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The Disney Way: Four Service Standards for Practice Owners to Adopt

By Peter G. Shaw-McMinn, OD

July 29, 2015

“I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was ever to grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have a blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win out against all odds.” –Walt Disney speaking to studio staff Feb 10, 1941

I give a lecture called “How to Implement Disney Management into Your Practice” that applies management strategies used by Disney to optometric practices. It is based on a course you can take at Disney Institute called Disney’s Approach to Quality Service. Disney Institute was founded in 1986. Disney is the only Fortune 400 company that shares its secrets in such a manner. I encourage you to attend Disney Institute courses, which are given in Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

The Disney Quality Service Model includes the concept of quality service standards, which are operating priorities that ensure a consistent and high-quality customer experience.

Quality standards serve three fundamental purposes:
• Set organizational and staff parameters for decision-making.
• Prioritize the details of service delivery
• Allow consistent measurement of service delivery (feedback)

You can have a rule for every office occurrence, but it would result in an office manual 8 inches thick that no one could remember. Directing management styles require this. Disney gives the cast member(a Disney employee) guidelines for them to make decisions. These guidelines prioritize what is most important.

An example of a situation in the office requiring judgment may be your front desk person getting a phone call just as she was setting an appointment for someone at the desk. Who takes priority? The patient at the front desk or the patient calling on the phone? The quality service standards of your office guides your front desk person in answering this question. *(See the answer at the end of the blog)

Below are the four quality service standards used by Disney. Arrange these quality standards in order of importance to Disney. No. 1 will be the first consideration you have in making a decision; then #2, #3 and #4. In what order do you think Disney directs its cast members to use these considerations in making decisions?

Disney puts safety #1…and it is no surprise when you think about what carnivals were like back in the 1950s when they opened Disneyland. One bad accident and they are out of business! At the very least, guests (visitors to Disney parks)expect not to get hurt. Courtesy is something guests also expect.If you are rude to them, it can ruin the day for both the patient and the staff! “Show” is what many think Disney would place first, but Disney puts it at #3 after you have exceeded expectations in the other areas. Many of us in practice would put efficiency first—as doctors we tend to focus on the end product, and not on the process. The patient, however, assumes the end product is going to be correct. They focus more on the process, the experience. Disney knows this. We should, too!

Consider presenting these four quality standards to your staff, and discuss how they can relate to your office. Safety to patients often means a clean office. My son, who recently graduated from optometry school, visited many offices and told me he never realized how clean our office was until he saw others. Patients consider a clean and tidy office safe in this day of bacterial infections that do not respond to antibiotics. Should there be a quality standard “show” in your practice?

Acting and appearing as a health care provider is a minimum expected by our patients. For an optometric practice, “show” can be educating the patient on the value of examination procedures and prescribed products and services. “Show” can turn an otherwise boring experience into one the patient looks forward to in the future! And isn’t that what we want, patients who enjoy coming into our practices time and time again? What are your thoughts on this?

* ANSWER: The front desk person should attend to the phone call first. Safety comes first. The person calling may have an emergency symptom such as: “My vision has changed in one eye as if a curtain was pulled over part of it, should I be seen for this?” We have to remember that the patient standing at the front desk knows someone called, while the person on the phone cannot see what is going on in the practice. Of course, if the person standing at the front desk needs an emergency referral, they would have top priority as a safety issue.

In the end, it is the circumstances of the situation, to which you apply the quality service standards, that dictates the answer to the question.

What can your practice learn from the Disney approach to management? What do you think you need to do differently (or even better) as a health care provider?

Peter G. Shaw-McMinn, OD, is an assistant professor of Clinical Studies at the Southern California College of Optometry. He is the senior partner of Sun City Vision Center, a group practice including five optometrists. Dr. Shaw-McMinn has served as chairman of the AOA Practice Management Committee and the Association of Practice Management Educators. He was the appointed Benedict Professor in Practice Management & Administrationfor the University of Houston College of Optometry for 2001-2002. To contact: shawmc1@me.com.

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