I had the pleasure of attending an educational conference at Disney World two weeks ago. It was a fantastic meeting with a great sense of sharing of ideas among the doctors and staff who attended. We enjoyed an excellent keynote speaker from the Disney Institute, Chris Caracci, who specializes in applying the Disney principles to health care. Chris shared a concept that I absolutely loved and I introduced it to the staff in my practice when I returned. The concept is that many companies and staff members say they go the extra mile for the customer, but it is far more effective to go the extra inch.
We have all been saying that phrase in my practice frequently ever since I heard it. Go the extra inch. The beauty of this concept is that we can all do some small thing for a patient that will be meaningful. We can actually make the small things happen. If we think of providing very big things, like an extra mile, we probably won't do them at all. We can go the extra inch many times throughout the day and we can do it many times in various ways for many people. And the small details make a huge difference in the patient's experience.
Here are a few examples of how our practice goes the extra inch:
A patient walked into our optical dispensary without an appointment. Our optician greeted her with a big smile and a warm handshake and said "Hello, Mrs. Smith! It is so nice to see you again! How can we help today?" He was truly delighted to see her. The optician knew the power of using a person's name and making her feel important, but he was completely sincere about it. Most staff members never use the patient's name, even though they know it.
We had a cold, windy, snowy day recently in the Chicago area. I saw (through my window) one of our technicians walking an elderly patient out to her car, holding her arm firmly. Our tech did not even have a coat on!
Our receptionist went into the waiting area and informed a patient that the doctor was running a few minutes late. She apologized for the delay and asked if she could get the patient a cup of coffee or tea.
A female patient was trying on frames, assisted by one of our opticians. Another staff member, who was not busy, walked past and stopped to tell the patient how cute she looked in that new frame style. A third staff member saw this and joined the group and soon they were all enjoying the excitement of choosing new glasses.
Every pair of glasses we dispense is delivered on a velvet tray with a chocolate truffle candy. There are no job tickets or plastic bags involved.
A patient arrived at our front desk with two young spirited children. The young mom commented that she knew she was late for her appointment (about 30 minutes late actually). Our receptionist smiled warmly and gave her an understanding nod and said "Don't worry about a thing. We're glad you're here now and we'll get you in for your exam as soon as possible. Hi kids! Here are two coloring books about visiting the eye doctor. Would you like to sit at that table and color? We also have a cool train set over there you can play with."
A staff member calls every patient about one week after they pick up their new glasses and says something like this: "Hello, Mr. Jones, this is Sandy at Gailmard Eye Center. The doctor wanted me to call and check to see how you are enjoying your new eyewear?"
After introducing this concept to your staff, ask them to take note of the various ways your practice goes the extra inch and to bring them to the next staff meeting. When you see a staff member doing a nice thing for a patient or co-worker, tell her "Way to go the extra inch!" Encourage all your staff to say that phrase to their co-workers when appropriate. Make "Go the extra inch" your new mantra in the office.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week