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How to Win Back Patients you’ve Lost

February 14, 2008 |

You may be sitting on a gold mine and don’t even know it. I guarantee you have long-long patients in your practice who would return to you if given a chance.

If you have been in practice for even a short time, you have developed an eclectic database of various types of patients who:

  •  currently visit you
  •  who used to visit you but now don’t
  •  who are angry at you and you don’t even know it
  •  who talk badly about you
  •  who would come back if you only apologized

Your database is filled with patients who took the time to call your office, set up an appointment and visit you. For whatever reason, they didn’t book a consultation, didn’t return to finish their appointments or have left your office never to return again.

Aesthetic patients are fickle consumers. Rather than a goldmine, it can be more like a mine field to understand these patients and why they chose you over all the others.

Every single aspect of the aesthetic patient’s experience with your office counts. From how your telephone is answered to how you’re following-up (or not) matters. Your staff, you and your processes can turn a patient into a profitable referral source or a bad-mouthing thorn in your side.

Your challenge is to do everything you can to ensure these patients have a ‘WOW” experience with you every single time they are in touch with your practice – either on the telephone or in person.

Hey, Where Did You Go?

Many of these long-long patients were not saying ‘No” to you. Some were saying “Not Yet”. Some were in a bad mood that day and just could not connect with you or your staff. Some got sticker shock and some didn’t realize what all was involved to look their best.

However; there is a majority who feel they were not treated right by your receptionist, a staff person or you. It could have been something so benign as your receptionist did not acknowledge the patient when they first walked in the door and it could be something more serious such as they believe they got a mediocre or bad result and have lost trust with you.

On the one hand, aesthetic patients have elephant memories. And, while I hate to admit it, females in particular, can be prone to holding grudges if they are treated badly in your practice or if they “perceive” they were treated badly.

Frankly, your patient’s perception is your reality so you have to deal with their emotions. Please remember this:

  • Aesthetic patients won’t remember what you told them.
  • Aesthetic patients won’t remember what you showed them.
  • Aesthetic patients will remember how you made them feel.

On the other hand, patients can be quick to forgive if they feel you value them and want to make them happy. That may mean you simply reconnect with them or it may mean you show significant remorse so they know you understand how special they are.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth It

Obviously, the best thing you can do is to avoid bad feelings with your patients so you don’t lose them. You want to have the friendliest and most informative receptionist answering your telephones. You want to employ staff that bonds quickly with the patients and knows how to direct the patient to a decision to choose you over your competitors. You personally want to connect with the patient so they like, trust and believe in your recommendations. And, you want to follow up to show you care just as much after the procedure as you did before.

The good news is that while it takes 10 times the effort to gain a new aesthetic patient, it can take much less to win back a patient who already knows you. It’s well worth the effort to develop a campaign to win back your long lost patients – no matter why they left you in the first place.

How to Win Them Back

Winning back these lost patients will take extra effort. If they left you because they didn’t feel they were treated special, you have some groveling to do to make them feel exceptional. Personalize your communications to them to get the point across how much they are valued by you.

Rather than provide excuses of any kind, offer a sincere apology. Explain that you understand how the patient must feel and that you are truly sorry for any inconvenience or misunderstanding. Also that you want them back and will do everything possible to ensure they have a great experience from now on. (Note: Obviously do not agree to wrongdoing if there is a possibility of a lawsuit. You are only acknowledging the patient was unhappy with your practice and that you want to make it right).

Also explain what you have done to rectify the problem or the situation if it was something simple like a bad-apple staff member. Perhaps you replaced that staff person with “Tina” who comes from a long background of aesthetics and truly knows how to connect with your patients.

It might be helpful to initially apologize so you can keep the bad word-of-mouth to a minimum. Then wait a bit since time often heals wounds. Wait until they are more approachable but not too long where they have completely forgotten you.

If they requested you never speak to them again or mail to them again, only do a very personal letter acknowledging this fact so they know you will still respect their wishes but you did want to reach out one more time. They may appreciate your tenacity and your sincerity. It’s important to use their name in the letter, hand sign it and handwrite a personal comment in the margin so the patient feels your sincerity.

However, if they never said you couldn’t contact them again, here are approaches that will help win them back:

3-Letter Approach for Long-Lost Patients

Use this approach when you haven’t seen the patient in over a year but you know there was no big problem. There is something about a patient hearing from you three times within a couple of months that leaves an impression. The repetitiveness of this campaign shows you care enough to keep at it, that you are committed to making things right and that you care deeply about this patient as a person just as much as you care about them as a patient.

The first letter is simply to reconnect and to get their feedback. Tell them you noticed the patient hasn’t been in for a long time and that you are concerned for their well-being. You would love to hear from them and you give them your personal email (set one up for this type of campaign that your staff can monitor). Include an offer for a very special gift they can receive when they schedule their appointment.

You will get a minimal response but keep going. In two weeks, send out the second letter to those who didn’t respond indicating you truly care about them and you want to see them again. Remind them there is a gift for them to pick up at their next appointment.

You will get a better response from this one. In two weeks, send out the last one that acknowledges the other two letters and says you are truly sorry you haven’t heard from them and you care so much, you are including their free gift with this letter as well as a very special gift certificate good for any “Welcome Back” service they are interested in. Be sure to add a tight expiration date so they respond now rather than wait and forget.

Survey to Dissatisfied Patients

If you know patients left your office for a particular reason, or you can guess why, send them a personalized letter. Using their name, ask them for their input because you are aware your office was not running at 100% effeciciency. These disgruntled patients will be more than happy to express their frustrations and that may be enough for them to return to you. Ask for their help and guidance for improvement. I realize you have to put your ego aside for this and let them spew but its well worth it. Look at criticism as a great way for you to make changes for the better and attract, as well as keep, more of your aesthetic patients. Again, offer them a gift certificate for taking the time to fill out your survey and its good for any “Welcome Back” service.


Simply hearing from you could reactive this group of patients who already know you and are most likely to respond. What this means to you is a good return in revenues with very minimal effort on your part.

Keep in Touch With Lost Patients

Give these long-long patients a reason to reconnect with you. While some of them may have had a problem with you and your practice, others just wandered away and are now embarrassed to return. Make them comfortable enough to return:

  •  Send them your practice newsletter telling them what’s new in your office as well as in the world of aesthetic enhancement.
  •  Send them a colorful and informative postcard about a new procedure you perform and include a limited time introductory offer.
  •  Invite them to your seminars and events so they feel they are part of your “club”.

Catherine Maley, MBA
Author of “Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying”
President and Senior Marketing Strategist
Cosmetic Image Marketing.

Her firm specializes in growing aesthetic practices using PR, advertising and creative marketing strategies.
She can be reached at (877)339-8833 or
visit her online at

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