AHRA 2017: Music, magic and creating a positive patient experience

Monday’s opening ceremony at AHRA 2017 in Anaheim, California, hit the audience with surf music, dancing and bouncing beach balls—and that was all before card tricks, toilet paper and a giant sword entered the mix.

The entertaining session began with Jason Newmark, CRA, AHRA president, who officially called the meeting to order and recognized the contributions of several key AHRA members. “I’m really proud of the accomplishments we’ve done together over the past year,” he said.

Newmark then introduced the AHRA 2017 Annual Meeting Design Team—and that’s when the mini dance party began. At AHRA 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee, the design team did a line dance straight out of "Urban Cowboy," so it made sense they hit the stage this year to a Beach Boys-like number called “Surfin’ AHRA.”

There were a few final announcements once the music stopped and the beach balls were done bouncing down the aisles. Keynote speaker Chris Blackmore then took the stage for his presentation, “The Magic of Customer Service.” Blackmore, an accomplished magician and a longtime professional speaker, kept the crowd’s attention by alternating between magic tricks and lessons about providing a high level of customer service. “The medical industry is upside-down right now,” he said. “The only way you can really win patients is through your customer experience.”

Blackmore said, for example, that one of the most effective things to remember in customer service is this simple question: “If not me, who?” He then referenced nearby Disneyland, where he’s performed his magical act countless times. At all of Disney’s parks, he explained, managers are taught to be proactive to fix problems immediately. “If they walk by and see a gum wrapper on the ground, they pick it up,” he said. “They aren’t going to get on the walkie-talkie and call a custodian over. They’re going to do it themselves.”

Blackmore then brought up another lesson he learned from his time at Disney: When you trust your employees and give them freedom to do the right thing, they’re able to make guests happy much more quickly. Once when he was performing his show at a Disney park, for example, he brought a young boy on stage and that boy ended up wetting himself out of nervousness. Since Blackmore and his team had the freedom to act, he said, he was able to get an adult-sized T-shirt from a nearby store on the boy and nobody in the crowd even realized what had happened.

“That’s a huge, huge portion of guest experience: communication through leadership,” Blackmore said. “It allows us to do things automatically without asking for permission, without sending memos, without sending emails. We’re able to do things that make the best possible guest experience.”

Another key point Blackmore discussed was the importance of “creating missionaries.” By providing patients with this great experience, you can get them on your side, and they can help spread the word about the care you provide.

“You make a missionary by personalizing,” he said. “You make a missionary by knowing their name, knowing their kids’ names, knowing what they do. You make a missionary by caring.”

Whether a patient had a wonderful experience while in your care or a horrible experience, Blackmore added, they’re going to talk about that experience with others. And when they talk about their experience, what they’re always going to focus on is how they felt and how they were treated by the staff.

“People aren’t going to sit there and say, ‘That x-ray was done perfectly and the image was clear,’” he said. “They’re going to say, ‘That guy was a real jerk to me’ or ‘That girl was really pleasant to me.’”

Blackmore also had several tricks up his sleeve for the crowd. He asked one volunteer from the crowd to hold a roll of toilet paper, for instance, while he kept balling up wads of paper and hiding them. He also took out a sword at one point, using it to stab a playing card out of the air.