Optometric Management Tip # 447   -   Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Have you looked at your reception area magazines?

It may seem like a minor detail, but little things like the magazines in your waiting room are more important than you might think.  Patients judge your entire practice by the little things they understand well, like magazines.  If the People magazine someone picks up is several weeks old or if the choice of magazines is poor, an impression is formed that the practice just doesn't care.  It may be subliminal at first, but patients can easily think that the practice cuts corners on quality; that this office must be cheap.  People can even make the leap that eyeglass prescriptions may not be held to high standards either.

We see this same assumption of poor quality in all industries.  A frequently used example of this transfer of perception comes from the airline industry.  Experts in customer service have said that travelers who see coffee stains on the seatback trays will assume that the jets are not maintained properly.

Creating a great impression
Magazines in the reception area can actually be a great opportunity to create a very positive impression for your practice in the eyes of your patients.  While there are certainly other more dramatic features you could offer to patients who are waiting or dilating, such as a flat screen TV or fresh coffee and tea, don't overlook magazines.  Magazines are the perfect distraction for people who have a short wait.  Instead of a mediocre selection of the usual titles, outdated issues and dog-eared pages, consider becoming known as the place with fantastic, unique magazines that people love.  Every special thing you do for patients goes a long way toward creating a special bond with them and generating more referrals.

What special magazines would you like to see if you had to wait?  Consider the demographics of all the people you see and make a list of magazines that would be a treat to come across in your waiting room.  Here are few ideas in addition to the usual People, Newsweek, Better Homes and Gardens, Sports Illustrated, etc.

The good news about magazines
Making a great first impression on your patients through magazines is very economical.  Consumer print publications are having some tough times and subscription rates have never been lower.  Just do a Google search for “magazine subscriptions” and check out some prices from large online vendors.  Most magazines offer subscriptions for $8 to $15 per year.  With multi-year subscriptions the price per issue is even lower.  You could have 20 titles for under $300 per year!  That is a very low cost public relations effort that makes a great impression.

What if the magazines are stolen by patients?
I've heard some doctors say they don't bother with nice magazines because patients steal them.  That may be true, but so what?  You can easily have so many great new issues on display with more arriving every day, if you lose a few it really won't matter.  If it is a big problem, you could have large stickers printed up with your practice name and apply them to the cover.

Great magazines are an easy and inexpensive way to set your practice apart from the crowd and show patients that you care about their experience, even while they wait.

Best wishes for continued success,

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