For you to enjoy the highest possible level of patient satisfaction, you simply have to know what your patients want.

Sound easy? It also would be helpful to know what they think about you and your staff, as well as to determine how best to set expectations so your patients are happy with their results.

To help you discover the inner workings of the aesthetic patient’s mind, I personally interviewed many aesthetic patients who’d had minimally invasive and surgical procedures to enhance their appearance.

I wanted firsthand knowledge of what they were looking for when seeking a physician to perform aesthetic enhancements.

The majority of those interviewed were females based in the United States with the median age of 44.

My objective was to determine trends and similarities among the interviewed patients. I discovered the main reason both men and women had considered getting aesthetic procedures was to improve their looks so they felt better about themselves.

In essence, they were “buying hope”—the hope that their chosen physician would make them look better so they would feel better.

Other highlights of the interview results:

  • The patient’s confidence in the physician and positive staff interaction were more important than price (in 90% of the cases).
  • Eighty-six percent of them referred at least two other people to that practice (hairstylists were the biggest referral sources).
  • Forty percent believed that they were well informed, having researched their procedure(s) on the Internet.
  • Seventy-five percent went on multiple consultations before making a decision to proceed with their procedure—a majority of those who went on a consultation did so after a glowing recommendation from a friend, family member, or colleague.
  • Eighty percent watched Extreme Makeover, Dr. 90210, and live surgeries and treatments on television, in advance of their surgeries.

Lengthy waiting times were a recurring complaint, but forgivable if the patient got a good result.

The better the staff, the less time the physician needed to spend with the patient during the consultation.


Though the above responses were interesting, I needed to probe deeper to define what goes into making a good practice.

In the process, I learned that patient preferences varied greatly.

For example, some interviewees thought an attractive, well-designed office indicated pride and success; others believed that such an office was intimidating and uncomfortable.

Whereas some said the physician seemed rushed and did not spend enough time with them, others said too much time was spent and they wondered why the physician wasn’t busier.

Some responded that the physician was quite thorough in explaining the available procedures, while others believed they had been oversold and confused by having been offered too many options.

I probed further and asked, bottom line, why they chose a particular physician over others.

The consistent answer was that the patient felt a “connection” with their chosen physician—they followed their gut feeling and developed a rapport with him or her. In addition, they trusted that their particular physician understood them and would give them the best possible result.


Rapport is vital and important to understand, but it is difficult to define. You either have it with your patient or you don’t.

Rapport is the bond you build with your prospective patient—the single most important personality skill an aesthetic physician needs in order to be successful. You build rapport through words, tone, and gestures, as only 7% of what you communicate is done verbally; 38% of your communication is done via your tone of voice, and a whopping 55% happens via your body language.

Essential Learning Styles

Your prospective patients will exhibit one or more of three different learning styles:

  • Visually oriented people want to see the results.
  • Auditory people want to hear about the results.
  • Kinesthetic people want to touch and feel the results.

Usually, one mode will dominate their decision-making and learning processes, so be prepared to present your consultative message in a way that gets through to the patient in a mode they can best understand.

The easiest way for that to happen is to include all three modes of learning during each patient consultation.

You want to present something visual, something auditory, and something kinesthetic.

Keys to Ideal Patient Consultation

  • Look him or her in the eye while shaking hands.
  • Spend the time to learn more about the patient as a person.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Determine her awareness of the entire aesthetic surgery process.
  • Always show respect for her.
  • Use terms that a layperson would understand.
  • Qualify and differentiate yourself.
  • Do not bad-mouth your colleagues.
  • Prepare and rehearse a natural-sounding closing statement.

How does one create rapport? The aesthetic patient wants to feel special, period. When a patient is spending their own money and time on elective aesthetic enhancement, they want to be treated respectfully, professionally, and kindly by every person they encounter in the practice. They also want to be heard and understood. An old saying goes, “Before you can be understood, you must work to understand,” and that is truly the case here.

We build rapport by creating or discovering things that we have in common with the patient.

That can be as simple as talking with the patient about who referred them to your practice or learning more about their profession and their family.

Show an interest in the prospective patient as a person first and as a patient second. You can easily get this information from the patient information form sitting right in front of you. Just glance at it before entering the exam room.

Another way to build rapport is to “mirror” the patient. In other words, mimic your patient’s breathing patterns, posture, tonality, and gestures in a discreet way.

In general, people feel comfortable with anyone they believe are like them. Mirroring can make that happen.

For example, if the patient talks fast, then you talk fast. If the patient talks loudly, then you talk loudly. If the patient is meek and quiet, you should slow down your voice’s rhythm and cadence.

In addition, you can use the same terms and phrases the patient uses. Be sure to avoid any jargon that the patient won’t understand.

If done correctly, the patient will make a mental and emotional connection with you and believe as if they have found someone—you—who understands them and can relate to them.

That will happen after you have developed the needed rapport and the patient believes that you are the right physician to handle his or her procedure(s).


When I asked the surveyed patients how they knew their expectations were being met, their concerns were being addressed, and their physician’s recommendations were being explained adequately, I got different answers.

Why? Because people exhibit one or more of three different learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Visually oriented people want to see the results. Auditory people want to hear about the results. Kinesthetic people want to touch and feel the results.

All of us use elements of these three modes, but usually one mode dominates our decision-making and learning processes, as well as how we perceive our surroundings. You should present your message in a way that gets through to the patient in a mode they can best understand.

The easiest way for that to happen is to include all three modes of learning during each patient consultation.

You want to present something visual, something auditory, and something kinesthetic.

Show the patient what is involved in his or her procedure(s), and let him hear your message—subsequently, he may attach feelings to your presentation.

Example: use your hand, your mirror, and a Q-tip to show patients facial skin-lifting procedural results.

Show her before-and-after photo albums of patients who were striving for similar results; especially those who share the same age, gender, and ethnicity.

By the way, patients I spoke with overwhelmingly desired computer imaging to illustrate results. In addition, playing videos of procedures and taped patient testimonials are good aids, especially when explaining complex procedures.

A majority of prospective patients will be interested in speaking with your former satisfied patients.

For kinesthetic or touch-oriented people, be sure that you hand them information packets that allow them to rifle through pages that include any press you’ve received, articles you’ve written, your credentials, your practice brochure—anything they can touch and feel.


Just as you try to tailor your treatment to fit the unique features of your patients, tailoring your consultation to your patient’s unique personality will increase your closing ratio.

While there is no “perfect consultation” that works 100% of the time, most of the time your success with a prospective patient depends on using the following elements during your consultation:

  • Knock on the door gently, greet the patient by name, and introduce yourself as you look him or her in the eye while shaking hands.
  • Spend the time to learn more about the patient as a person. Comment on her occupation or, perhaps, the person who referred them (you should be able to get that information from your patient information form).
  • Hand them a mirror while asking an open-ended question, such as “What can I do for you today?” and “What brings you in to see me?”
  • Listen carefully to her, nod, look her in the eye, and take notes so she knows you are paying attention to her.
  • Ask open-ended questions to determine if her expectations are reasonable, if the results can be achieved safely, and if she is rational about the various stages in the process.
  • Determine her current awareness of the entire aesthetic surgery process. A very useful question to ask is, “What is most important to you when picking an cosmetic physician?” or, “What are you looking for in a cosmetic physician?” You also can ask, “Have you talked with anyone else and, if so, what can I tell you that you don’t already know?”
  • Be sure she completely and thoroughly relays her concerns to you before you respond to them. It can be very tempting to interrupt her too soon with your own recommendations. Keep that temptation in check as she talks, and consciously listen to her with your undivided attention.
  • Always show respect for the patient. Even though you are the expert and know more, arrogance does not sell. If you come across as demeaning or condescending, you’ll drive away the prospective patient.
  • Use terms that a layperson would understand, be concise, and keep it simple. A confused patient will decide to do nothing, so don’t offer her too many choices.
  • Repeat your main points—such as the intended outcomes to procedures and answers to her concerns—and then ask her if you have left anything out.
  • Qualify and differentiate yourself. The prospective patient needs to know you are the best physician in comparison with the competition. Perhaps you recently gave a talk on such-and-such procedure or wrote an article on a procedure that is of interest to her. The point is to show off your expertise.
  • Look her in the eye to let her know you are confident, skilled, and experienced. For instance, you have performed many of these surgeries or treatments with excellent results, and you will do the same for her.
  • Reassure her that you can meet her expectations. Let her know that you understand her concerns and fears, and that she can trust you and your recommendations.
  • Do not bad-mouth your colleagues—such behavior puts you in a bad light and makes you look worse than your competition.
  • Prepare and rehearse a natural-sounding closing statement. Tell the patient you look forward to working with her to help her look her best, and that you hope to see her again soon.

By treating every prospective patient as a person first and a patient second, you are well on your way to a good patient consultation.

Developing rapport, gaining trust, and reassuring your patients that you are the appropriate physician for them will increase your closing ratios as well as your word-of-mouth referrals.

Catherine Maley, MBA, is the president of San Francisco-based Cosmetic Image Marketing, a public relations, advertising, and marketing firm that specializes in helping aesthetic practices grow. She is author of Your Aesthetic Practice: A Complete Guide, which includes survey results of what aesthetic patients want and do not want, as well as how to market your aesthetic practice. She can be reached at (877) 339-8833 or