It’s easy for any professional service provider to become complacent. That’s why doing a patient satisfaction survey on a regular basis is a smart move. Surveys show you what patients love (and hate) about your dental office experience so you can provide better care and improve patient loyalty.
But there’s more to a survey than just placing comment cards at the front desk. Here’s what you need to know to do a patient survey right.
Step 1: Set a goal for your survey
Nationwide, 82% of patients are satisfied with their current dentist, so most of what you learn from a patient survey will be positive. However, even if patients have only minor complaints, finding out what’s bothering them can make patients even more loyal.
For example, you might discover patients want certain treatments or services that your practice doesn’t offer. (In one study, 36% of patients say they would want their dentist to have weekend hours.) You might find out that your front desk staff is being too curt or that the temperature in your office is freezing cold.
To get this type of detailed information, don’t overwhelm patients with multi-page surveys or online surveys that take 15 minutes to complete. For best results, keep your survey brief (about five questions) and easy to complete in one or two minutes.
To do that, set a tightly focused goal for your survey. What do you want to find out? For example, here are three areas you might focus on:
- Quality of care
- Ease of making appointments
- Office environment (wait time, cleanliness, etc.)
Once you’ve set your goal, it’s time to select questions. Common questions you might want to ask include:
- How did you hear about our office? (This is a great way to find out which of your marketing methods are working best.)
- What made you decide to choose our office over the competition?
- Would you recommend our office to your friends and family? (This is an important question because the majority of patients still find dentists through word-of-mouth.)
For more ideas of questions to ask, check out this sample patient satisfaction survey from the Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual.
Step 2: Choose your survey format
Don’t expect to get a response from every survey. According to SurveyAnyplace, a survey solution company, the average rate of response for all surveys is 33%. (In other words, 33 out of 100 people who get a customer survey respond.) In-person surveys have the highest response rate, at 57%, but these surveys can provide skewed results because patients may not want to give negative feedback in person.
Mail surveys have a 50% response rate but are costly to conduct. In addition to printing and mailing costs, you’ll need to include a self-addressed stamped envelope or “no postage necessary” return envelope to get respondents to complete and mail the surveys.
Email/online surveys have an average response rate of about 30%, with several added pluses:
- They’re easy to create and send.
- You can create a survey quickly and get answers to questions right away.
- You can send multiple emails to remind patients about the survey, boosting response rate.
- You can tabulate the results automatically using your chosen survey app.
Lighthouse 360 lets you easily send professionally designed, targeted emails to your patients by grouping them in popular or custom mailing lists. You can even text patients directly to send them links to your survey or remind them to complete a survey.
Online survey apps such as SurveyMonkey, Zoho Survey and SnapSurveys have templates you can use to create a wide variety of online surveys. They even suggest questions to ask and ways to phrase or format them for best results. For instance, will users choose an option from a list, rate your practice on a scale of 1-5, or fill in blanks?
Keep in mind that most of us are inundated by surveys these days, so don’t overload your patients. You may need to send reminders or offer incentives (such as the chance to be entered in a prize drawing) to encourage participation.
What about timing? You can conduct patient satisfaction surveys annually or tailor the timing to the patient — for example, send out a survey after a patient’s first visit and then again one year later.
Step 3: Make the most of survey results
What matters most about a survey is the actions that you take upon learning the results. Don’t get defensive; be open to criticism. Share the survey results (both good and bad) with your staff.
When surveys uncover problems with your practice, take immediate steps to rectify the situation. (Learn more about how to handle an unhappy patient.) When you get positive survey results, use them in your marketing materials.
For instance, you could ask happy patients if they’re willing to provide a testimonial for your website or social media, or to write an online review for your practice. (Get more tips on how to use online reviews to grow your practice.)
Lighthouse 360 automatically collects and posts reviews from satisfied patients to top review sites such as Yelp and Google+. You’ll also get your own page on RateABiz.com to showcase reviews and help boost your practice’s rank in search results. Since 43% of dental patients who get a referral to a dentist from a friend or family member go online to read about the dentist before making an appointment, online reviews are critical to getting patients in the door.
By taking the time to conduct a patient survey, and acting on what you learn, you’ll demonstrate to your patients that your practice cares about their experience.