Blog post

Up Your Net Promoter Score (NPS) to Up Your Patient Experience

Learn how one simple question can provide huge insight into your practice health and can be leveraged to increase referrals and improve your bottom line.

Dental Intelligence


June 30, 2021

When your patients are delighted with their dental services, then your business thrives. While it’s wise to focus on satisfaction, it’s essential to know the crucial difference between patient satisfaction and patient loyalty.

A consistently exceptional patient experience is something every dental office strives for, but not all provide. Quality interactions with your office correlate to higher retention rates, fewer missed or skipped appointments, and patients more likely to evangelize for you in their community. 

“But how do we know for certain how our patients truly feel about our practice?” That might be a question you’re asking yourself this very minute. The truth is, it’s challenging to get an accurate read on your overall patient satisfaction and experience through one-off conversations or long surveys that introduce various sources of bias (more on that later). 

That’s where a net promoter score comes into play. 

A net promoter score (NPS) is a standardized metric that measures patient loyalty simply. This approach to patient surveying can introduce less bias and lead to a better patient experience than traditional patient experience surveys. 

Let’s learn more about NPS, how to implement them, and their direct effects on your patient experience. 

What is the Net Promoter Score (NPS)?

You only need a single straightforward question to gather NPS data:

This survey question collects responses on a scale of 1 to 10. When a patient answers seven or higher, you can consider them a “promoter” of the business. Anyone answering six or lower is regarded as a “detractor.” The NPS score is the difference between the promoters and detractors, ranging from -100 on the low end and 100 on the high end.

While your promoters may not be singing your praises from the mountain tops, and your detractors probably aren’t running smear campaigns against you, NPS draws the lines to determine which patients are most likely to engage in your most effective form of marketing: word of mouth.


treatment coordinator speaks with a dental patient

Why Traditional Patient Experience Surveys are Often Biased

The “ceiling effect” affects sampling data in traditional in-office survey collection. Most of the time, survey administration happens towards the end of care when patient satisfaction is the highest. Typically, the patient reaches the end of their care journey and is currently experiencing a positive outcome.

Another potential source of bias is in the environment where you are administering the survey. For example, if the patient completes the survey in front of their doctor/dentist, their presence could sway the answers.

NPS surveying is more effective than open-ended questions because it is a lower-friction approach. If someone is unsatisfied, they can just mark down a low score (like a 2 or 3) without facing the conflict to explain what happened face-to-face. NPS supports more accurate feedback since you aren’t forcing people to relive the negative experience by elaborating on what went wrong. 

Why NPS for Measuring Patient Satisfaction?

Think about the restaurants, service providers, hotels, or other businesses you recommend to others. When someone is asking for a recommendation, you’re going to do your best to give one for those that provide a superior service experience. You wouldn’t recommend a restaurant that made you wait an hour for your order only for it to come out overcooked. 

When asking the seemingly innocuous question, “How likely would you be to recommend our practice to a friend or family member?” you’re wrapping so many other questions into that one big important sentiment. 

Because trust is so vital when recommending a service to a friend or family member, especially when it comes to dental care, those that are likely to recommend your office likely have had great overall experiences. 

That’s not all, though. Other benefits of NPS include:

Because NPS surveys are only one question, the completion rate is much higher than traditional surveys. Additionally, their succinctness allows patients to complete them via one click in text or email remotely after an appointment, erasing the pressure of completing them in the office with staff nearby. 

What’s more, because anyone that answers a six or lower is considered a detractor, you now have a dynamic list of patients to contact to learn more about their experience. From there, you can create a game plan for enhancing their experience (and improving their NPS score by association). 

dental patient checks out at reception

Tips for Improving Your NPS Score

Incorporating NPS in patient feedback is easy, especially with engagement tools like Dental Intelligence. Patients should receive 2 to 3 NPS survey opportunities through email or text communication after their appointment.

As crucial as collecting NPS scores is to measure and understand your overall patient experience, doing the work to improve it requires a fair amount of active listening and potential strategic adjustments. 

When a patient qualifies as a detractor, a follow-up conversation is essential to re-align expectations. For example, you might learn that the experience was subpar because the hygienist was too heavy-handed or just that the front-desk attendant was inattentive. Collect this feedback consistently and, over time, you’ll begin to see trends in the data and where you can make improvements.  

Be proactive about sending NPS surveys regularly: at the end of every significant interaction. The goal is to make each person feel more like a friend than a nameless patient. Then, send another NPS survey a week or two after the follow-up.

Scores go up when you prioritize these interactions. Patients see that you are trying to resolve the issue, which might bump up their interest in recommending your practice to friends and family.

Keep NPS Scores Internal

If NPS data is effective for helping your practice evaluate patient satisfaction, you might choose to use this information in marketing campaigns. However, most people won’t understand the context of raw NPS scores. Instead of sharing the raw data, build in appealing talking points related to patient satisfaction overall, such as:

Administering NPS Surveys: What You Need

When you want to measure NPS, your practice needs to have several things to gather data and track results:

man views an NPS survey on his cell phone

Paper surveys are the least effective method for NPS surveys. When a patient gets up from the dental chair, they are ready to leave the office. Most people don’t want to take time to fill out an optional survey before leaving. Instead of paper forms, send surveys digitally via text or email for patients to fill out at their convenience.

Dental Intelligence offers the tools you need to send surveys, review patient responses, and so much more. These tools transform your dental practice workflow, helping you become smarter about how your patients genuinely feel about their experience while automating the work, so you and your staff are freed to focus on actionably improving your patient experience (and your bottom line).

Practice Smarter.™

Schedule a demo and start intelligently shaping the future of your practice today.

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