You Can Not Fix What You Do Not Know! Build Your Orthodontic Practice With Patient Surveys…

“The desire to improve is the starting point of all achievement.”  Napoleon Hill

The other day, a big company sent me an email, asking for feedback about my recent purchase experience.  Even though marketing gurus always recommend gathering customer feedback, I’m rarely asked… except by someone who wants to add me to their never ending email lists. When a legitimate request arrives, I always consider it and most times… respond.

Unfortunately, this particular survey was way too long and it didn’t ask me the most important question of all… Would I recommend them?

I wallowed through some 15 pointless questions, dying to quit after each one. “Would you use us again?” the survey finally asked.  I don’t know, I thought. Yes or No were the only options.

Let’s see…. The product was good, but the service had a lot to be desired. If I had an alternative, I’d switch. So I answered no. It wasn’t the correct answer but when backed into a corner, why say yes? The problem is the answer is not always black or white.

What the survey never asked is whether or not I would recommend the company and what I’d say if I did (or how I would recommend against them). This national company, known for its products, squandered a free opportunity to understand “word of mouth” marketing.

Which leads us to why I am writing this blog post… What questions should a good survey include to gather valuable customer feedback?  A short and easy survey, based on recommendations, will provide all you need to know about your treatment and services and how well you and your team are creating raving fans to build the practice.

There are 3 good reasons to run a survey:
1. Find out what you are doing right
2. Find out what you are doing wrong
3. Find a way to solve the problems and identify ways to improve

Most surveys are configured to deliver a desired result and are not usually open to gathering useful customer information that helps build your practice and create word of mouth referrals. Asking targeted questions is far more valuable if you are attempting to stimulate a passionate response from the person taking the survey. It should probe the known weaknesses of the practice and seek insight into how patients currently view the practice… despite your failings.

The results may be depressing from a marketing standpoint, but from a management perspective… they will be gold.  A pain point that patients are targeting is valuable input if it can be resolved, to increase word of mouth referrals and build your practice.

In other words… I prefer customer ‘dis-satisfaction’ surveys that evokes innovative insights into your patient’s perspective.  A targeted patient survey feeds you valuable information.  It helps turn current negative perceptions into future opportunities. And in the long run… improves the practice… which in turn will ultimately provide patients with more reasons to talk about you to family, friends, and colleges.


Here is an example of how to construct a customer information survey (step 1, 2, 3, etc):
Question 1 – “Would you recommend us to your friends, family, or colleagues?” The options would be “yes”, “no” or “don’t know”

Question 2 -“What is the reasons for your previous ranking?” You can provide the customer a selection of pre-determined options or leave a blank boxes for them to write in.  Some examples are:
Customer service
Fun environment
Value of fee for service
On time for appointments
Knowledgeable team
Delivery of treatment

Question 3 – “How would you describe our practice to friends and colleagues?” OR “How would you describe your orthodontic experience to friends and colleagues?” You can again provide the customer a selection of pre-determined options or leave a blank boxes for them to write in.

Question 4 – “How can we improve your orthodontic experience?”  Again, provide the customer a selection of pre-determined options or leave a blank boxes for them to write in.

When developing your personalized survey, follow these 7 guidelines for optimum results

1. Know your objective in surveying your patients
2. Determine how long to run and goals to be achieved, before you start the survey
3. Adhere to the “keep it short and simple (KISS)” principle
4. Ensure timely and consistent gathering of surveys during every phase of treatment
5. Read the answers and ACT on them
6. Repeat it at least twice a year.  Surveys are only valid if taken on a regular basis to weed out any weak links in the system and receive patient input on services that aren’t being provided that should be
7. Close the loop, let patients know what you are doing with the feedback

If you stick to these guidelines when creating your survey, you will gather content rich information that targets your current patient market. When implementing marketing strategies and tactics addressing this valuable information…you and your team can’t help but achieve EXTRAordinary results.

What is your opinion on how a survey should be conducted in an orthodontic practice?  You comments and input would be appreciated….