Do You Look Like
you may see, appearances really do matter.
this era of an increasingly casual attitude toward business attire, I see a disturbing
trend among private-practice optometrists. We're dressing down too much in the office.
Practice management experts spend a lot
of time talking about how important it is to have an up- to-date, well-maintained
and attractive office in order to make the proper impression on patients. But we
generally don't talk much about how doctors should look. However, your appearance
greatly affects how patients feel about you.
Case in point
I was recently referred to the Mayo Clinic in
my hometown of Jacksonville, for a retinal exam. With all due respect, there is
no optometric practice in the world with a better reputation or more impressive
physical facility than Mayo. Considering the brand equity and aura of expertise
that preceded his entrance, it would have been very disconcerting if my retinal
specialist came in wearing a golf shirt.
He wore a suit and tie. His appearance
fit the situation and I was impressed. And there is a reason for that. In his recent
book, "Blink," (a title any optometrist could love) author Malcolm Gladwell presents
extensive research on how the subconscious mind forms an almost instant opinion
about a person based their grooming, dress and physical appearance.
Mr. Gladwell calls this process "rapid
cognition." The book is so named because it's about the decisions we come to in
the blink of an eye. When a person meets someone for the first time, or walks into
the doctor's office, or tries on a frame, his or her mind jumps to a series of conclusions
within about two seconds. "Blink," is a book about that process, and the lasting
conclusions that people come to in an instant.
The concept has powerful implications for anyone
who makes a living working with the public. One lesson I've learned is that no matter
how well educated, clinically adept or caring any optometrist is, patients are pre-conditioned
to make their first judgment based on how the doctor looks relative to their expectations
of what a successful eyecare professional should resemble. And, according to Mr.
Gladwell, that judgment is not something we can turn on or off. Humans are simply
wired that way.
O.D.s who do dress down in the office
would likely defend casual attire by saying that you like to be comfortable and
once people get to know you, they don't even notice your faded polo shirt. There
may be some truth in that. But changing a person's initial impression takes time.
If you're in the practice-building mode, why create a neutral or even negative first
impression when you could distinguish yourself and make a positive impact by dressing
well in the office?
Look the part
When patients come to you for eyecare services,
they want their visit to be a good experience, if for no other reason to validate
their own choice of eye doctor. My advice: Don't disappoint them by dressing like
a clerk in a convenience store. If you want to be viewed as a successful health
care professional, you need to look like one.
THE FOUNDER OF
THE HAYES CENTER FOR PRACTICE EXCELLENCE AT
SOUTHERN COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN MEMPHIS, DR. HAYES
IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO OM. E-MAIL HIM AT
Optometric Management, Issue: July 2006