Optometric Management Tip # 304   -   Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Uniforms Help Create Your Practice Image

I think it's smart management for a practice to supply uniforms as an employee benefit. I know it's a significant expense to do it right, but I see uniforms as an investment in the practice image and the return is excellent. Cutting costs is a short term strategy that can result in a downward cycle of reduced service, which usually results in less spending per patient and fewer referrals, which may create the need for more cost-cutting. It's a bad cycle. Spending money on the right things in the practice stimulates employee morale and customer service improves. An upward cycle is created. Great looking outfits create a feeling of confidence and pride among employees that is perceived by patients.

The alternative to making uniforms a benefit is to allow staff to wear what they want within some kind of dress code or to specify a uniform and require staff to purchase it. In either case, the practice loses some control over the appearance, the quality and the condition of the clothing.

What style is best?

The choice of uniform style is really a matter of personal taste and is up to the practice owner. There is really no right or wrong. Well, I guess there are some wrongs, but hopefully you'll know them when you see them. Much depends on the desired image of the practice, which can vary from chic optical boutique to medical practice to economical big box store. You may have to try a few different looks before you settle on the right one.

Staff members generally have very strong opinions about uniforms and it's unlikely that you can completely please everyone and yourself, but it's still smart to listen to employee preferences. Meet with your staff and discuss the issues with the preface that everyone will have to compromise to some degree. Realize that people are naturally sensitive about how they look in clothing and may not want to share personal aspects about their bodies, so be considerate and patient. The practice owner should have the final decision about uniforms because the practice image is at stake.

The little details

Ordering uniforms is not for the faint of heart. Be forearmed with the following tips:
Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management