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Six lessons from Disney: Part 2

Aug. 1, 2002
A famous story that illustrates the power of dreams. Walt Disney died before Disney World was completed. His brother, Roy, completed the project. A newspaper reporter was interviewing Roy on opening day. He asked Roy, "Isn't it a tragedy that Walt never got to see Disney World?" Roy replied, "You're wrong. Walt did see it. He saw it in his imagination. That's why you're seeing it in person now."

by Nate Booth, DDS

Click here to enlarge image

Two more lessons on how to capture the Disney magic in your dental office.

A famous story that illustrates the power of dreams. Walt Disney died before Disney World was completed. His brother, Roy, completed the project. A newspaper reporter was interviewing Roy on opening day. He asked Roy, "Isn't it a tragedy that Walt never got to see Disney World?" Roy replied, "You're wrong. Walt did see it. He saw it in his imagination. That's why you're seeing it in person now."

Walt Disney was a master at creating compelling dreams, and then influencing others to buy into his dreams. Those were the first two lessons you learned in last month's article in Dental Economics.

In this issue, you will learn lesson three, "Be Different, Be Better," and lesson four, "Know Your Guests." In next month's issue, you will learn lessons five and six, "Exceed Your Guests' Expectations" and "Give Your Guests Memorable Experiences."

If you missed the first article in this series, go to the Dental Economics web site at www.dentaleconomics. com.

Lesson 3 - Be different. Be better.

Walt Disney built a career and a company on being different and being better. From his very first silent cartoons to his crowning achievement, Disney World in Orlando, Walt insisted on uniqueness and the highest quality. Walt was paid $600 for some of his early cartoons, even though it cost him $800 to make them. When someone questioned has business sanity, Walt would reply, "They will pay more next time if these are great!" How's that for a commitment to quality?

When Walt was 26, he produced his first "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" cartoons. By contract, Universal Studios owned the legal rights to Oswald. After a disagreement, they took the rights away from Walt. He declared, "Never again will I work for somebody else!" It's extremely difficult to be the best and to be different when you work for somebody else. Maybe that's why more and more dentists are making the decision not to be controlled by insurance companies any more. They've learned that insurance companies are in business to make money for themselves. They want to force you to do the dental care they think should be done, and pay you average fees for your hard work. They don't want you to "be different" and "be better." They want you to be like every other dentist in their system.

After the Oswald the Rabbit fiasco, Walt was forced to create a new character. He decided on a mouse this time , and named him Mortimer Mouse. His wife didn't like the name and convinced him to change it to Mickey Mouse. Even though no one wanted to buy his first two silent Mickey Mouse cartoons, Walt decided to make the third one synchronized to sound. "Steamboat Willie" was the first talkie. It opened on November 18, 1928, and was an immediate success. Again, Walt's commitment to being different and being the best saved the day.

More Mickey Mouse cartoons followed. By 1931, the "Mickey Mouse Club" had over a million members worldwide. Walt pioneered merchandising agreements with manufactures when he accepted $300 to have Mickey's picture put on school writing tablets. In 1932, the first Mickey Mouse watch was made - two and a half million were sold within two years!

Next, Walt created a series of cartoons called the "Silly Symphonies." The 36th in the series was "The Three Little Pigs." The Great Depression was in full swing at the time. The wolf became the symbol of the depression and the song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," became the national rallying cry. Walt made three more cartoons based on the same pig theme. None approached the success of the first, which led Walt to repeat for years, "You can't top pigs with pigs."

In 1934, Walt decided to produce his first feature-length cartoon, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." All the nondreamers in Hollywood called it "Disney's Folly" and predicted the movie would bankrupt his company. Far from it, the two million drawings that made up Snow White produced 83 minutes of movie magic that grossed over $8 million worldwide. That's a lot at 10 cents a ticket! To this day, "Disney's Folly" is still a profit-maker because all Disney classics are rereleased every seven years for a new generation of children of all ages to enjoy.

Walt loved to take his own kids to amusement parks, but he found the parks to be lacking. They were dirty, unimaginative places filled with employees who didn't seem to care. These experiences, together with Walt's constant desire to make things better, led him to begin making plans for a park he intended to call "Mickey Mouse Park." Few people bought into his dream, so he borrowed $100,000 on his life insurance policy to get the project moving. Disneyland opened in 1955. In the first seven weeks, over one million guests visited the park! The attendance exceeded the company's targeted goals by 50 percent, and guests were spending 40 percent more than expected. It's amazing what can happen when you're different and you're the best!

"You don't just build it for yourself. You know what people want and you build it for them." Walt Disney
I see the same amazing things happen in dental offices around the country. The dentists who don't accept mediocrity and strive for superiority are creating amazing results. They provide superior care to their patients. They have superior teams. They receive superior emotional and financial rewards in return.

These dentists position themselves differently in their communities. They position themselves as the best dentists in their areas - dentists that do high quality, comprehensive dentistry that looks fantastic! Then they attract the people who want that brand of dentistry - the kind of person who walks in your door and their perception of you is the most important part of the case-acceptance process.

These superior dental offices are a "cut above" in everything they do. During the first phone call, after the patient has made the appointment, the receptionist says, "Let me be the first to welcome you to our office! You're going to love Dr. Johnson and our entire team. Is there anything you'd like to share with us that will help make your first visit more comfortable?" Isn't that much better than the mediocre statement of, "We'll see you next Tuesday at nine."

Then, a day or two before the first visit, the doctor calls each new patient and says, "Mary, this is Dr. Johnson. I understand you're coming in to see us tomorrow at nine. Joan mentioned that you… (insert some personal information, the referring person's name, or a concern of theirs). I just want you to know that we're looking forward to seeing you, and we'll take great care of you." Wow! What's the patient thinking on the other end of the line? He or she probably is thinking, "This office is different. This office is better!"

When the new client comes in, she isn't treated like a patient. She's treated like a guest - just the way Walt Disney would have wanted you to do it! When she arrives, the front-desk person doesn't stay behind the counter. She comes out and greets the new guest. Nor does the receptionist give the client a clipboard and a medical history form. Instead, she offers her some juice, bottled water, or coffee. This new guest is not asked to go over in the corner, sit down, and answer 167 semi-embarrassing questions. She is invited back to the treatment conference room, where she has a nice conversation with a staff member before getting down to business. Instead of just asking her about any dental problems she's having, the staff member "learns her story." We'll talk more about this in Lesson 4 a bit later.

After the interview, the client should view your practice in an even better light. When it comes to the examination, it should be thorough and your findings discussed in patient-friendly language. Tell the client what you see and voice your concern for any problems. As an example, don't say, "Tooth #3 has an MODBL amalgam." Say, "The upper-right first molar has an extremely large mercury/silver filling on all five sides of the tooth. Wow, the filling must take up 90 percent of the tooth! I'm really concerned because the filling could break at any time or the tooth could break away from the filling just like that one did on the upper-left side that ended up needing a root canal and a crown."

Before the patient leaves after her first visit, don't send her out the door wondering what's going to happen next. Preview the treatment-conference visit and establish everyone's roles by saying, "Mary, the next time you come in, we're going to do three things:

  1. Review your concerns and what we found in the examination today.
  2. Tell you what will happen if we don't start on a plan of action.
  3. Present a game plan to you that will provide you with what you said you wanted for your dental health and smile.

"That's my job - to present to you the very best that modern dentistry has to offer! Your job is to decide what - if anything - you want to do. You're in control here. Okay? Is there anyone else who should come with you to your next visit to hear the game plan and help you make your decision?"

When Mary comes back for the treatment conference, you keep the "We're different and better" theme going by being a consultant to her, not a salesperson. You present the high quality, comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry you have to offer by using PowerPoint so she can "hear and see" the game plan. You give her emotional and psychological reasons for taking action because you know that people do things for emotional reasons and then justify them with logic. You keep earning high levels of trust and rapport because you know they are necessary for people to accept comprehensive dentistry. Finally, you get agreement on the type and amount of dental care she desires. Then, you fit the investment into her budget.

The preceding paragraphs are just a snapshot to "The 'Yes' System: How To Influence Patients to Accept Comprehensive Dentistry" office-study program I've created, but I hope you're getting the idea. Case acceptance is the entire office's responsibility. It's not just doc sitting down with the patient at the treatment conference. It's a seamless and specific set of "different and better" steps that lead to case acceptance.

Lesson 4 -Know your guests

Knowing the guests who came to Disneyland was so important to Walt that he coined the word "guestology," which meant the art and science of knowing and understanding customers. It was important to know who they were so he could bring them the happiness they desired. Walt even went so far as to research how far people would walk to drop trash into a container. He discovered it was 27 feet. That's why there is a trash container within 27 feet from most places in his parks.

It's even more important that you know the guests who walk in your front door so you can have a closer relationship with them. They all walk in with unique and interesting stories - their fears, their concerns, their desires.

You must take the time and make the effort to learn these stories. If you want people to understand what your office is all about, they've got to feel that you understand them first.

During the first visit, you need to treat them like a guest in your home. Then, you need to sit down with them and have a conversation. In that conversation, you need to learn what they're all about, and you need to tell them what you're all about. The person who has this conversation with the patient should have:

Talent - Certain people are naturally talented when it comes to gaining rapport and understanding others. These people are very easy to spot. Who on your team has this kind of talent?

Time - It takes some time to learn people's stories - 15 to 30 minutes. Be sure this amount of time is scheduled into all first visits. It's the most important time you will ever spend with patients.

Skill - It only takes a few question-asking and listening skills to pull this off. You don't need a degree in psychology. I've drafted a list of 10 interview and eight follow-up questions that I've found do the best job of helping me "learn people's stories."

Use these follow-up questions/statements. Often, the most important parts of patients' stories are a couple of levels down.

  1. "Anything else?" "What else?"
  2. "Tell me more about that… "
  3. "Give me an example of …
  4. "When does/did that happen?"
  5. "Where does/did that happen?"
  6. "Why does/did that happen?"
  7. "I'm curious. Why do you say that?"
  8. "Can you be more specific?"

I've created a form that makes it easy to ask these questions. Go to my Web site at and click on the Dental Economics button on the left of the screen to find the form.

After you learn your guests' stories, it's the perfect time to tell them your story - what your practice is all about, what your purpose is, and how you are different. When I did the research for the book, How To Create an Exceptional Aesthetic Practice: Ten Dentists Who Have Done It, several of the practices told me their stories. After the initial interview where the patient's story was learned, a team member would look the patient right in the eye and say, for example, "Mary, as you've probably noticed, our office is different. We want to get to know you. We want you to get to know us. We want to take such great care of you and provide you with such high-quality dental services that you'll love coming to see us and will be thrilled with your smile!"

I couldn't believe the emotional effect this had on the patients. It gave them a lightning bolt of commitment and previewed everything that was to come. Walt Disney and the company he created were masterful storytellers. You need to be, too.

At your morning meetings, have the person who had the conversation with the patient do a short presentation on all the patients who are coming in that day for their treatment conferences. It's important that everyone know the patients' stories.

Share the information in this article with your team. Then, have one team meeting where you brainstorm all the ways your office can "be different, be better." Then, have a second team meeting where you brainstorm all the ways you can "know your guests better." Those will be two more steps along the road to the practice of your dreams.

This road won't be easy to follow. If it were, everybody would be doing it. You've got to be like Walt Disney. He had a dream to use imagination to bring happiness to millions. He influenced others to buy into his dream. He was definitely different and better on the way to his dream, and he knew what his guests wanted so he could give it to them better than anyone else! Walt took the road less traveled. You need to do that, too.

Author's Note: Want to learn more about Walt Disney and The Disney Company? Read Disney: An American Original, by Bob Thomas, Hyperion, 1976 & 1994, and BE OUR GUEST: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, by The Disney Institute, Disney Editions, 2001. The BE OUR GUEST book is great material for staff meetings.

10 Interview Questions

  1. "In addition to (information you've learned so far), how can we help you today?" Always start where they are, not where you think they should be.
  2. "May I ask why you left your previous dentist?"
  3. "Why did you select our office?"
  4. "What kinds of dental treatment have you had done in the past?" If appropriate, ask "Why was that done?" and "Anything else?"
  5. "Have you ever had a negative experience in a dental office?" "Tell me about that."
  6. Give patients a hand mirror and ask them, "What changes would you make in your smile if we could easily change anything?" "What else?" "What else?" "What about your back teeth?" If you see, amalgams in their mouths ask, "What do you think of having those dark mercury silver fillings?"
  7. "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely important, how important is it for you to have all your teeth working well your whole life?"
  8. "I'm curious. What do you look for in a dentist and his/her team?"
  9. "Is there anything that would stand in your way of getting the proper dentistry you need?"
  10. "We like to get to know our patients. Tell me about your family… hobbies… and work." Learn at least 10 personal facts about the patient.

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