What hospitals can learn from Disney customer service

By Karen Cheung-Larivee

What do hospitals have in common with Disney World? A lot, according to Patrick Jordan, healthcare consultant at Disney Institute.

After a career as a language pathologist and a senior vice president in administration, Jordan now works at the Disney Institute, helping healthcare organizations apply Disney's customer service approach to the patient experience.

Although going on vacation to Disney World isn't quite the same as having surgery at a hospital, there's much hospitals can learn from the organization whose bread and butter comes from being the "happiest place on earth."

Hear what Jordan has to say about how healthcare organizations can deliver Disney's reputed world-class service with leadership development and a golden-rule approach to employees.

FierceHealthcare: What is the Disney Institute, and how does it relate to the healthcare industry?

Jordan: At the Disney Institute, we use what we call "Disney's chain of excellence." It's a model that we use to create and sustain a guest experience over time. We communicate this model to our cast members--we're an entertainment company so we use entertainment-based language; cast members are employees--to deliver the world-class service every day in our theme parks and resorts. This is [what] we communicate to our partners in healthcare organizations. We work with not just hospitals, but physician groups, long-term care, assisted living, home health programs, laboratories, [and] any number of factors within the healthcare area.

FH: What role does leadership play in the Disney Institute principles to achieve this chain of excellence?

Jordan: It begins with leadership. There is a distinct difference between the way we approach leadership within the Disney parks and resorts organization and what my experience has been in healthcare historically. Historically in healthcare, if you do a task really well, you're promoted through the ranks. You might be a wonderful nurse, and then you might be promoted into a nurse supervisor role, but you [might] not have leadership capacity. Because of the limitations within the structure, that's the only thing people know what to do with performers in healthcare.

At Disney, our approach to leadership is much more purposeful. If someone is identified as a leader, there's a very specific curriculum and experiences, and mentors are made available to ensure that that person's leadership capacity is fully realized.

FH: What role do employees and staff play?

Jordan: The chain of excellence moves from leadership to cast excellence, or what we call "people management." What we know about our folks is the same thing that other people know from all customer-facing, or guest-facing associates, is that our cast members will respond to and create experiences for our guests that we, as an organization, create for our cast members. In other words, they'll treat our guests the same way we treat them.

We spend a lot of energy in this program talking about how to take care of your cast and how to ensure that your cast is cared for. You try to reduce hassles and distractions for them so that they can genuinely be available and focus on the experience.

What hospitals can learn from Disney customer service