Patient referrals and online reviews are two of the most important tools to grow your healthcare practice. A patient’s recommendation to a family member or friend is like one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets—rare and highly coveted. And online reviews are just as valuable…84 percent of people say they trust online reviews as much as they do a referral from a friend. But many practitioners and their staff find it uncomfortable to ask patients for referrals or online reviews.

How and when you ask for a patient referral or online review is up to you, but there are certainly some times that are better than others. Using the tips below, you and your staff can learn to ask your patients for their help without making them feel pressured or awkward.

1 – Ask your long-term, loyal patients: Every practice has at least a few patients who’ve been with them for as long as you can remember (maybe since you opened!), and with whom they’ve developed a great rapport. These patients have remained loyal because they value the care they receive from you. This makes them perfect candidates to approach about referring their friends and family members or leaving an online review your practice.

You can introduce the topic by saying you wish you had more patients like this person, and mentioning that you’d love to help their family and friends if they are looking for a provider like you. Without asking in a high-pressure way, you’ve made your patient aware that you’d like them to refer others to you. If they can’t think of anyone, ask if they might be willing to leave a review online. The majority of patients say they would leave a review if asked, but hardly any are!

2 – Accepting compliments: When a patient has a good experience and offers praise or thanks, the natural consequence is that he or she will share their story with others. When the patient thanks you, accept the praise graciously and encourage them to share their experience with others by way of a referral or review.

You can even make light of it a bit. “When your friends tell you how bad their experience was, you can send them my way.” The light-hearted approach removes the pressure, but you can be sure their positive story will spread your name to others.

3 – Follow a script: Listen for your patient to open the door, then politely step inside. Here is a Patients are often happy to leave reviews or give you a patient referral if you just asksample script you can follow, but feel free to alter it to suit your own style:

Patient: I really love your office. Your staff is so helpful and friendly.

You (acknowledge the compliment) : Thank you! I’m very proud of the great team we have. (provide a quality statement): It’s part of our goal to provide a positive experience for patients like you who appreciate what we do here. (make a transition statement): Not everyone has a positive experience like this with their healthcare providers. (time to ask for the favor): If you have any family members or friends who might appreciate the same experience you’ve had, we would love for you to recommend them to us. We would really enjoy showing them the same kind of service you’ve had. Or you could even just leave a review. That would be amazing as well. We sure appreciate you!

4 – Use technology to do the job for you

Today’s technology gives you the ability to send emails or text messages requesting online reviews or referrals without you ever opening your mouth. And if you’re anything like me (haha) and would prefer to send a text than speak in person, this a great solution. Check out SR Smart Reviews as an example. With SR Smart Reviews, anyone in your practice can send a text with a clickable link to leave a review—so your patients can see the text and follow the link before they even leave your office. You can also use technology to request referrals. In every newsletter or email, include a link for patients to send their friends a recommendation to you. It’s easy and surprisingly effective.

5 – Offer incentives

I saved one of the best methods for last! Sometimes the best way to get reviews and referrals is by offering a reward for participating. Perhaps you could offer movie tickets for each online review or something bigger for each person someone refers that becomes a new patient. Play around with your rewards. Sometimes a $10 Starbucks gift card works as well as a $50 Amazon card. You could also put all the names of people who participate into a drawing for a big reward. Your staff can be included in the incentive program. Offer rewards for every online review or referral they are able to get from patients. To make sure you are staying within Medicare guidelines when offering an incentive, check out this article.

And there you have it! Five simple approaches that will make asking for – and getting – patient referrals and reviews that much easier!

Don’t forget to check out our free checklist “9 Steps to Awesome Online Reviews.”