This week has a very important mission, to raise awareness of Glaucoma. It also provides your practice with the opportunity to join in on the conversation around this condition and engage with patients via a variety of channels, including social media, email newsletters and blog articles.
>Loyal patients cost less to retain than acquiring new ones, are less likely to shop around and can be more resistant to your price increases and competitors’ advertising efforts.
Engaging patients with useful information is essential for increasing revenue through digital marketing (Varini and Sirsi, 2012). It is key in consolidating awareness of your practice and in building patient loyalty. This brings value to your practice as loyal patients cost less than acquiring new ones, are less likely to shop around and can be more resistant to your price increases and competitors’ advertising efforts. (MacStravic, 1994)
Joining in on the conversation about Glaucoma risk factors and the importance of eye tests on social media can boost awareness of your practice and in the long-term generate more high-value appointments. (Barwise and Meehan, 2016)
Beyond increasing awareness, Smith et al. (2012) suggest that being pro-active on social media can help reduce negative sentiment and the likelihood of this being reflected in adverse practice reviews and damaging word of mouth.
Sharing helpful information about Glaucoma and publicly inviting at-risk patients to book an eye test demonstrates empathy to all your community. You are not only building awareness of the condition, but also of your practice and your reputation as a practitioner that is concerned with the health of those in your local community. Kim et al., (2004) found that empathic communication also significantly influences patient satisfaction.
Do practice reputation and patient satisfaction matter?
The importance of reputation to the success of a product or service is widely known (Herbig and Milewicz, 1993).
But in an ever-competitive environment how does reputation affect eye care marketing?
A study conducted by Torres et al. (2009), aimed at better understanding this relationship, found that doctor reputation positively influences patient trust and satisfaction. Patient trust leads to commitment to their doctor, which in turn leads to patient loyalty.
Good interpersonal relationship between the healthcare provider and patient can also lead to patient satisfaction and patient loyalty. (Platonova et al., 2008) Whilst in the past it was costly and very time-consuming to communicate and engage with patients, online channels facilitate relationship marketing at all of its stages. They allow you to easily create relationships with potential patients, stay in regular contact with them via email or social media and add value to your relationship with them, e.g. by sharing useful information on Glaucoma risk factors, symptoms, treatment options, and timely reminders of eye tests.
More recent research, led by Vuuren et al. (2012), shows how patient satisfaction and trust can be strong predictors of patient loyalty, specifically in the optometry practice environment.
>Positive practice reputation is strongly correlated with patient satisfaction which is a strong predictor of patient loyalty.
What is the value of patient loyalty?
>Loyal patients are less likely to switch provider.
Engaging with patients during National Glaucoma Awareness Week goes beyond raising awareness of the condition and generating a limited but immediate number of appointments. Its goal, aligned with your overall marketing strategy, is to build patient loyalty.
Your social media presence, your empathy and genuine desire to help will not only be visible to patients at risk of developing Glaucoma. Your efforts will be seen by potential patients who either do not currently have a need for eye care or whom are currently constrained by their budget. (Dalton et al., 2016) By engaging with these potential patients now, you are increasing the likelihood of them booking an appointment with your practice when they have a need for it and can afford it.
Loyal patients, who have a quality relationship with their healthcare provider, are less likely to “shop around” for alternatives or to switch provider. (Safran et al., 2001).
>Attracting a new customer is 6 times more expensive than keeping an existing one!
In addition to preventing loss of business, loyalty reduces the cost of marketing. It is estimated that it is 6 times more costly to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. (Rosenberg and Czepiel, 1984)
>Patient loyalty is a strong predictor of the patient's intentions to recommend you to others.
Loyal patients are better candidates for upselling or cross-selling. (Cassak, 1986, cited by MacStravic, 1994) This means that, as an Optometrist, you are more likely to persuade a loyal patient to have additional pair of glasses for different occasions, e.g. different frames for the office and for going out, to include a pair of sunglasses with their glasses or to switch to Contact Lenses.
As an Ophthalmologist, whilst you may not be seeking repeat business, you will still appreciate the benefits of patient loyalty. Loyal patients not only intend to stay with their current healthcare provider, but are also more likely to recommend them to others. (Platonova et al., 2008) In addition to benefitting from the opportunity to upsell to loyal patients, e.g. offering cataract patients multifocal or accommodating lenses, you will benefit from positive referrals that may bring in additional loyal patients.
Sharing interesting information on social media can cultivate long-term patient loyalty. Loyal patients are significantly more valuable to any eye care provider as they are less costly to attract, less likely to switch to other providers and are more likely to recommend your practice to their friends and family.
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