Even though you and your staff are the ones who spend most days in your office, you might not have perfect insight into how your practice is really doing. That’s where your patients come in! How do your patients feel about your practice? What do they think could be improved?
And even more importantly, what insights and revenue might you be missing if you can’t answer those questions?
Though you often receive individual comments, it’s hard to get a pulse on how your patients feel as a whole group. Figuring out the overall consensus can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s worth digging into if you want to grow your practice.
In this article, we’ll cover:
If you represent a modern dental practice that is striving for more than just moderate patient satisfaction, this blog post is for you, so keep reading!
In the dental industry, positive patient sentiment is a hot topic. And it means exactly what it sounds like: The way patients feel about your practice. Usually it refers not just to a single person’s opinion, but to the overall feeling of your whole body of patients.
Naturally, patient sentiment can run across a full spectrum from terrible to wonderful. When a patient thinks of their latest dental cleaning, do they feel like they were well cared for by your friendly staff or do they break out in a cold sweat remembering how they were treated?
Patient sentiment can be measured in various ways and shows up in many places, from real-life conversation to social media comments. The Balance Small Business dives into social media sentiment, which it defines this way:
“Social sentiment is a way of measuring the emotions behind social media and other online mentions. Social sentiment doesn't just look at how many people are talking about your business. It adds context by measuring the tone of those conversations, comments, and mentions.”
Practices that have achieved positive sentiment may get many instances of patient feedback varying from endorsing to critical, but the overall tone that comes through across the entire set of reviews will be positive.
Positive sentiment should be your goal. Not only does it mean your practice is doing lots of things right and meeting your goals, but it also means you’re set up for growth. There are 3 main ways that positive sentiment about your practice fuels growth.
1. Positive sentiment means you’re likely to keep your current patients.
If you can achieve an overall tone of positive feedback from your patients, it means they enjoy coming back to your practice. When a patient feels good about you being their dentist, they have no reason to start looking anywhere else. Patients know that finding a good dentist takes some trial and error, so once they’ve found a good place they’re likely to be loyal. That means that meeting patient expectations right off the bat is a good way to lock in their future visits.
Offering easy messaging and scheduling tools up front can be a super easy way on your part to create a friendly and frictionless experience for new patients.
2. Happy patients will help spread your good reputation like wildfire.
Pleased patients will be your best and least expensive marketing partner. If their friend is looking for a new dentist they’ll be the first to volunteer the name of your practice. Never underestimate the power of patients who endorse you to their network by word of mouth.
When a prospective patient hears about your practice from someone they know and trust, they’re much more likely to become a patient than if they saw your practice in an ad or found your website online. According to marketing research by Semrush, 88% of people have the “highest level of trust” in a business recommended by a friend or family member.
Don’t forget to thank those patients for being your ally – a thank you note or a small gift card can go a long way to show your gratitude for how they helped you grow!
3. Prospective patients who find you online are likely to convert.
If someone finds your practice online instead of by word-of-mouth, you’ll need to impress them right out of the gate. Imagine a person who recently moved to your area and needs a new dentist for their family. They might start their search by typing “local dentist near me” into Google and seeing which practices top the list that comes back. In fact, 93% of consumers used Google to find a business in the past year (BrightLocal).
When someone sees a business online, one of the first things at least 87% of searchers will look at is your reviews (Forbes). Of course, they want to choose a practice that has positive reviews. But what if they read a negative review in the mix? That’s where the idea of positive sentiment comes in. Your practice doesn’t need to have 100% rave reviews. Prospects aren’t expecting perfection. They know every business will have a mix of endorsers and detractors, but they do want to see an overall positive tone in your practice’s reviews. If that’s what they find when they Google you, they’re more likely to give you a call or set up a first appointment.
Sentiment analysis is just like any other metric of success you use to measure your practice. A dental practice can even set a goal for sentiment analysis at the beginning of the year or quarter and measure progress along the way.
One of the most accurate ways to measure sentiment is through surveys. You can ask your patients directly for their honest feedback to determine their overall feelings about your practice. A great question to ask is whether they would recommend you to a friend. This will help you determine your Net Promoter Score, which will give you a solid idea of whether your patient sentiment is positive or negative.
By sending a quick survey with just a few questions you can get powerful insights into your practice and your patients. The results not only help you know if you’re meeting positive sentiment goals, but will often give you very concrete ways to improve.
Surveys can be easy and inexpensive to administer. If you use a patient engagement platform like Swell you can set up super fast surveys to send automatically via text to your patients after a visit.
Even without sending a survey, you can discover the big picture of your sentiment analysis by looking at your online reviews. Check your overall star rating on different platforms and scan for common themes that stand out across many reviews. Need help getting more Google reviews? Read our guide.
Now that you know what patient sentiment is and how it can grow your practice, the next step is actually starting to improve yours!
Even though patient sentiment is all about the big picture, the only way to improve it is through individual patient interactions. You can create your practice’s unique strategy for improving sentiment by looking at the themes that came out through your reviews and surveys. What did your patients suggest working on? Start there!
Whether it’s making an effort to help appointments start on time, improving how you answer questions about dental insurance, or giving your patients easier ways to reach your practice – choose something small to focus on and get started now.
Patient engagement platforms like Swell offer a suite of tools that make your practice more patient-friendly and boost your reputation. You’ll get instant access to everything from messaging options that allow patients to reach you via text, to one-click payment requests, to automated appointment reminders. Click here to get a personalized demo and try Swell free for 30 days.