We speak to practices about encouraging existing patients to refer and are often given the response, “they know that they can refer people.” Well, of course they do. If anyone is happy with a business or service they can and will recommend them.
However! Just because they know that doesn’t mean that they will. You need to create a culture of referrals. Here’s what you do:

1. Get a very simple but well designed business card-sized referral card that can be given to existing patients.
2. Ensure that you and the team mention the fact that if patients wish to refer they can at any time. It could sound something like, “I hope that you are happy with the care that your receive at Anytown dental practice? (Leave a gap for an answer because if they aren’t, you need to know why). “I’m glad to hear that and would remind you that we would welcome your referrals of any friends and family that you feel could benefit from our care.” And then hand them 1-3 cards so that they can give to those that might be interested.
3. Have a ‘Refer a Friend’ section on your website
4. If you have a Facebook page – ask followers to refer
5. In short there should be a referral system in place that will remind patients regularly so when the opportunity does arise, there will be no question of what your existing patient will do.

P.S. Is the type of patient you have at the practice what you want more of? People generally know similar people in terms of age, gender, class, income – make sure that fits with your vision for the practice.