Why it is so difficult to get New Patients to stick….and what YOU might be doing to make them go
After working with Chiropractic offices for so many years, even though each of our clients is unique, a common struggle that many of the practices contend with has begun to emerge. This struggle has to do with keeping patients coming back after they have been in for their appointment. And when you think about it, this is a really BIG DEAL. Because you can be doing all of your marketing correctly, getting new patients in the door every day, but if you can’t get them to come back after that first appointment…all of your (or, our) marketing efforts have been wasted.
To say that this all comes down to one problem would be silly. There are many reasons that patients decide not to start or continue care – everything from how long their wait was, to how friendly the staff was, to the patient’s personal life could affect your ability to hold on to them for more than one appointment – and clearly, not all of those are going to be in your control. However, we have not been working in this industry for so many years without having ever spoken with patients about this topic, and one major thing that we hear about often boils down to the patient’s expectations.
When a patient walks into a Chiropractic office for the first time, even though they KNOW they have never been to a Chiropractor before, they will still have expectations as to what will happen. And EVEN IF you explain to them what is going to happen, if those original expectations are not met, they are still going to be disappointed. It’s not their fault, it’s just human nature. But how could you possibly guess what their expectations are going to be, without having ever met them? For that, we need simply look at what the average experience might be for a person who is suffering from pain and is seeking a remedy for that pain.
For people not familiar with Chiropractic, if they are suffering from some sort of pain, they are likely to make an appointment with their family doctor. When they arrive for their appointment, they are greeted by someone at the front desk, they often have some paperwork to fill out, and then they sit in a waiting room of some sort until the doctor is ready to see them. All very similar so far to what their experience with you will be – which only enforces their original expectations!
After that, the doctor will call them back, they will describe their pain to the doctor, the doctor will take some notes, he may do an examination of sorts, and then he will share his prognosis with the patient. Again, not dissimilar to what will happen when the patient sees you – so far everything the patient has experienced leads them to believe that all of their expectations will be met.
At this point, the doctor will recommend a specific treatment, and the appointment usually ends with the patient being given either a referral to a doctor that can help them further or a prescription for something that is going to take their pain away. AND THIS is where the differences, in the eyes of the patient really begin, because that is not what normally happens in a Chiropractic office, is it? At this point, in many Chiropractic offices, the patient is usually sent away so that the practice may review their exam tests and come up with a plan of action. The patient has to come back at a later date to find out what the prescribed treatment is and start receiving it.
If you are looking at this solely from the patient’s point of view the patient came to you for relief of their pain, they were expecting relief of their pain, and they didn’t receive anything to relieve their pain except for another appointment.
We know that there are many reasons for this step in the process. You want to fully examine their tests and x-rays to make sure that whatever treatments you do are going to be what is best for the patient, you want to make sure that the patient starts getting into the habit of coming to see you multiple times per week…there are 100 good reasons for handling new patients in this manner – but NONE of them are going to assuage the disappointment that patients feel in not having their expectations met. And NOTHING you say or explain to the patient is actually going to dissipate that disappointment.
You can’t control anyone’s expectations, nor can you truly rid them of those expectations through better explanations or preparations. So, rather than approaching this problem from that angle, why not approach it from the angle of – “what can I do to help meet these expectations?” You might be surprised at the number of things you can do for the patient to relieve their pain at that FIRST appointment without compromising any of the 100 good reasons you have for not treating them until the second.
Here are some options we have gathered from the practices that have the best conversion rates:
- Ice Packs / Heat Packs
- Buy in bulk and hand them out at the first appointment with specific instructions
- Laser Therapy
- Provide the patient with a laser therapy session at their first appointment to help start relieving their pain
- Topical Pain Relief
- Most practices have their favorite roll-on or ointment for topical pain relief – buy small or sample sizes in bulk and give them out at first appointments with specific instructions
- Minor Adjustments
- This one is very controversial, we know. However, there are likely small adjustments that you can make for the patient that will help relieve some of their pain, or if nothing else, will help the patient feel heard and like they are seeing someone who genuinely cares about their pain
Whether you implement any of these suggestions is entirely up to you – but we have seen many practices go from a dreadful conversion rate to a spectacular one simply by implementing ONE of the above and making patients feel like their expectations have been met.
It’s time to start closing NOW!
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