Telephone surveys used to be the gold standard of marketing research. Speed, quality, and cost advantages have allowed the Internet to become the best way for companies to gather and disseminate information to its customers. One use of this trend can be used in our practices for patient feedback.
If you have a roster of e-mail addresses of your patients, you have the ability to design and send out excellent surveys to gain information about your patients. More importantly, however, this technology can be used to help us provide feedback to the manufacturers of the products we use daily in our practices. The Internet can provide more information per dollar spent than any other method. The feedback gathered is immediate, rather than the weeks or months we wait for data from conventional methods. The quality of information gathered has been found to be the most reliable due to the following reasons:
- Attention - Respondents can take the survey at a time of their own choosing, when they can give it their full attention.
- Precision - Respondents can see the questions and the answer choices, instead of only hearing them. They can reread them if needed, and they can take as much time as they need to think about the answer to a question.
- Control - The logic and flow of the “interview” can be precisely controlled, in contrast to the “lack of control” in all mail surveys.
- Visual and Audio Stimuli - Since the Internet permits pictures, sounds, and video to be integrated into the questionnaire, it can be an ideal medium to test new product concepts, commercials, print ads, package graphics, promotional concepts, brand names, and logos.
- Longer Surveys - Internet surveys can be longer and more detailed than phone surveys.
We as customers are “tough sells.” We tend to be a cynical group. It is important for dentists to provide feedback to the companies who are developing and selling products which allow us to deliver the highest quality of dental treatment to our patients. These companies are finding out that creating Internet-based surveys are a great way to communicate with us.
Creating and performing these surveys are low-cost and easy to do. You receive an e-mail with a link enclosed in it. All you need to do is click on the link and you are instantly connected to the survey 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can provide answers to the survey’s questions at your convenience. Just think ... we are being empowered to have our voices heard, and our voices have a definite impact on the products being developed and sold to us.
We do have to learn to differentiate serious dental marketing surveys from the “spamming” offers of free computers, free iPods, cash, gift certificates, and the like. These so-called free prizes often turn into something you do not want in the first place. What we need to pay attention to are surveys from recognized dental publications, such as Dental Economics®, recognized dental manufacturers, or marketing companies acting on behalf of our manufacturers. Sometimes you might not even know which specific company the survey is being taken for, but you will know you are dealing with a dental product. Some of these companies will offer you free products as a reward for taking the time to fill out their surveys. Most of these surveys will give you time estimates involved in filling them out, so that you know you will not be tied down to your computer for any great length of time. They will provide you with a status “light bar” on their surveys to display your progress in completing the survey and the number of questions remaining.
Don’t be afraid to participate in dental marketing surveys. When you get what appears to be a spam message from someone wanting you to take a moment to answer a few questions, do not be so quick to hit your delete button. Pay attention to what they are asking about or whom they are asking it for. If it is dental, then take the time to give your opinion. If we do not provide manufacturers with feedback, then we have no right to complain about the products and services they offer us. This is your chance to influence the future of your dental practice and perhaps the future of dentistry. This is your chance to have your voice heard. It gives you a feeling of empowerment to realize your opinions are valued. Don’t miss out on that opportunity!
Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry magazine and spokesman and critical-issue-response-team chairman for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. Contact him by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at (314) 567-5612, or by fax at (314) 567-9047.