By Jennifer L. Stewart, OD
Jan. 19, 2022
Your practice can always use wisdom from businesses outside of optometry that are a huge success. One such business, many times over, is Disney. As a long-time Disney fan, I have learned why the company is so successful in its approach to customer experience, and have tried to apply some aspects of the Disney way of doing things to my practice. Here are the key Disney takeaways that are making my practice a better place for both patients and our staff.
Create a Patient Experience that Generates Tremendous Loyalty
Disney has extremely loyal fans, with an over 70 percent return rate of first-time guests. This is a great metric for optometry practices–or any business–to aspire to. Disney treats every guest as a VIP. The company seems to understand the needs of each person visiting the park and tries to create a personalized experience. Disney also empowers its cast members (staff) to go above and beyond with guests by extensively training them and making sure every single cast member knows the Disney values.
My practice has a high rate of return from our patients, like Disney! We don’t advertise. All new patients come to us via word-of-mouth referrals. We consistently have a large new patient percentage, which tells me that the experience we are cultivating is driving our patients to refer their friends and family.
Take Time to Train Your Staff & Create a Seamless Patient Experience
New staff members often get thrown on the job and learn by observing in OD practices. Can we design and develop a true staff training protocol and program? Does your practice have a mission statement? If not, now is the time to develop one. Each employee should not only know what that mission statement is, but how each of their roles is important to upholding that mission statement to create the ultimate patient experience.
Disney creates an immersive experience. We know there is a lot going on behind the scenes, but it is hidden well (under the Magic Kingdom!) Can OD practices “hide” the day-to-day work in an optometry practice to give patients more attention while they are there? This may involve having a “phone bank,” where calls are answered in the back or offsite, so a front-desk employee is always available for a patient.
Billing and coding can also be done at another location to eliminate paper and distraction. Can you eliminate clutter (both physical and sensory) to change the patient experience? Does your staff have a “uniform” that lets patients know who they are, complete with a name tag? Our office switched to black scrubs and name tags last year, and the feedback from patients has been extremely positive. They remark that we look “clean and put together” and easily identifiable. Many have said we look like “a high-end spa,” which is exactly the vibe we want! It also has made policing staff dress code much simpler.
“On-stage” and “off-stage” are such important parts of the Disney experience. If we were to see cast members arriving for work, or a pirate in Fantasyland, part of the Disney magic would be lost. For me, part of the wonder of Disney is the complete immersion in where you are. While our staff may not be changing into Mickey Mouse costumes, understanding the difference between on-stage and off-stage is key for our practices.
Cell phones and personal belongings are off-stage props- they have no place on the front desk or in front of a patient. If I walked into an office and a staff member didn’t greet me because they were texting, the experience would already be lost and I would not be a repeat “guest.” We often talk about this at staff meetings. We all have personal lives and issues that occupy our minds, but these belong “off-stage” while at work.
My scribes know I pause before I enter each exam room. I stop, take a breath, put everything out of my mind other than the patient in the chair, and smile as I walk into the exam room. This is my “on stage,” so I make sure I am present and in the moment with that patient in that moment.
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Small Changes that Cost Little-to-Nothing But Make a Huge Impact
What do you see when you first walk in the office? Is it easy to know as a new patient where to go? Do staff greet patients right away, or are they often on the phone or away from their desk? Do they greet patients by name, as though they were expecting them? Every cast member I have ever interacted with in Disney has been pleasant, informative and goes out of their way to help.
Does the office smell the way you’d like? In Disney World, each area has a specific scent that is specifically added to make you feel and act a certain way, and is authentic. “Main Street” has a smell that is distinct from Frontierland, and each play a part in setting the experience.
What do you hear when you walk into your office? Staff chatting, phone calls, or is there a background music that sets the tone for your office? I am listening to Disney World music as I type this! Music can immerse you in the environment you want, and is powerful!
Is the lighting bright and flattering to patients in the optical? Is there garbage on the floor or tables? (This is a big no in Disney, which places garbage cans nearly everywhere). All of the above ideas cost little-to-nothing, and can do wonders to boosting your patients’ experience.
The Metrics to Track to See if You Are Getting Closer to the Disney Way
Are you looking to grow your new patients? Start tracking that metric, and see if you notice in uptick of referrals based on your new focus on creating the “experience.” Are you trying to cultivate a more “high-end” patients? What changes can be made in the office (design, smells, frame selection) to draw these patients in?
Track your average frame sale and per patient revenue to ensure your strategy is working. Are you looking to add a treatment/specialty to your practice (dry eye, aesthetics?) What can you do to make patients aware of this in your office, and then track revenue? Are you looking to increase your Google Reviews posted by satisfied and happy patients? Can you set a target number of Google Reviews you’d like to have per month? Start with your practice mission statement – what does your practice aim to do? Educate your staff, make changes in your office to set the stage, and monitor metrics!
Join me at IDOC Connection, Feb. 24-26, in Orlando, Fla., as I delve further into this topic in my course, “Adding Pixie Dust To Your Practice- Mastering the Art of Customer Service.”
Jennifer Stewart, OD, is a partner at Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn, and the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of Performance 20/20, a sports and performance training center. She also provides advisory services and consulting to the optometric community through her company, OD Perspectives. She can be reached at email@example.com.