Have you ever thought about what happens to your brain when you smile? Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.
Smiling changes our brain chemistry because it keeps track of your smiles, kind of like a smile scorecard. So consider that patients can experience hundreds of greetings from your employees and that their perception of this acknowledgment has a cumulative effect.
Scientific research shows that the smile rates as the symbol with the highest positive emotional content according to scientist Andrew Newberg. He goes on to teach us how to create a genuine smile.
He says that before you engage in a conversation with someone else, visualize someone you deeply love, or recall an event that brought you deep satisfaction and joy. It’s such an easy exercise to do.
And since smiling reduces stress that your body and mind generates, similar to getting a good night’s sleep, it generates positive emotions within you.
So it stands to reason that we feel happier around children - they smile an average 400 times a day! In contrast, genuinely happy adults smile an average of 40-50 times a day and the rest of you about 20 times a day.
Based on a three month Patient Emotion Study, I recently completed for one of the country's largest healthcare systems, one of the top contributors to anxiety was anticipating whether the clinical staff would be nice or not.
If a patient is already nervous about meeting the doctor for the first time, the frontline employee represents the first impression of what is to come, and that could lead to calming the patient down or fueling their anxiety.
So imagine how a stressed patient who doesn’t feel well and is anxiously waiting at a desk feels after a minute or more, while employees are busy behind the desk ignoring him or her. With a genuine smile the frontline staff can set the stage for the entire experience.
Think of the power you have by using a genuine smile with your patients, co-workers and friends. That smile will add years to your life, enhance someone else’s life, and create a positive experience for you!
We know from our mystery shopping research that a poor greeting can have a substantial impact on the overall experience.
For example, on a large mystery shopping study for a Midwestern hospital, all of the mystery shops that were rated mediocre or below began with no immediate acknowledgement by an employee or a greeting without a smile.
Our mystery shopping benchmark data indicates that healthcare employees immediately acknowledge our shoppers 92% of the time. However the follow up behavior of offering a warm and friendly smile dropped to 83%.
While these scores may seem reasonable to some, we always recommend a goal of 100% for acknowledging customers.
Mother Teresa’s said it best, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”