6 Client Retention Strategies for Health & Wellness Practitioners

September 26, 2022

Post Updated [September 26, 2022]

Humans are really good at starting new things. It’s the follow through we often struggle with, and the planning fallacy takes a big part of the blame. 

The planning fallacy is a bias that makes people tend to underestimate the amount of time and effort a new activity will take. In short, when we set out to accomplish a goal, we tend to believe we’ll be successful and overestimate our ability to get it done. When the tasks necessary to reach the goal inevitably feel hard or take longer than expected, we abandon the plan.

Even if you’ve never heard about the planning fallacy, you’ve certainly experienced the fallout in your practice. Convincing a client to come to their initial appointment is fairly straightforward, but getting them bought in on their treatment plan and coming back to see you for subsequent appointments can be a big challenge. 

Getting ghosted by new clients is heartbreaking for a few reasons. First, because you’re understandably excited for the next phase in a client’s overall health plan, it’s disappointing when they don’t come back. But, perhaps equally as important, too much of this customer churn dynamic can seriously impede your business growth.

So, let’s take a closer look at some things you can do to stop the planning fallacy in its tracks, prevent customer churn and boost your client retention.

What is Client Retention?

Client retention refers to a business’s ability to retain existing clients over a period of time and can be represented by the number of repeat purchases they make. 

To put it in perspective, imagine you’re a practitioner offering acupuncture treatments to two different clients experiencing tension headaches. 

  • Client A comes for an initial consultation, followed by eight sessions to address their specific tension headache problem. This client then keeps coming back to you to treat new problems as they arise.
  • Client B comes for an initial consultation around treatment for headaches and books a follow up visit before she leaves, only to cancel the appointment two days later. You follow up a few times but never hear from her again.

Client A is a retention success story, whereas Client B is seriously degrading your client retention metrics.  

How to Measure Customer Retention & What Does It Mean?

There’s a fairly simple formula you can use for measuring customer retention rate. 

Customer Retention Rate
  1. First, pick the time frame you want to measure retention for. (Let’s say it’s 6 months.) 
  2. Next, take note of the number of customers you have at the start of the time period. (S) (Let’s say it’s 100.)
  3. Now, take note of the number of total customers at the end of the time period. (E) (Let’s say it’s 90.)
  4. Finally, figure out how many new customers you added over the time period. (N) (Let’s say it’s 20.)

Now plug your numbers into the formula to get your customer retention rate. 

example customer retention rate

Different industries will have different retention rates. Rather than comparing your rates to an arbitrary industry, it’s more useful to calculate your retention rates at repeatable intervals and benchmark against yourself to make sure you aren’t seeing any worrying trends.

The road to success is paved with good retention

High client retention rates ultimately come down to a really great client experience, and the ability for your clients to continually engage with your offerings as they personally grow and change.

Many practitioners tend to focus more effort on attracting new clients, however, focusing your resources on current client retention provides many benefits–for your clients and your bottom line. Acquiring a new customers costs anywhere from 5-25x more than retaining an existing one (check out this article from Harvard Business Review which dives into the value of keeping the right customer).

A repeat client typically enjoys a positive experience because working together on a long-term basis leads to more opportunities for desirable outcomes for your client. When your client has purchased multiple offerings from you, it also builds loyalty and they are more likely to send you referrals. As a health and wellness practitioner, this is important because word of mouth is the most powerful (and free!) form of marketing for your business.

Understanding Customer Churn and What It Can Tell You About Client Retention

You may have also heard the word “churn” thrown around, but what is customer churn and how does it relate to retention? Essentially, churn is the opposite of retention. It refers to the people who stop doing business with you over a period of time. 

What is Your Customer Churn Rate?

To calculate your churn rate, choose a specific time period and divide the total number of subscribers lost by the total number of subscribers acquired, and then multiply to get the percentage.

Customer Churn Rate

Let’s use the same example from earlier where we calculated the client retention rate over 6 months. In that scenario, we lost 30 customers and the total customer account was 100.  So, our churn rate was 30%, which also happens to be the inverse of the 70% retention rate calculated. 

Churn rate example

Knowing what your churn rate is and which way it trends over time is important, but it’s most critical to understand WHY your clients are churning. There are so many reasons why a client might cancel or fail to rebook with you, from price sensitivities to personal preference to lack of motivation and more. Understanding when and why people stop using your services can give you the insights you need to focus on the aspects of your business that are working to reduce your churn rate and boost client retention.

  • Ask. Sending an email survey to customers who have gone silent asking them about their experiences working with you can give you valuable insights. Be sure to frame your ask using positive language and consider also offering an incentive to fill out the survey–like the chance to win a small gift card, for example. 
  • Analyze.  Look at the demographics of customers who churn most often. Do they share certain characteristics? Are they more heavily weighted in particular programs you offer? Identifying trends can make it clear where to shift your energy for the most favorable retention outcomes. 
  • Adjust. Churned customers aren’t the only source of insights. You can also regularly check in with your happy customers around what motivates them to keep working with you. Then double-down on doing the things that keep them coming back for more. 

Keep Clients Returning With These Client Retention Strategies

So how can you start to encourage repeat clients and build your client retention? Let’s take a look at six client retention strategies that can help you make a greater impact with your clients while also allowing you to scale your practice.

1. Set Client Expectations Upfront

When you first start working with a new client, it’s important to set expectations. This ensures they know exactly what to expect when continuing  to work with you, which increases the chance that you are the right fit for one another. When you and your client have aligned expectations you mitigate confusion or frustration, which makes them more likely to keep working with you.

Setting expectations can be as simple as telling your client upfront that you will deliver their protocol within one week of their session, or that they need to make a daily journal entry in order to be properly supported by you.

Beyond initial expectation setting, creating a roadmap that outlines the phases of their treatment plan can prevent them from feeling aimless and unmotivated when they hit a plateau in their progress. You don’t have to do this on the first visit–in fact, the promise of a roadmap can be a good incentive for them to return and see their whole plan. But you should aim to make some recommendations as soon as possible so they can get started when motivation is at its peak.

2. Bundle Your Services

Consider bundling your services in a package instead of offering one-off sessions. When your client commits to a package upfront, they are committing to working with you for a longer period of time and are likely more invested in the process. Selling packages is not only great for your client because they get more ongoing support, it’s great for your business as it allows you to scale more easily. You can give your client the option to book all the sessions from their package in advance or consistently book the next appointment before they wrap up each session.

In fact, whether you’re selling a package or not, make sure you always have your next followup session booked in before a client leaves your office to avoid churn. Clients aren’t always neglecting to rebook because they’re unhappy, it’s just that people get busy and can easily forget to schedule new appointments. 

3. Create a Maintenance Program

A maintenance program offers your existing clients a flexible (and lower cost) option for working together long term. It works well for clients who have already completed a package or program with you, and don’t need as much high-level support going forward. In fact, it can be really important for clients who have seen results by following your treatment plans. These clients are at high risk of abandoning their healthy habits because you did a great job! They’re feeling better. Your role as a practitioner is to ensure they keep those good feelings going by continuing to follow the plan or protocol you’ve laid out for them.  

Your maintenance program can include whichever level of support you think your client requires. A few ideas are:

  • Use a secure messaging platform for ongoing coaching
  • Prescribe journals and journal reviews to continue to track their progress
  • Offer a bi-monthly or quarterly coaching session

4. Break Up Your Content Into Smaller Offerings and Democratize Access to Your Care

Consider chunking up your larger offerings into sections that can be purchased individually. For example, if you have an online program or course, you could divide it into micro-courses. This will allow clients to get started with you at a lower price point, and they can work through the additional micro-courses as they have the time and resources to do so.

Offering multiple programs in different formats and at varying price points not only helps you diversify your income, it lets different clients access your expertise with lower risk and at a level that makes sense for them. 

It’s key to have these offerings build on one-another so there is a natural succession in the content. This will motivate your client to purchase additional courses as they’ll naturally want to learn more. This strategy also allows you to prioritize your 1:1 offerings for your ideal clients who cancel less often anyway. 

5. Offer Referral Credits/Sessions

Assuming your profession allows it, offering bonuses such as referral credits is another way to keep your clients motivated and incentivized to continue working together. Each time an existing client makes a successful referral, you can provide them with a percentage or dollar amount off their next session, or even offer them a free session altogether. Use coupon codes in Practice Better to provide your clients with these discounts.

6. Check In Regularly

Keeping connected with your clients is one of the most important ways to retain them. When you’re checking in regularly, you’ll remain top of mind and this can help to build your relationship and develop loyalty.

To easily check which clients haven’t booked a session recently, use Practice Better’s Session Recall Report. The Tags feature lets you categorize and send out a targeted message to these clients.

Ensure that your check-in messages have a call to action. You may directly invite them to book another session or could consider something more indirect such as asking them for their input or feedback on an upcoming offering (perhaps a new program or challenge). This makes your client feel involved and they are more likely to buy into what you have to offer.

How to Tell if Your Client Retention Strategies Are Working

Calculations aside, there’s one simple litmus test to tell whether your client retention strategies are making an impact: you start to see more repeat clients booked in your calendar every month. Then make sure you’re using the strategies shared above to keep building on the momentum. There are so many opportunities to encourage retention throughout the entire client journey–from onboarding through after care. The key to success is to make sure you understand your customer’s needs, wants and behaviors at every stage of their health and wellness journey with you.

Practice Better is the complete practice management platform for nutritionists, dietitians, and wellness professionals. Streamline your practice and begin your 14-day free trial today.

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