Use Disney’s “Guestology” to Upgrade the Patient Experience

For decades now, industries have been borrowing each other’s ideas to stay ahead in the market. Smart marketing techniques—coupled with research-based knowledge—have been known to work wonders for business development.  But unlike other industries, healthcare (particularly physician practices) often seems behind the curve in in everything from technology to staff retention.

Taking a cue from successful businesses in other industries can benefit your own practice. You don’t have to stay mired in ‘the way it’s always been done.’ You can adapt optometric business solutions based on ideas from powerhouses like The Walt Disney Company and apply them to the everyday problems that are holding your practice back. Here’s how:

Create a next-level patient experience through the ‘Be Our Guest’ concept.

Walt Disney’s philosophy about how he wanted to serve his guests was simple,” notes Peter Shaw-McMinn, OD, who advised eye care providers on implementing Disney-style management at 2016’s Vision Expo West conference. “Keep it clean, keep it friendly, make it a real fun place to be.” The result is a guest experience that keeps park patrons—and their wallets—returning again and again.

Disney has turned managing the guest experience into an art and a science, aptly termed “Guestology.” It works, (Disney reported its sixth year of record earnings in 2016), and it can work for your eye care practice, too. Ready to brush up on your “Guestology” studies? Start with these three concepts:

Know when you’re on stage.

Disney guests don’t want to overhear Aladdin complain about his killer hangover. Disney employees (aka cast members) are on stage whenever they are in view—or within earshot—of guests, Shaw-McMinn explains. On stage, cast members aren’t allowed to have a bad day. They’re expected to leave their problems at the door, staying in character at all times.

It should be the same at your eye care practice. Delineate on-stage and off-stage areas for your staff members. If they need to have a snack, vent about a difficult patient, or talk their teenager through the latest Snapchat-induced crisis, make sure it takes place off-stage.

Seek out interactions.

Disney cast members go out of their way to engage and interact with guests—they don’t avoid them. For example, if a cast member notices a family struggling to fit everyone into their selfie, he offers to be the photographer. Guests who visit to celebrate a birthday or special event are given a button to wear. The button invites special treatment and fanfare everywhere they go.

Let’s be honest. The pace of operations in your eye care practice can make patients seem like an inconvenience at times. But remember: your patients are the reason you have a job, and the reason your practice exists. So next time you’re tempted to rush past a patient in the hallway, don’t. Instead, slow down, smile, and say hello. If you notice in a patient’s chart that it’s close to their birthday, wish them well. Making patients feel special and cared for makes all the difference.

Rethink where the magic begins.

The Disney experience starts in an unexpected place—the parking lot. The lot is clean, security is visible, signage is obvious, and cast members are everywhere. Why does Disney dedicate so many resources to such a utilitarian space? They know that a bad first impression is notoriously difficult to overcome. For example, if a guest navigates the 100+ acre lot, is greeted by litter on ground, then treks a mile to the park entrance, it’s going to take a whole lot of “magic” to get them back to happy.

Likewise, your patients’ experience doesn’t begin in the exam chair, or even in the waiting room. It may begin on your website, with a phone call, and yes, in your parking lot. Take the time to identify all the places that a “first impression” could occur. Then, make sure your practice is represented well. Is your website difficult to navigate? Is there enough lighting in your parking lot? How about all those dusty plants and outdated magazines in your lobby? It’s easy to overlook these details, but make an effort to see things with fresh eyes, like a patient would.

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