What's the Value of First Impressions?
It's a challenge to create a memorable first meeting. Here are some suggestions.
FROM THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR, Jim Thomas
Anton Chekhov said, "We all have too many wheels, and screws, and valves inside of us to be judged by first impressions." Yet most people size us up by their initial meetings with us, according to experts and "unbiased" sources such as
The eye for detail
Making a favorable first impression has its challenges. Traditionally, patients consider the following when in their first impressions of us:
- their first phone call
- the building exterior
- the reception area
- the receptionist.
It's easy to underestimate the level of detail needed to orchestrate a positive first impression in these areas. For example, I've seen a survey that asks first-time patients to rate the quality of directions to an office. Not a bad idea. A pleasant phone voice can be sabotaged when patients drive aimlessly or park in tow-away zones -- thanks to bad directions.
Intentions of good impressions
You might respond, "Evaluate a practice based on directions? How about getting a life?" That's a rational response. Many patients probably won't form impressions from directions, parking lots, reception areas or availability of the latest issue of Field & Stream. (Of course, they may form impressions if these items don't meet their expectations.) In such cases, technology, staff expertise or any of dozens of other qualities may create the first impression. However, the doctor should leave the most positive and lasting impression.
The following areas create first impressions and often don't involve your direct contact with the patient:
- Web sites
- publicity from media
- public speaking engagements.
These provide excellent opportunities to reach more than one patient at a time. They also require marketing savvy. After all, effective publicity is worth a thousand words. Bad publicity is worth only three: "I'll go elsewhere."
Leave the best impression
How do you leave a favorable first impression when you don't know how, when or where patients will judge your practice? Successful businesses strive to operate so that each function -- from research to sales to customer service -- is responsible for creating an experience that will leave the lasting impression positive. Optometric practices deserve the same level of scrutiny.
Optometric Management, Issue: August 2003