an e-mail to [email protected] or call (800) 917-0008.

Dr. Nate Booth is a speaker, consultant and author who provides dentists with the information and systems they need to thrive in their dental practices and personal lives. He is the author of numerous books and is a practice management advisor for ChaseHealthAdvance. Invite Nate to speak to your dental group or coach your office team. Visit for more information on his presentations, coaching programs, and products.

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