How do your patients feel about you, your practice and your practitioners?
What health products and services do your patients actually want and need?
How did your clients find you and what attracted them to your clinic?
Many business owners make assumptions about their clients.
They assume that their patients are satisfied with their experience, only to not see them return for additional appointments.
They assume that their patients want a new treatment option because a few of their most vocal patients are asking for it, spending time and money in offering the service, only to find that it’s not very popular with the rest of their patients.
They assume that their clients are finding them through client referrals, only to see their appointment calendars get empty when they stop advertising on Google.
Companies of all sizes make assumptions about their clients. Instead of taking a guess, let’s take a scientific approach. One of the best ways to learn about your clients is simply to ask them using survey research, or a patient survey.
Businesses that conduct regular research on their audience grow up to 10x faster and are almost 2x more profitable than businesses that don’t.
Dr. Frederikson, 2018
We wrote this article to help you learn:
What is a survey?
A method of gathering information from a sample of people to generalize the results to a larger population.
What are the benefits of a survey?
- Hear your clients’ feedback to improve their experience and increase retention.
- Learn what products and services your clients actually want and need.
- Discover how your clients found you and what attracted them to your practice.
- Identify potential risks to your reputation and find client advocates.
How to create a survey?
- Set goals for what you want to learn.
- Determine who you should survey to generalize the results.
- Decide what kind of survey to conduct and how to collect responses.
- Invite your audience to participate in your survey.
- Analyze your results to make meaningful insights.
- Follow up and thank your survey participants.
- Use the results to take action and improve your practice.
Let’s get started!
What is a survey?
A survey is a method of gathering information from a sample of people to generalize the results to a larger population.
In other words, a patient survey asks your patients to provide information about themselves, including their feedback on your practice, practitioners and treatments to help you make more informed business decisions. This information can be used to help you learn:
- How your patients actually view you and your team.
- How you compare to competitors.
- What your biggest strengths and opportunities are.
- What your biggest weaknesses and risks are.
- How you can differentiate your practice from your competitors.
- Why your patients chose you and your team.
- Why some patients chose not to return again.
- What services your patients want and need.
- Which clients are loyal advocates of your practice.
- Which clients are potential risks to your reputation.
What are the benefits of a survey?
The primary benefit of conducting a patient survey is to learn about your patients. This information can be used to improve their patient experience and your business results.
There are many benefits of conducting a patient survey for your practice, including:
Many Canadians are too polite to provide candid feedback in person, especially if it’s negative. If you ask your clients for feedback during their appointment, most will likely give you positive feedback.
Some might feel comfortable enough to express a concern, but most won’t. In fact, only 1 out of every 26 unhappy clients complain; the rest just leave (Kolsky, 2017).
Alternatively, people feel more comfortable in providing candid feedback in a structured and anonymous format. If your patients are assured that their responses are completely anonymous and collected by a neutral third-party, they will feel more comfortable in being honest in their responses.
By listening to your patients’ honest and candid feedback about you, your practice and practitioners, you can focus on improving their overall experience. This ensures that they are happy and loyal to your practice, increasing your patient retention.
A 5% increase in client retention results in a 25% increase in profit.
Bain & Company, 2001
Many health practitioners have a large list of possible health products and services that they can offer their clients. Should you offer active release therapy, intramuscular stimulation, functional dry needling, shockwave therapy, etc.?
You may have one or two clients that are very vocal in asking for a new treatment option. This often leads business owners to assume that other clients are also interested. You might even spend time and money to get trained in this new treatment, or to purchase equipment to offer it to your clients.
Then, when you do offer the treatment, you may be surprised to find out that it’s not very popular. It seems like only the two vocal clients are interested in the treatment.
This happens often because many business owners make assumptions about the products and services that they think their clients want.
One way to find out is the “trial and error” approach; you offer the service and see what happens. This is expensive and inefficient.
A second approach is to ask them what products and services they actually want and need through a survey.
Why did your clients choose your practice when there are many other options in town? Is it because of your expertise? Or because you’re the only clinic nearby that offers free parking?
If you have other competitors nearby with a similar offering, then why are your clients at your clinic and not next door?
There are dozens of reasons that your clients chose you and your practice. Some of these reasons you already know, but many of these you might not know.
Also, how did they find you in the first place? For many health clinics, one of their primary sources of new clients is other clients. For other health clinics, it’s Google.
Many business owners believe that they know their clients well and make assumptions about where to advertise their services. For example, if you own a health clinic downtown, you might assume that many of your clients are business professionals that use Twitter and LinkedIn often. You might buy Twitter and LinkedIn ads to promote your practice. Then, you may be surprised to learn that it didn’t work.
The reason is not that Twitter and LinkedIn don’t work, it’s that your particular group of clients may not be using those platforms. Instead of wasting your advertising budget promoting your practice to the wrong audience, focus your budget on advertising your message to the right audience on the right platforms.
People expect to receive good or great customer service. If they do, they might tell up to 6 people about the experience. However, if they receive a negative customer experience, then they might tell up to 15 people about it (Kolsky, 2017).
Many of these unhappy clients write negative reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other online platforms, which damages a company’s reputation.
Furthermore, about 91% of unhappy customers who don’t complain simply just leave. Instead of waiting until it’s too late, you can proactively reach out to your clients and ask for their feedback periodically. This allows you to identify who is a potential risk to your reputation and resolve the issue before it escalates.
Alternatively, there are some clients that love their experience so much that they are strong advocates of your practice. Identifying these advocates allows you to reach out to thank them for their support and ask for a referral or online review.
How to create a survey?
Now that we have a clear understanding of surveys and their benefits, let’s review our 7-step process for creating effective surveys to learn about your clients.
Step 1: Set goals
Before creating a new survey, step back and consider your business goals. Ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of this survey?
- What do you want to learn about your clients?
- What do you want to accomplish for your business?
Ideally, your survey will have one primary purpose, such as learning about your clients’ feedback to improve their experience, or learning about the services they need this year, or learning about where they spend time online and offline.
Having too many goals results in surveys that are too long, causes your participants to lose interest and not complete the survey, or causes them to provide incorrect information just to finish quickly.
The quality of your data is based on the quality of your questions. Having a clear goal in mind ensures that you stay focused and get meaningful results.
Step 2: Determine sample
For survey results to be valid and accurately represent your population of clients, it has to be statistically significant. In other words, the sample of clients that participate in the survey has to accurately represent your entire population of clients.
This means that the results from a small sample of people can be generalized or extrapolated to represent all of your clients.
You can calculate how many people you need to sample using this formula:
n = N / (1 + N * e2)
n = number of patients you need to sample
N = total population of patients
e = error tolerance (1 – confidence interval)
For example, if your practice has 1,000 total patients (population) and you want a confidence interval (accuracy) of 95%, then the error tolerance is 1 – 0.95 = 0.05. The formula is then:
n = 1,000 / (1 + 1,000 * 0.052)
n = 286
In other words, you need to sample 286 patients in order for the results to match your entire population of 1,000 patients 95% of the time. A confidence interval of 95% is standard industry practice in many surveys. The higher this number, the more accurate your results.
Step 3: Survey design
Next, you can begin creating the survey format and decide on how to collect responses. Depending on your business goals and the purpose of the survey, you may choose to collect survey responses online, in person, or on the phone.
- Online: these are one of the most popular options for small businesses because they’re inexpensive for the business and convenient for clients to participate. However, participants may not understand the questions properly and often provide poor responses to open-ended questions.
- Person: these surveys are often used for larger businesses, as they can be time consuming and expensive to conduct. However, the participants receive clear instructions, provide thorough responses, and often results in the most accurate data.
- Phone: this combines the benefits of asking questions in person, but at a lower cost. Participants provide thorough responses and the results are accurate, but it may not be convenient for people to participate, so the response rate is lower than online.
For many small businesses, the online survey format is the most popular. It provides the best combination of value for the business and convenience for the participants. You can increase participation by offering an incentive, such as a discount to your services, or a gift card.
If your primary purpose is to conduct a survey to learn your clients’ feedback and their overall satisfaction with your clinic, how do you measure your results?
Measuring your results helps you track your progress over time. There are many different metrics that you can use to measure your results, including:
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
One of the most popular metrics to determine your clients’ satisfaction and loyalty to your business. To calculate this score, this question is asked: “how likely are you to recommend our company to a friend?”
The responses are scored using a Likert scale from 1-10. Scores of 9 or 10 are considered “promoters”. Scores of 7 or 8 are considered “passive”. Scores of 6 or below are considered “detractors”. Your NPS is calculated as the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors.
For example, if you have 70% of respondents as promoters and 20% as detractors, your NPS is 70 – 20 = 50. You can measure this score periodically to track your progress.
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
Another popular metric used to measure overall customer satisfaction with your products and services. To calculate this score, this question is asked: “how would you rate your overall satisfaction with the product/service you recently purchased?”
The responses are also scored using a Likert scale from 1-5. Scores of 4 or 5 are considered to be satisfied or very satisfied. Your CSAT is calculated as the number of satisfied responses divided by the total number of responses.
For example, if you have 150 participants score a 4 or 5, out of 200 total participants, your CSAT is 150 / 200 = 75%. You can also track your progress of this score periodically.
Customer Effort Score (CES)
This metric is growing in popularity as many companies are learning that an easy and low-effort experience for customers results in less frustration and dissatisfaction. To calculate this score, this question is asked: “how easy was it to deal with our company today?”
The responses are scored from “very easy” to “very difficult” on a 5-point scale. This metric is focused on measuring how easy companies help customers solve their problems.
For example, if one of your patients’ problems is related to getting their treatment directly billed to their insurance provider, how easy was it for them to deal with your front desk team to get their problem resolved?
When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.
Harvard Business Review, 2010
Now that you’ve determined your survey format, how to collect responses, and how to measure your results, you’re ready to write your survey questions.
There are many different types of questions to ask, including:
- Binary: these questions have only two possible responses, such as “yes” or “no”. Although this is simple and easy, many people have a bias to answer positively, or “yes”, which can affect the accuracy of your data.
- Multiple choice: these questions have three or more possible responses, used to collect categorical variables. This makes it easy to organize your participants into categories, such as men, women, youth, seniors, etc.
- Scale: these questions provide a scale of responses, such as “strongly agree”, “agree”, “neutral”, etc. You can also segment your responses based on categories, but you don’t collect any qualitative insights into their responses.
- Open-ended: these questions allow participants to provide unstructured and qualitative responses to your questions. All other question formats provide a simple answer to your question without answering why your participants feel that way. These questions can be challenging to analyze, as some people don’t answer clearly.
Step 4: Collect responses
Now that your survey is designed and you’ve identified your sample, it’s time to invite them to participate in your survey.
There are many different ways of collecting responses, including Microsoft Excel and Word, Google Forms, social media tools and many online survey products. Decide on which platform to use based on your survey goals.
Microsoft Office products, such as Excel and Word, are inexpensive options to create simple forms for surveys. Unless you’re experienced with creating forms on these products, you might find it easier to use an online platform, such as Google Forms.
Google Forms is an online platform to create forms and surveys. The information is collected and connected to a spreadsheet. This allows you to analyze the data from the spreadsheet to learn meaningful insights.
If you want to survey your audience in Facebook, you can create a survey using a Facebook app directly inside of the social media platform. Search for the app called “survey” and install it on your profile. This allows you to build basic surveys and post it on your business page.
There are also many online survey software options to consider. These allow you to create an online survey and to invite participants using their email address. There are many different pricing options based on how many features you need, so review all of your options carefully.
Step 5: Analyze results
After collecting all of the responses that you need in your sample size, you’re ready to analyze your results. This is often done by collecting your data inside of a spreadsheet, which allows you to segment your responses based on categories.
For example, you may want to learn how your clients found your practice. You can segment your participants by the different responses so that you can see what percentage of your clients found you via client referral, Google, social media, etc.
You can also segment your participants into different categories, based on their demographic variables. For example, you may want to see what services your male patients want and compare that to the services that your female patients want. By learning this information, you can adjust your products and services to better meet your clients’ needs.
Step 6: Thank your clients
Once your survey is complete, you can send an email to your clients to thank them for participating in the survey. Most of your clients that participated want to feel heard and acknowledged. They want to know that their feedback is going to result in a better client experience.
When sending an email to your clients, consider this format:
- Thank you for your time in participating in our survey
- Here’s a brief summary of our results (Net Promoter Score, etc.)
- We appreciate that our clients like the following: [list positive feedback]
- We appreciate that our clients would like to see us improve in: [list negative feedback]
- Here’s what we’re doing to improve your patient experience
- Thank you again for participating
Your patients want to know that their feedback is being used to improve your practice. They may also be curious about the overall results of your survey.
By taking the time to thank them, you are strengthening your relationship and increasing the likelihood that they’ll participate in your next survey.
Step 7: Take action
Now that you’ve collected and analyzed your results, what changes are you going to make to your practice?
If your clients provided you with some negative feedback, this is valuable information. You can use this information to make constructive changes to your business to increase your patient retention. Otherwise, your patients will leave to another provider.
One of our clients operates a health clinic downtown and made the assumption that most of their patients are walking to their clinic from work. After conducting a patient survey, they were surprised to learn that many of their patients don’t work downtown and have to find parking. This was a big obstacle for many people, so they stopped coming. By simply offering free parking, their appointment calendar started to fill up again!
Many businesses of all sizes make assumptions about their clients. They assume that their clients are satisfied, but don’t understand why they stopped booking appointments. Many unhappy clients don’t complain, they simply just leave.
The best way to know what your patients want and need is simply to ask them. But, asking them during their appointment might not get the most accurate and honest responses. People feel more comfortable in providing anonymous responses to a neutral third-party.
Conducting a patient survey helps you learn:
- Your clients feedback to improve their experience and increase your retention.
- The products and services your clients actually want and need.
- How your clients found you and what attracted them to your practice.
- How to identify potential risks to your reputation and find client advocates.
You can conduct a patient survey yourself by following these steps:
- Set goals: determine the purpose of your survey
- Determine sample: identify the total number of people you need to sample
- Survey design: choose your survey format and how to measure your results
- Collect responses: invite your clients to participate in your survey
- Analyze results: manage your responses in a database to segment your audience
- Thank your clients: send a message to your clients to thank them for participating
- Take action: use the information to make a positive change in your practice
A survey is one of the most effective ways to proactively learn about your clients to help you make better business decisions.
How we can help
Conducting a survey on your own can be time consuming. We’re here to help. We have surveyed thousands of patients of health clinics in Alberta and know how to help you get the most out of your time and budget.
Learn more about our patient survey services: