While business has been down at some plastic surgery practices and appointments for new consultations at some offices have dropped considerably, many practices report that they are expecting a turnaround for the fourth quarter and in 2010 as well.
However, it is still not business as usual. Demographic shifts seem to have followed the economic troubles experienced in all sectors. Business seems to have remained strongest among older, better-heeled patients. As the economy stabilizes in some geographic regions, middle-class consumers are also more likely to return for maintenance procedures and cosmetic services such as injectables and laser treatments.
The practices best positioned to do well going forward have expanded to include a substantial number of nonsurgical services. Surgeons who have not given up reconstructive plastic surgery are not as greatly affected by economy fluctuations.
OFFER A REWARD
One way to make the most of your loyal clients is via reward programs. Sometimes, the simple act of sending a personal note or picking up the phone to reach out to a loyal patient is enough to make them feel special.
CUSTOMER LOYALTY PROGRAMS
- Courtesy voucher;
- Offer of extra service;
- Complementary product;
- Volume discount;
- Refer-a-friend bonus;
- Discount on particular treatments; and
- Trial of a new product or technology.
Refer-a-friend programs have become a mainstay in successful practices that have a high customer service culture. Implementing a program for long-term patients to refer their friends, family, and colleagues is widely accepted as a good idea. Patients who already like you and are happy with the services you offer are in the best position to tell others and encourage them to come in.
Many practices will waive the consultation fee for any new patients referred by existing patients, which is a good idea, but it does not really reward the referring patient. I suggest you say thank you in a way that actually gives something back to the patient who was kind enough to send someone to your practice.
If you have recently added a new technology or product into your menu of services, or need some test cases for training sessions, invite loyal patients to have a complimentary treatment. These are the patients who have been your advocates, and they deserve to receive some appreciation and special treatment.
Some practices issue VIP cards, treatment vouchers, and gift certificates as loyalty rewards. By enticing clients with a discounted fee on some of the nonsurgical procedures they’ve received, you can both reward and instill loyalty. You want to prevent them from going to someone else in town who may offer lower fees for the same treatments.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
The ideal times to implement a rewards program are not only when business is typically slow; it will correspond to the times of the year when patients are most eager to look their best as well.
See also “It’s a Marketing Jungle Out There” by Angela O’Mara in the April 2008 issue of PSP.
For example, many retailers and spas offer a percentage off of specific services for clients’ birthdays, which is a very popular perk. Other times include annual holidays, back-to-school days, the change in seasons, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day; as well as May and June for brides and January for winter specials.
For existing clients, the more personalized the offering the better. Make sure the offer is personalized and “exclusive.” Rewards programs and special offers can be marketed via postcards, e-mail blasts, printed newsletters, signage at your reception desk and in treatment rooms, on your Web site and in your blog; as well as via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Watch what tactics retailers use both online and in their stores to keep customers coming back. For example, Macy’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond regularly send e-mail-based discount coupons to existing customers. Designer apparel e-tailer Bluefly.com and Bliss.com send vouchers for discounts to lure back those who have not made a purchase in a year or more. Barnes & Noble and Lehmann’s offer VIP cards that can be purchased for around $25 per year to take advantage of unadvertised discounts, free shipping, and other rewards.
In these challenging times, making an extra effort will pay dividends back to your practice.
Wendy Lewis is president of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetic Consultancy; author of 10 books, including Plastic Makes Perfect; and is the founder of Beautyinthebag.com. She can be reached at and cosmeticmed on Twitter.