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New Customers Only, Please? [Article]

Ethically retaining more customers can have a major impact on not only your business, but your effectiveness as a therapist. This article explains why it's so key both personally and professionally.

By Andy Byrne MCSP HCPC

How annoying is it when companies focus so hard on getting new customers but neglect their existing customers, or worse still once they have them through the door, neglect those new patients and fail to give them the exceptional service that they deserve and need?

Don’t get me wrong, for a therapy business to be successful, it needs new patients. It doesn’t matter how great the service is, if there’s nobody there to make use of it. However, new patients are only part of the picture.

Retention of Patients is Not Unethical!

So just before I talk more about retention of patients, I want to make it quite clear that I’m not talking about over-treating patients. That is unethical, and will get you a very bad reputation very quickly. However, in my experience, most therapists go the other way, and under-treat to such an extent that that in itself almost becomes unethical.

In order to reach the maximum benefit for your patients, you usually have to retain them past the first couple of sessions. In my mind, if you know you can help a patient, but you don’t retain them to such a time that you have given them maximum benefit, then that is unethical!

And, as a therapy business owner, if you’re not working on retention of patients, you are doomed to failure.

And even if you don’t own a business, without retention, you won’t keep your patients coming back to see you long enough to reach their maximum benefit. If you’re not doing that, then you will be failing as a therapist to get the best results. Your outcomes will suffer, your reputation will remain static, and you are unlikely to progress in your career.

Let’s Do the Maths

As a business owner, say you have 100 new patients in a year and you charge £45 per session, that’s £4,500. From experience of managing 15 clinics and having spoken to hundreds of therapists, most manage to get about 70–75% of the patients who need to come back, to actually return for a second session. That results in another £3,150. The therapists who aren’t really focusing on retention are then likely to see someone, on average, one more time after that (three appointments in total), giving us a total income of £10,800.

However, the very best therapists at retention generally get 95–98% of the patients who need to come back, to do just that. So let’s repeat the maths: £4,500 for the 100 initial appointments, but this time, they get 95 of those people back say, which is £4,275 from the second sessions. Good retention therapists will then see patients at least another two times giving us a total of £17,325, nearly £7,000 more than the other therapists.

Yes, this assumes everyone needed to come back, but still, for the same number of new patients, the therapist who retains well would get an extra £7,000 in a year. And this doesn’t take into account the fact that the therapist who treats their patients a few more times, is likely to get better outcomes, and have built stronger relationships with their patients, which will mean more word of mouth referrals … and that of course means more new patients!

I know the numbers above are a rough guide, and the retention rates may seem impossible to you, but believe me there are plenty of therapists I’ve worked with who manage to hit at least 95% retention at the first session. There are also plenty of good therapists who treat for more than four sessions per patient because they understand that you’re unlikely to have got the patient back to full health in any less time.

So What Do I Do About It?

There are so many techniques for getting better retention, I created a course for exactly this. It teaches you easy-to-use techniques for getting great buy-in and engagement from your patients, which does wonders for retention! Take action and make some changes to give your patients a better service. For more information on “Why Don’t My Patients Listen?” visit Triad Health.