Buffalo Wings and the Premium Cataract Surgery Experience

The first time that I had Buffalo Wings was where they were invented, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York in August of 1992.   It was a nifty little place that had adequate service and a great product that was bound to be a hit.  When Jean and I went there, with our two baby girls at that time, we had just moved to Buffalo from Minnesota for me to work selling Intraocular Lens Implants (IOLs) in the western New York area for Storz Ophthalmics.  Keep in mind that in 1992, even though they were technically invented in 1964, Buffalo Wings were still a bit of a novelty.  I’m not sure that anyone in bland-food Minnesota had ever heard of one at that point and I had never eaten one.  I loved them from the first bite and still do today.

Fast forward to the present where Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) is one of the hottest restaurants around, their stock is a sizzling performer and the experience at the restaurant itself is second to none.  I went there with my son, Mike, last night.  After we were seated, a person stopped by our table, introduced herself, made some small talk, asked us if we had any questions and gave us this:

A cool concept!

A cool concept!

I asked Alyssa a bit about what she does, she was very personable and well trained.  Mike commented that not all of the Guest Experience Captains are quite as engaged as she and still I am intrigued by the role itself.

If I compare this to my original exposure to Buffalo Wings 20 years ago, it’s pretty amazing.  The Anchor Bar was a place to drink and eat Buffalo Wings, today BWW is a full-service sports bar focused on the guest experience.  Eating Buffalo Wings has come a long way!

What does this have to do with the premium cataract surgery experience?  A lot.  In 1992 when I was selling IOLs in Buffalo, practices didn’t think much about the experience for the patient and there wasn’t a retail component to the procedure at all.  The early rounds of professional and facility fee reimbursement cuts had been implemented, phaco was taking-hold as the primary method of cataract extraction and Radial Keratotomy was creating a new era of refractive surgery with a new revenue stream.

Compare this to today’s  premium cataract surgery focused practices that treat patients as guests, the clinic experience as theatre and the surgical outcome as a quest for youthful vision.  Is it an investment to create a machine like this?  Absolutely.  Yet the investment pales in comparison to the potential loss of revenue associated with not being involved in making the experience a Buffalo Wild Wings type of interaction.

The fact is that BWW could still just sell chicken wings and what’s wonderful is that they have chosen to be much more than that.   They don’t apologize for the fact that two people enter their establishment, order some wings, french fries, two glasses of pop and walk out happy after paying a check for $40.

The overwhelming majority of ophthalmologists in the US still just sell cataract surgery.  Most don’t like that phrase, “selling”, but for this instance it seems apropos.  There are a select few who have created practices that make a patient feel special, educate them on options and help them make choices.  Some say that it is wrong to do this, I think that it is the only way that things must be done if a practice wants to do anything other than run on a treadmill of standard cataract surgery…more, more, faster, faster….. there is so much more to offer!  Patients want it, deserve and will happily pay for it.  A slant on the Nike vernacular, “Just ask.”

That, my friends, is why an experience is so important.  And if the experience isn’t there, don’t blame the product if the results don’t follow.

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