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Are Clients Coming Back?

A regular question I ask practitioners when they tell me they aren’t busy and don’t know why is ‘how many of your clients come back after their first appointment?’

Do you track your client retention?

If not then it’s time to start. I have a list of all clients that visit my practice and how many times they come back. If you don’t know these figures you can’t address any potential problems.

What’s a good return rate?

If more than 20% of you new clients don’t return you have a problem. Most practitioners take this as a sign that what they did in their treatment didn’t work and the result is self-esteem plummets. Then comes price reductions, free treatments, and general devaluing leading to further self esteem damage.

In most cases it doesn’t have much to do with this at all.

Why don’t clients come back?

  1. The client didn’t know what to expect – sometimes a treatment can initially exacerbate symptoms or not resolve them partially or completely – it’s rare in my experience for a clients issue to be completely resolved in one session. If they don’t know this and even a small amount of the symptom remains they think what you did didn’t work. Then you both lose.
  1. You lack confidence and so your end of treatment conversation didn’t reassure the client – we all lack confidence, even me, so if you do practice your end of consultation conversation to be clear about what you want to say and how you want to say it. This isn’t inauthentic, it’s basic preparation. The more you are prepared will help you build your confidence and inspire your clients confidence in you.
  1. The client didn’t feel respected or cared for – we forget sometimes because we do this every day that we can without meaning to become casual with what we do. It has happened to all of us. Make sure you keep up your standards of care by explaining to clients what’s going on and what you are doing. Don’t assume knowledge, as you will regret it. Speak to your clients as a human being and never talk down to them. A little bit of care and consideration does wonders for everyone.
  1. Your clinic isn’t professional – if you want people to take you seriously as a professional then you need to present as one. Make sure your clinic space is clean, fresh, simple and tidy. Choose the theme of your space and make sure everything fits into it. If you like eclectic keep it at home as chaos doesn’t instill confidence or calm. Also make sure everything works as it should. Nothing says unprofessional better than a chair that’s broken, towels that are frayed or an iPod player that constantly requires a tap or two to work.
  1. They forgot. If clients aren’t booked in before they leave for their next appointment in many cases life gets in the way and they forget. So call them to check in with how they are going. In my practice no one leaves without being offered a follow up appointment.
  1. The client was a tyre kicker. That is they weren’t really serious about you treating their condition. But beware of making this excuse too easily, this should account for no more than 5% of people who don’t return, and that’s being generous. It’s also important never to make this judgment when seeing someone. Treat everyone with the same care and respect. After all they are paying you for it.

Advising our clients as to recommended treatment is not being pushy or salesy. It is our duty of care to not only provide our clients with the best treatment we can but to also provide them with our best professional advice. I know it’s very rare to get a complete resolution of an issue in one treatment. If I don’t tell my clients this I am failing to inform them appropriately.  

So if your clients aren’t coming back don’t just accept it. Work out why and do something about it? Success in practice and in life is achieved by constant observation and adaption.


Jeff Shearer has been in practice since 1995 and now practices in Newcastle. Despite his success in practice Jeff is constantly seeking ways to improve care and service to his clients and community. Jeff also runs Ethical Practice an information based service to assist practitioners to become all they can be

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