The Truth About The Perfect Patient Experience

I talk about core lessons inside Pat Flynn's "Superfans" and translate them into how you can apply them as an osteopath.

Podcast Transcript

We’ve all been told that you’ve got to create the perfect patient experience, but what does that actually mean?

When I first heard about creating the perfect patient experience back when I first graduated back in 2017, I remember thinking, as I’m sure many of you also thought, ‘oh, that makes sense, that sounds like a good idea – where do I start and what kinds of things can I do to create a perfect experience for my patients? How can I make my treatments better so more people will talk about me?’

And that’s where I got stuck. I was trying to find examples specific to osteopaths and all I could come across was ‘you’ve got to think about the perfect patient experience and make sure that your staff and practitioners, including yourself keeps it in mind’. And I thought to myself: “Right, what am I meant to do with that?” It was and still is useless advice quite frankly. Nothing specific, no examples and super vague. Unless you bought whatever they were selling obviously.

That’s what we’re on a mission to change here at Osteohustle. We believe it’s time to do things differently. We share what others hide behind a paywall.

Superfans by Pat Flynn is one of my favourite books about the perfect patient experience. Not only is it practical, it’s easy to translate into the context of how you can use what he talks about as an osteopath. He also gets you thinking a little differently about the perfect patient experience.

He says you need to create what he calls superfans – people who are the lifeblood of your business – he says:“ build a set of superfans, and no matter what happens, they’ll always be there for you…Instead of spending money on ads, spend more time on people. Instead of worrying about the latest growth hacks and trends, worry about identifying and addressing the biggest pains and problems in your target audience. Instead of figuring out how to optimise your conversion rates, figure out how to connect authentically with your audience and make them feel special”.

And that’s the perfect patient experience in a nutshell. What can you do to connect authentically with your patients and potential patients and make them feel heard, understood and appreciated.

The bottom line is that whether we like to admit it or not, what the traditional business world call customer service, is a huge part of what we do as osteopaths. And this is beyond what can do clinically in terms of getting results for our patients, it’s everything else about how we make people feel.

So, if you want to create the perfect patient experience and build a business that can get you through even the hardest of times, don’t miss this episode.

Welcome back to Behind The Osteopath. My name is Alan Zaia, I’m an osteopath, Founder of Osteohustle where we plan, build and grow dream careers for osteopaths.

At Osteohustle, you can find your identity with branding, attract patients from Google with websites and grow your business with coaching.

First, a huge thank you to everyone who’s got involved in the Q&A section, emailed me, shared on episodes on social platforms – thank you so much.

With that being said, if you enjoy the episodes, if you can, please leave a 5 star review. If you want to connect with me, my email is in the description or if you’re on your phone, click on the episode, scroll down and you’ll find a Q&A section.

You Just Need 1000 True Fans

Early in the book, Pat talks about how when he first built his business in late 2008, he came across an essay called 1000 True Fans written by Kevin Kelly, who was the senior editor at Wired. I first read that article in 2018 when I was reading Tools of Titians by Tim Ferriss, I’ll link the article in the description so you can read it because it’s fantastic.

“As I was starting my business in late 2008, I came across an essay called 1000 true fans written by Kevin Kelly, senior editor at Wired. His thesis was this: if you had just 1000 true fans (which he defines as a fan that will buy anything you produce) and each of those true fans, provided $100 profit per year on your art, your craft, your work, well, there’s your six-figure business, right there!

The point is that it’s overwhelming to think about how many patients your need to attract into your practice. But when you think of it as working towards 1000 patients who bring $100 of profit into the clinic each year, that’s a lot more manageable.

Or, another way Pat puts it “You don’t need to change the entire world to build a successful business; you just need to change somebody’s world”.

The Pyramid Of Fandom

Now at this point, Pat says that it’s important to know that: “People don’t become superfans the moment they find you. They become superfans because of the magical moments you create for them over time.

This is where he introduces what he calls the Pyramid of Fandom – it’s a triangle made up of people who know about your brand.

Imagine a triangle in your mind split into 4 sections.

At the very bottom, you have your Casual Audience. These are the people who don’t find you because they know you, but rather via a recommendation, a link someone shared with them or your website for example.

Pat says: “They are usually there because you’ve provided something useful or to get an answer. They do little research before either sticking around or leaving to find better answers elsewhere”.

I’m interpreting this as people who either:

  • Land on your website, socials, maybe they walk by the front of the clinic and they think about enquiring for a second before deciding it’s not for them and move on.
  • Choose to see you but more out of lack of options more than anything else.

This is obviously a catastrophic place to be because you’re either not resonating with people enough to peak their interest or if they do stick around, it won’t be for long as soon as they find a better alternative. Say from a new clinic opening for example, they’ll stop seeing you and are very unlikely to come back or recommend you to the people they know.

I know this happens all the time because I cannot tell you the about of times osteopaths have said that they tend to see patients who have been to every other manual therapist in the area.

Of course there’s nuance to this, like they just didn’t like the practitioner’s approach, but the point is that you have to do everything you can to resonate with people, make them feel something and do everything in your power to make sure that they aren’t just sticking around for your clinical skills. They want everything else, they want the complete experience.

Next up is your Active Audience. These are people know you but are quiet and it takes effort for them to speak up or take action. What this means is that they’re patients of yours but they don’t do much, if any, advocating about you to the people they know. They live locally and don’t come to book in unless they absolutely have to. You can also find these people on your email list or social media, they watch but they very rarely reply, book in, call or comment on your social media posts.

Above that is your Connected Community. These are the people who like what you do and have referred one or two people to you over the years. These are the people who are friends with someone who gets treated by you and they actively talk about their experience. When you’re thinking of trying something new like offering a new service, you may ask these people what they think because their opinion matters.

And at the very top are superfans. These people are fantastic advocators for your business. They’ll refer everyone they can. They love your expertise and will listen to everything you recommend them to do. They follow you on social media, like, comment and share loads of your content. They read your blogs, newsletters – they support you in whatever way they can.

So that’s the Pyramid of Fandom, you can see that not everyone is the same.

And what’s different about this book is that Pat structures the book around how to take people from one part of the Pyramid of Fandom to the next. Something I’d never read before. So, let’s dive into each chapter, starting with taking someone from being in the Casual Audience section to Active Audience.

Casual Audience to Active Audience

As a reminder, your Casual Audience passers by and patients likely to go somewhere else given the chance. Whereas your Active Audience like what you do, refer a few people but are quiet and you probably don’t see them often.

Pat says: “To move people from casual to active, you need to create a moment of activation – something that connects them to you and makes them go ‘oh, that’s different, and I like it.’ You need to speak to people in a way that understand and appreciate, addressing their needs and pain points in the right language.

He goes through 5 strategies for how to do that and I’m going to talk about my favourite called ‘Learn The Lyrics’.

Building a strong, successful brand is about solving peoples problems. Step one is to know what those problems are, but step two, so often underrated, and overlooked, is to know exactly how those people describe their problems…Jay Abraham, who was big in the marketing world back in the 70s, once said, “If you can to describe a problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution.”

This makes total sense, right because they’re saying “they get me, they understand what I’m going though, what I’m trying to overcome and they have the ability to help.”

So, an essential part of creating the perfect patient experience is to first understand them better than they do and tell them in ways they understand aka plain English. This means no musculoskeletal, no medial, lateral epicondylitis etc.

Pat says: “once in awhile, I even reach out to 10 people on my email list to have an open conversation about what they’re dealing with in their own business and how I could better serve them.

You can do exactly the same thing but with your patients, and it doesn’t have to be over email. Simply keep a record of the exact language they use during their initial consultation. Over a period of time, you’ll have a record of how people describe living with back pain, shoulder pain, arthritis etc. Then you can use it in your marketing to attract people who feel the same!

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Active Audience to Connected Community

Let’s move on to getting people from your Active Audience to your Connected Community. Remember, your Active Audience like what you do but they are quiet and you probably don’t see them often. Whereas your Connected Community are people who like what you do and have referred one or two people to you over the years, but they’re not totally helping others find you quite like what a superfan does.

What you have to know here is that people want to feel like they belong. Now Pat talks a lot about getting how your Connected Community is where a there’s a connection between each member. Think of it like football fanbase. Fans of the biggest football club in the world, Plymouth Argyle, will come together to talk about everything Argyle both in-person and online. They’re separate fans but they do come together and talk about the thing that unites them.

Now, for osteopaths, we can’t think on that sort of level, but we can take inspiration from it. For example, if you have a thriving social media account, your followers can chat to each other on your posts. But more commonly than that, every osteopath works inside a community, whether that be a suburb, village, town etc and we all have patients who are local to that area. So your aim here is to think, how can I actively drive and push that word of mouth about me, about the practice, and people will help you do that because they want to feel like they’re helping, they want to feel a part of something, especially if they like your work!

With that being said, Pat goes through 8 strategies for how to do this. It’s worth bearing in mind that all 8 of these can be applied to osteopaths who want social media to be a big part of their marketing strategy, but for those of you who don’t want social media to be a big part of what you do, I’ll cover the one I think you’ll enjoy most which is to Stage a Gig.

Pat says: “Gigs are about the community, because community is about other people: you with them and them with each other.” So, in the osteopath world, we’re talking about bring your patients and current patients together in some form.

The most relevant suggestion Pat makes is to host a live event and you can take that idea in many different directions.

No matter the type of event you choose, what it’s about or where you have it, it’s probably going to be a mix of patients that are on your list, your patients friends, family and co-workers and locals who see the marketing for the event.

I’ve seen lots of different types of events, and have helped plenty of our business coaching clients host an event, so here’s some examples:

  • One of our clients rented a room in a gym, so presented about how to prevent injuries at the gym and what to do if you do get injured to the gym members as a part of their subscription.
  • Another one of our clients knew of a local library who have presentations as a part of their monthly events, so they organised a talk to some local library members about arthritis and keeping active.
  • I’ve seen osteopaths have a clinic event to celebrate their opening or birthday where they put on lots of things like a raffle, giveaways and of course presentations about the benefits of osteopathy.
  • Another one of our clients works inside of a leisure centre and presented once to the personal trainers and again to the parents who drop their kids off at the play centre.

Pat gives a 5-step plan which is:

  1. Decide the location.
  2. Set a date and time, then announce it to keep accountability.
  3. Put together a 3 slide presentation or Post-it notes to outline the event. This could be 3 most frequently asked questions, or offer 3 tips for how to do something related to your niche.
  4. Rehearse, especially how you start and how you end.
  5. Show up and have fun.

Connected Community to Superfan

Finally, part three of the book is all about taking your connected community and turning them into superfans.

Pat explains four ways to be able to turn people into superfans – and all four of these strategies revolve around the powerful personal things you can do to make a big impact on their experience enough so they share it passionately with others. Pat says “the key is to make things irregular and unexpected…let the money come from extraordinary service.

For context, people have no clue what it’s like to go and see an osteopath, unless they been to one before, and even then they probably think that not all osteopaths work the same and so they don’t know what to expect anyway.

The most likely expectation they have of you is that you can help them with their problem. Everything else is a clean slate. Of course they have baseline standards in the same way they have baseline standards for coffee shops and going to the cinema. So for us as osteopaths thinking about the patient experience, here’s the key phrase I want you to remember: “Let the money come from extraordinary service.” This isn’t just the treatment experience. It’s everything outside of the treatment experience.

It’s your responsibility to pay attention attention to everything related to your name, your reputation – if you care about providing the best experience possible for your patients and want to have an excellent reputation for not just being an amazing osteopath but an amazing experience as a patient, you need to pay attention to everything that has your name on it.

We’re talking about your website, social media, the photography you use for your website, socials, leaflets, posters etc, how you speak to patients on the phone, through your emails and of course, in person.

It’s about the feel of your business cards, the feel of the seats in the waiting room, the smells as they enter through the front door.

Making sure in every way possible that new patients know exactly what to expect upon arrival, where to park their car, which bus to take, which door to go through and where to wait for their appointment. Your job is to make sure that every patient doesn’t have to think about what to do because it’s been answered already.

The experience they have starts and ends with you. It’s your responsibility. Pay attention to the finest of details and it will make a significant difference as to whether or not people will recommend you.

If you think I’m being over the top, go and have a look at your local cafes and restaurants. There’s lots of them. Go and visit them and think about everything a part from the food. The standard of food is what you expect as a customer in the same way the treatment is what they expect as a patient – but it’s about everything else where you can create a competitive edge. Those small differences at the cafes and restaurants are the differences patients will notice at your practice.

Summary

I hope you found these lessons as valuable as I did. The biggest thing you can do is share it with your principal, associates, your osteo mates, share it across Facebook forums, your Instagram stories – all that good stuff.

Get involved in the Q&A section. If you’re on your phone, tap on the episode, scroll down and you’ll find it.

Subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Your career will thank you for it.

See you for the next episode. Cheers.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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