Client experience is perhaps the most-talked-about aspect of owning a physical therapy practice — and likely the least understood.
A majority of PT practice owners only associate “client experience” with the interactions they have when they’re physically IN the clinic. In fact, you could even refine that further: most physical therapy practice owners believe that client experience is exclusive to what happens during treatment, and everything else is just “business.”
The healthcare industry, burdened by high volume and demand, has reduced the client experience down to the precious minutes you get to spend with your practitioner… and everything else becomes commonplace, mundane, and tedious.
For private practice PT owners, and especially those that operate out-of-network, the industry has set the bar so low on client experience that you can dramatically stand out with a few simple adjustments and by broadening your view of your client’s journey.
The Client Experience Journey
Contrary to popular belief, the client experience doesn’t begin when they first enter your office and speak with your front desk…
The client journey starts the moment they hear, read, or see your business for the first time. It might be a Google ad, a table at a local event, or a blog you’ve written in the past.
Whatever that first touchpoint is, your prospective client will “know” you well before you know them.
Take Google reviews, for instance. If you have tons of 5-star reviews, your client will be excited to call your office, hoping to have the same experience. If you have wide ranging ratings and reviews, your client might choose to come to your practice because of proximity, but they are coming with hesitancy.
The point here is that once a client reaches your front desk, they are already well into their experience and have formulated expectations and opinions about you and your brand.
Sadly, few companies focus on what happens before the client first walks through the door. In my experience, what happens before the first evaluation sets the stage for everything that happens afterwards. It is that important.
And that’s not all — the client experience also occurs between treatments and after a plan of care.
Let’s put this into context…
Think of your favorite restaurant. Before you get to your reservation, you’re likely thinking about what you’re going to order, what it’s going to taste like, which table you’re going to sit at, and remembering how much fun you had the last time you went.
That expectation and excitement is what puts you in the right emotional state to allow a great experience to happen.
Then, after your amazing meal, you ride home talking about it, immediately tell your family, talk about it with your friends at spin class, and already start thinking about when you should go back again.
Your business has the opportunity to CREATE a world-class client experience by understanding the psychology that happens at every stage of the client journey.
And lucky for you, I’ve mapped it all out so you don’t have to.
Non-Negotiable Parts of a Phenomenal Client Experience
1. Create and control the expectation before their first visit using brand-specific, direct marketing.
When your marketing speaks to everyone, it speaks to no one. Bland, non-specific marketing messages fall short because they don’t make clients feel like they belong at your company.
A great example is AirBNB. When you search for a vacation rental, there are specific headlines about each home, detailed descriptions of the history of each home, what’s inside, what it’s near, and how you’ll feel while staying there.
Then the pictures take it over the top, because you can envision yourself and your family creating lasting memories.
When you can tailor your marketing messages, you will attract the exact people that can thrive by using your brand.
2. Provide education and value before you provide any treatment.
Once prospective clients have seen your marketing, you’ll want to continue the relationship by providing specific education to help them understand their problem and get a few “quick wins.”
This good faith lets clients know that you genuinely care for them, and they gain a better understanding of your company and what you can do for them even before coming in for treatment. Already, this puts them in the mindset that you’re the type of company that goes the extra mile for their clients.
3. Differentiate yourself and delight the client with the first phone call.
For most healthcare companies, the first phone call is about obtaining basic information from your prospective client like their name, insurance, and a doctor’s referral. Although this might be necessary, it should NOT be the focus of the first call.
Imagine calling Disney to book a dream vacation for your family and the first thing they ask for is your credit card information. Not much of a magical experience…
The first phone call should be about building a relationship. Get to know your client, ask about their goals, the problems they’re facing, what they’ve tried before, and why they’ve specifically called your office. If these calls don’t last at least 10 minutes, you’re missing an opportunity to immediately differentiate yourself from all other healthcare providers.
I know that 10 minutes (minimum) sounds like a lot, but there’s a method to the madness!
After this first phone call, your prospective clients should be saying to themselves, “I can’t wait to meet (name of front desk person), they were so nice.” They should be as excited to meet your team as they are to work with you.
4. Nurture the expectation before the first treatment.
Once a client decides to work with you, don’t just wait for them to come in. Take the opportunity to build excitement prior to the visit.
This can come in many forms. You can send them a hand-written card letting them know how excited you are to meet them. You could also send a small, personalized gift to welcome them to the family.
Whatever you choose, the point is that you can control their excitement and expectations before their visit, versus just waiting for them to show up in whatever mood they want to be in.
5. The treatment is about THEM, not you!
To create an ideal experience with the treatment you provide, it has to align perfectly with their goals.
Clients are not interested in what level Graston, PRI, or DNS practitioner you are. They just care about the fastest and easiest path to achieve what they want to do.
Ultimately, you can have as high-level expertise as you’d like, but if you don’t focus on what THEY want to get out of their care, your treatment won’t be as effective as it could be..
It is so important to know, in detail, what your client’s goals are. It isn’t just about running pain-free — it is running a pain-free, 45-minute 10k at the local race to hit a new PR. Remembering the little details will go a long way in enhancing their treatment experience.
6. Inspire and motivate between sessions.
Physical therapy and rehab medicine can be challenging, and it often makes your muscles sore. Those feelings aren’t usually associated with a phenomenal client experience… unless they are framed in the right light.
Education and motivation between sessions with blogs and videos can go a long way in keeping a client on track and excited for the next step.
When you provide context behind why their exercises feel hard or why they’re feeling sore, you remind them of the big picture. Progress can present itself in many different ways, and it’s important to validate their concerns while also normalizing it as part of their progression.
7. Create a lifelong relationship by never discharging the client.
In school, we are all taught that clients should be discharged so they can be “independent” in caring for themselves. I believe independence is the right goal; however, in my experience, clients want a lifelong relationship with their healthcare providers.
Because honestly, it’s hard to find great physical therapists. Clients don’t want to go on the search for another provider — there is too much risk in getting it wrong. It’s your job to create a brand that understands them.
Coming to PT isn’t a transaction, but rather a sharing of common goals that will transform as they transition through life.
As you can see, the client experience journey is so much more than just providing the treatment. Take a close look at your own brand and find places where you can create “wow” experiences that will differentiate you from your competition and create lifelong, raving fans.