'Bump the lamp' for pet owners

'Bump the lamp' for pet owners

What Disney's Who Framed Roger Rabbit can teach us about the veterinary client experience.
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May 10, 2017

Light the way for veterinary clients to be truly wowed by your client service by "bumping the lamp." (Hint: Don't bump this dog's lamp. He doesn't like it.) (Shutterstock)We can all distinguish between a really good experience and an exceptional one: that perfect day, that amazing meal, that gorgeous sunset. We tend to remember the overall experience while many of the little details that went into making it so extraordinary are lost on us as subliminal bits of the whole memory. For instance, the experience of that sunset wasn’t just the speed with which the sun met the horizon or the stunning colors bouncing off the clouds but also the air temperature and the breeze and, if we’re lucky, the sand between our toes. Whether we were aware of it at the time or not, lots of things worked together to create that memorable experience.

I was recently reminded of the significance of little things when I came upon a YouTube video about the making of the 1988 Disney live-action/animation hybrid film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If you haven't seen the Youtube video or the film it references, you should. But keep in mind that Roger Rabbit was created before computers started doing the lion’s share of animation work. Every frame of animation was hand-drawn, and it was a masterpiece in terms of the attention to detail.

The YouTube video explains how animators took painstaking care to establish clear and appropriate “sightlines” and visible physical interaction between the live-action characters and the animated ones throughout the film. They also threw away the previous industry standard for such films, which was to keep the camera stationary when filming the live action so it was easier to draw in the animated characters later. In Roger Rabbit, they shot the movie like a movie and then did the harder work of drawing each frame in the ever-changing perspective required based on the moving camera.

It was the light and shadow accuracy that really set the film apart at the time. Each animated character was drawn in at least five layers in each frame to create a lifelike, 3D appearance. Then, as if that all wasn’t hard enough, they “bumped the lamp.”

In one amazing scene, Roger hits an overhead lamp that swings back and forth several times as the characters (real and animated) move around. The animators took the changing and moving light into account for every character, every shadow, every frame.

Check out the live-action and animated characters interacting in the swinging light of a ceiling lamp. Hard work.

‘Bumping the lamp’ became a training tool for Disney employees to go above and beyond

It was a phenomenal amount of extra work that resulted in a masterpiece of animation most viewers never really appreciated—at least technically. They knew they had an exceptional experience, but they probably didn’t realize why. Meanwhile, “bumping the lamp” became a training tool used to impress upon all Disney employees the need to go above and beyond what’s expected.

Now let’s think about “bumping the lamp” in veterinary practice. I’ve often addressed the importance of the client experience in this column. As veterinarians, we usually know why the client came in—but we're less sure of what they take with them. What did they tell others about? What was the unremembered subtlety that made their experience exceptionally positive? Here’s how I think we can “bump the lamp.”

Pay attention to the details—all of them. This includes the physical appearance of your office and staff. The physical experience of your clients and patients. A helping hand in or out of the office or the exam room. A cup of coffee. A recent magazine. Detailed instructions not only of what you want the client to do going forward but why you want them to do it. Follow-up. Phone calls. Texts.

Pet owners might not be aware of how much effort goes into their happiness and comfort, but they’ll be aware that it feels right.

Your clients expect good veterinary care and compassion for their pets. They might not even consciously make note of all these little things, but subconsciously they will. And as a result they will remember their experience as exceptional. That’s what veterinary practices should aim for: an attention to detail and excellence that goes largely unnoticed but would be sorely missed in its absence.

If we always do our best—paying attention not only to quality but to excellence in providing the best experience possible—clients have a better experience. They might not be aware of how much effort goes into their happiness and comfort, but they’ll be aware that it feels right.

That’s my take-home message. If it works for Disney, it can work for you.

It’s not a waste of time. Go ahead. Bump the lamp.

Dr. Mike Paul is the former executive director of the Companion Animal Parasite Council and a former president of the American Animal Hospital Association. He is currently the principal of MAGPIE Veterinary Consulting. He is retired from practice and lives in Anguilla, British West Indies.