Optometric Management Tip # 74 - Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Have you sat in your waiting room lately?
Since patients don't have the knowledge to really understand the technical aspects of optometry, they judge our practices by observing the things they do understand. They may not know a slit lamp from an auto-refractor, but they do know carpeting and furniture. By sitting in your waiting room (a better term is reception area), patients make assumptions about everything else in the practice - the quality of eye exams, the accuracy of eyeglass prescriptions, and the scope of practice. This approach is not necessarily accurate, but it is what happens.
I recommend sitting in your reception room occasionally, with or without patients present, and just observe. It is very easy to not really notice the things we see every day - so try to get a fresh perspective. Look and listen from the patient's point of view. Are you projecting the image you want for your practice?
What about the cost?
If the reception area looks out of date or worn, the expense involved with redecorating will be one of the best investments you can make. It may not be easy to track the return, but it is quite real, in the form of increased referrals, patient retention and even gross production per patient visit. I think people buy more goods and services when they are impressed and confident with a practice.
New carpeting and a fresh coat of paint are really not very expensive. High quality chairs with the look you want may cost a bit more, but good quality furniture will last many years.
Do you offer anything special?
Consider going beyond the typical chairs and magazines in your reception area. You can send a message that you really care about patient comfort and convenience. Here are a few ideas...
If these things seem like too much bother or expense - that's the whole point! These are the things that most offices don't do... and it's an easy way to set your image apart.
- A salt-water fish aquarium - one that's really clean.
- A coffee and tea area that is maintained and brewed fresh.
- A well-positioned television - playing cable programs like the weather channel or CNN - volume not too loud.
- A copy of today's USA TODAY newspaper. It's delivered by mail on the correct day.
- A special display - like a curio cabinet with antique spectacles.
- Unique architectural details - like beautiful windows with a garden view, a fireplace, or a children's niche area.
- Make the magazines you have on hand special and unique - highly varied and lots of choices.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management