Imagine you are in a new city and looking for a place to eat dinner. You notice two restaurants right next to each other. The restaurants look very similar, with one striking difference. One restaurant is jam packed, the other is empty. Which one would you choose? Without having ever eaten at either restaurant, you immediately surmise that the busier restaurant is the better option. This is the power of a heuristic called social proof.
Even though the Internet affords us a wealth of information to research products, services and businesses, research in consumer psychology has shown that our brains prefer to avoid lengthy deliberations and analyzations of decisions. Do you really want to do a lot of research on all the local restaurants before deciding, or are you more likely to look at online reviews or ask a few friends for recommendations? The same applies to choosing a doctor.
Below are some tips for leveraging the power of social proof in your practice:
1. Condense hours
A practice owner once told me when he opened he might only have two patients per day, but they were going to meet each other! My dentist’s waiting room is always filled with patients. As a patient, that is reassuring. I might be concerned if I was routinely the only one in there filling out paperwork. If your schedule has a lot of holes in it, consider condensing patient care hours. What could you do with the additional time you were not seeing patients in your practice? You could focus on practice management, possibly moonlight at another location until your patient load increased, or work on your golf game.
2. Encourage online reviews
Make it easy for your patients to review you on Google by distributing a text which provides the link to your Google listing after they’ve come in for an eye exam. If you’re nervous about automating the process of asking for reviews via text, consider asking patients with whom you feel rapport to review you on Google or simply post signage inside the practice indicating you’d appreciate their reviews.
Facebook will automatically ask people if they’d like to review or recommend your practice if patients "check in" on Facebook or if they have location services enabled on their mobile device.
3. Leverage social media
A great Facebook page with images and videos from inside the practice and lots of engagement from followers is much more likely to drive online conversations about your practice than a Facebook page which only features medical themed articles, few followers and zero engagement. Social media should be just that – social. It’s important to post content which delights your followers, which inspires them to comment, to like, to share with their friends. That’s how social media works to grow online word of mouth marketing and provide social proof that this is the practice to go to in the community for access to good eye care and friendly people.
4. Provide a "remarkable" experience
When is the last time you recommended an average restaurant or movie to a friend? More than likely, you didn’t. As a consumer, if it’s not a "remarkable" experience, then it’s not worth remarking on. Consider the experience you are providing your patients. Almost without exception, our most successful consulting clients credit word of mouth referrals through great customer service as the secret to their success. Average customer service does not create raving fans, it creates indifference. Indifference does not engender loyalty or positive word of mouth. And keep in mind word of mouth is no longer limited to idle chatter over the water cooler; it’s now the ability to blast out your affinity for a business (or optometrist) to hundreds or even thousands of potential patients with the click of a few buttons.
Dr. Vargo serves as Optometric Practice Management Consultant for IDOC. A published author and speaker with more than 15 years clinical experience, he is now a full-time consultant advising ODs in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.