Patient Loyalty Lessons What makes a positive patient experience and how do we consistently deliver this experience to our patients? Customer service is more than a smile and good eye contact. Patients are looking for someone to quickly, efficiently, and confidently take care of them and their need. If there is a problem, they want someone who can resolve the issue.

Having been both a cast member (employee) and guest (customer) of Walt Disney World, it is apparent they work very hard at creating a positive memorable guest experience. They know the true measure of success is repeat business. Through both quantitative and qualitative analysis of who their guests are and their expectations, they orchestrate the customer experience to ensure their guests consistently have a safe and happy visit. While going to the hospital is not the same as going to Walt Disney World, there are some lessons that can be applied to how we look at the way we orchestrate the patient experience in the healthcare field.

Look Through the ‘Lens of the Patient’

An engaged, caring staff raises the patient’s confidence in the institution. The patient trusts that when a physician discusses a procedure, it’s done with the patient’s needs at heart. On the other hand, if the patient senses a lack of caring, he or she questions the motives behind any procedure discussion.

All employees should consider two simple questions when interacting with patients:

  1. What are the emotions?
  2. What are the needs?

By understanding patients’ emotions first, and then meeting their needs, employees will be in a better position to create an emotional bond. For example, at WDW, they have studied their guests’ emotions and know that most guests have been planning their vacation for a couple of years. By the time they arrive on that first day, their emotions are sky high with enthusiasm and excitement. So they train the cast members working at the front gates to match that enthusiasm in their smiles and voice tone. Disney also knows that by the end of the day, you and your family are exhausted and tired, so cast members working at the exit gates are trained to send you off in a more subdued manner and tone.

Are the emotions and needs of a young woman having a baby the same as the emotions and needs of a 77-year-old man recovering from a stint procedure? Obviously not. In most cases, the young woman is excited and happy, while the older man is anxious and nervous. Hospital staff needs to be able to reflect and meet those emotions appropriately.

‘Everything Speaks’ in Your Physical Environment

Everything patients see, hear, smell, and touch impacts their experience. Imagine a patient entering your parking lot and seeing an overflowing trash receptacle or a lack of clear signage to check-in. It detracts from your organization’s image before they even meet your employees.

Consciously or unconsciously, the patient receives an impression of your organization. As a healthcare facility, the message your physical environment needs to send is one of professionalism, care, trust, and order. At Walt Disney World, this concept of “Everything Speaks” is referred to as on-stage and off-stage. Every cast member is trained to realize the moment they step into a guest area, they are on-stage. Everything they do and say will be watched by the guests. Any actions that would take away from the guest experience are only to take place in off-stage areas.

All hospital staff must understand it is their responsibility to help keep up the physical environment where they work. It is impossible for one person to be the one constantly policing the area and picking up the trash. Recognizing the details of personal appearance, work area, and common areas will impact the patient experience and ensure the right message is being sent all the time.

Create Patient ‘Wows’ to Exceed Expectations

Meeting patients’ expectations may satisfy them, but exceeding their expectations will set your organization apart and create value. Much like at Walt Disney World, where the characters look for opportunities to make moments special (often without a lot of heavy lifting), your employees can do the same.

Remembering details of a patient’s family is a huge wow. It shows you pay attention to them as people. Recognizing patients’ time and apologizing if running behind schedule is important, too. Things like that or calling a patient the day after a big procedure to check in are little things that make the difference and create the impression that you care.

Now Put It All Together to Achieve Service Excellence

Excellent service starts with looking through the lens of the patient, paying attention to the details in your environment, and empowering employees to create little wows. When an entire team is focused on the principles of excellent service, the results can be outstanding, as you often see with Walt Disney World. Your patients and employees will be happy. The key is to make excellent service a habit.

Hear more from Teri and learn how you can unleash excellence at your healthcare organization when she presents the keynote at Talent Symposium 2017. Register today!HealthcareSource Talent Symposium

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About Teri Yanovitch, Author & Talent Symposium 2017 Keynote Speaker

Customer service expert Teri Yanovitch has been on the frontline of the customer experience for more than three decades. Author of the acclaimed "Unleashing Excellence - The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service", she is a former customer service ambassador for the Walt Disney Company (a gold standard in customer service). She is also a former regional trainer of the southeast U.S. for the Hertz Corporation and is widely regarded as a leading authority in the field. Teri's passion is to engrain service excellence into the fabric of the organization so that every employee understands customer service is not an either/or proposition, nor an add-on to their job, but it IS their job. Combining a memorable customer experience with giving the customer what was promised is a winning combination that Teri honed while working with the noted guru of quality management, Philip Crosby and the Quality College, and her years as a seminar speaker at the Disney Institute. Today, she instills the service excellence culture within organizations to enhance the customer experience.