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How can you use Net Promoter Scores® to improve your patient experience and turn detractors into promoters?

According to, the definition of a detractor is: A person who takes away from the quality, value, or reputation of someone or something. 

Synonyms for detractor include: critic, censor, defamer, and depreciator.

Detractors (along with promoters and passives) come from Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) surveys that ask patients how they would rate their experience with healthcare providers. On a scale of 0 to 10, patients indicate how likely they are to recommend their providers to others. 

Any way you look at it, a detractor (as opposed to a promoter or passive) is someone who is definitely not a positive aspect of your healthcare organization’s reputation and bottom line. Or, are they?

Some (like us) would say that in healthcare — a very personal industry — it’s much better to know what patients are saying about your providers, practice, or hospital, than it is to not know what dissatisfied patients are saying to their friends and family behind your back. We also believe it’s a great opportunity to gather as much feedback as possible — especially the feedback from your biggest detractors — so you can use this information to improve the overall patient experience at your healthcare organization. As a result, you’ll be more likely to retain happy patients and perhaps even convert the majority of unhappy ones.

Let’s take a look at how you can start turning your detractors into promoters.

First, ask the important questions.

How do you know what your detractors are really thinking if you don’t ask? Patient surveys are essential to healthcare organizations of every size and specialty. Surveys allow you to ask the all-important Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our services/practice/providers to a friend or colleague?”

In response to that question, Promoters (your biggest fans, most loyal patients, and lowest cost to serve), rate you at a 9 or 10. They love your providers and practice and they would absolutely recommend you to friends and family members. (Yay! Keep up the good work!)

Passives are patients who give you a score of 7 or 8. They’re pretty happy, but not wowed, and are open to other providers (your competition) who impress them with an exceptional patient experience. (You need to wow them so they don’t leave.)

Detractors are the patients who leave a Net Promoter Score of 0 to 6. They aren’t happy with their experience, but they’re more than happy to elaborate in the comments about what your practice and providers did wrong. 

You should pay attention to these comments because that’s where you have the greatest opportunity to address patient concerns and make things right. (Yikes! Let’s turn this negative into a positive before it does some serious damage to your reputation!)

Turn NPS detractors into promotersDetractors are opportunities for improvements.

While it may not be for the right reasons, detractors are more engaged than other groups of patients. They want to let people know about their experience at your practice or with a particular provider to help prevent others from having a similar negative experience. 

What’s good about detractors is you have their attention and a high level of engagement. You can use this to your advantage and respond accordingly in a timely manner. 

Think of the last time you had a less-than-wonderful experience at a restaurant. Chances are, if they comped your meal and the manager came to the table to express his or her sincere apologies, and perhaps even offered you a coupon or incentive to return, you probably left feeling better about the whole situation. While your meal, the service, or both may not have been great, you most likely respected their prompt attention to the situation and are willing to give them another chance.

The healthcare industry isn’t as simple, but the same principles apply. While you may not be able to give coupons for free services, you can address the issues in a personal way. Your prompt attention to the matter can make a world of difference to the patient and encourage them to give you another chance.

Maybe you respond to a negative online review, make a phone call to the patient, or send an email asking to speak with them so you can learn more about the situation. A simple gesture like a personal call or email can do wonders for turning your biggest detractors into your biggest promoters. 

What happens if you do nothing?

Using the same example of a bad experience at a restaurant, imagine what happens if no manager comes to apologize and the server is rude to already dissatisfied customers? Would you honestly consider going back to that establishment after a poor experience that nobody seemed to care about? Our guess is you won’t go back, and you’ll tell everyone you know not to go to that restaurant, and you might even say all that in an online review so potential new customers are dissuaded!

If you do nothing at your healthcare practice after a negative experience, your dissatisfied patients won’t come back either. And they’re more likely to write negative doctor reviews on Google and Healthgrades to warn future patients. Essentially, not asking the important NPS question, and not knowing what your patients are thinking and feeling when they leave your practice may have more negative repercussions than you realize. 

Help detractors become promoters.

Follow up. Thank the unhappiest patients for their valuable feedback. Show them you care by taking their input seriously and using it to improve the process and the patient experience at your practice. Perhaps that means having a meeting with your office team, or impressing a more patient-centered philosophy upon providers. 

You can also help minimize the negative effects of detractor reviews about your practice by increasing the number of positive reviews. Ask every single patient (especially the ones you know are really happy) to leave doctor reviews and star ratings. More positive reviews boost your practice reputation, so even if there’s a negative review, the good will outweigh the not-so-good, and new patients will give you a chance. 

Imagine the ripple effect that changing the mind of a detractor might have. Once they see how much you truly care about their experience, they’ll be more likely to become some of your biggest promoters. 

Here at SocialClimb we can help you automate surveys and review requests so you don’t add more tasks to your plate. Schedule a demo today to learn more.


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