Dental Patient Surveys and…. Parent-Teacher Conferences?

Sending patients a survey is essentially the equivalent of going to a parent–teacher conference. Some parents can’t wait to sit down with Johnny or Janie’s teacher to hear all about how their child prodigy is destined for greatness. Others would rather undergo a root canal sans Novocain. But what if your child’s school waited until senior year to provide feedback? You may have been loading up on “Proud Parent of a Harvard Student” gear only to learn that your darling cherub will be repeating 12th grade. Moral of the story? You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. And, of course, it’s not prudent to purchase college gear until you’ve made at least one tuition payment.

Reaching out to patients for feedback – and implementing changes as a result – shows them you care and value their opinion, which leads to loyal patients who are happy to refer you to friends and family.  And, in today’s competitive market where dental practices pull out all the stops to bring in new patients (think aromatherapy, heated hand mitts, and paraffin treatments – yup, that happens), patient loyalty is a rare gem.

When creating a patient survey, remember the overall goal is to elicit useful responses. Sounds obvious, but too often dental practices ask questions seemingly for the sake of asking questions. For example, if you have no intention of ever offering Saturday hours (even if 98% of patients would love it) don’t ask if patients want that option. Similar to a porcelain crown, survey tools aren’t one-size-fits-all, so make sure to only include questions that will provide useful responses.

One of the most important things you can do to encourage survey participation is to Keep. It. Short. We can’t stress this enough, friends. Lengthy surveys are like a parent-teacher conference that goes on too long: no one wants to participate. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic number of questions to use. It comes down the average time it will take participants to complete and that should be limited to no more than five minutes. To help make that happen, it’s best to ask closed-ended questions (bonus – it’s easier to tally responses to yes/no and multiple-choice questions). If you really feel the need, you can always include a free response field for patients who would like to include any other comments.

We also recommend giving patients a reason to complete the survey. Yes, it only takes five minutes (at the most), but today we’re inundated with requests for our feedback. Every receipt has a survey link circled for our convenience so the big chain stores can determine how likely we are to shop there again. Our in-box is full of auto-generated emails asking us to share thoughts about our recent visit to Starbucks or latest purchase from Amazon. Sure, you can offer a material incentive for completing the survey, but don’t underestimate the power of human connection. Call us jaded, but we highly doubt our one-star review will factor into Amazon’s strategic plans; however, when we feel that our input can impact change, we’ll take the time to provide it, especially when it involves healthcare. Explaining that you value your patients and are committed to ensuring their satisfaction with your dental practice is likely to be enough of an incentive.

Now that you’re committed to surveying patients (you are, right?), it’s time to determining the topics to include and start building.

Download the mini-eBook to learn key topics to cover on your patient satisfaction survey, question suggestions, and a few tips on how to execute a strong patient survey that can actually make a difference in your practice.

In conclusion, patient satisfaction surveys offer a tremendous communication opportunity. In addition to the ultimate learning tool for your team, when you share survey results and the corresponding changes implemented patients feel heard and validated. A dentist that truly cares trumps aromatherapy and heated hand mitts any day.

To learn more about patient communications and surveys, call PracticeMojo at 800-556-2580 or visit


Heather Frechette-Crowley is principal and founder of Root Marketing, where she uses content-based strategy to help businesses of all sizes connect with their target market. She has 20+ years of experience in online and product marketing across the healthcare and financial services industries. Information: /