Front office signals first impressions

September 16, 2014

When is the last time you took a good look at what your waiting area is signaling to the outside world? It is after all, the first physical impression of your clinic. Perhaps it is time to make some changes, or improve on some already excellent practices.

With autumn upon us, perhaps it’s time to “fall” into some good habits and brush up a bit on what is happening in your reception area. When is the last time you took a good look at what your waiting area is signaling to the outside world? It is, after all, the first physical impression of your clinic. Perhaps it is time to make some changes, or improve on some already excellent practices. Read on to hear how the experts weigh in on flare for the front desk.

A valuable tip I gained from a practice management series was to see your clinic periodically through the five senses - sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Try to look at your office space through new eyes, and critically identify any unwanted appearances, noises, clutter or odor. Is there furniture that appears tattered and needs refurbishing? Old marketing materials or dust on display cases? A squeaky fan or vent in the back office? Aroma of a microwave meal emanating from the staff room?

If you don’t find yourself to be objective enough to find the cracks in your clinic’s glossy veneer, perform the task with a trusted “outsider” to the clinic or with your staff. For example, once a year I actually make this a part of our staff meeting - identifying needs for our handyman to address in our clinic while I am away at meetings.

Eliminate clutter

What physically makes for a good clinic entrance area? According to Catherine Maley, practice consultant and author of Your Aesthetic Practice, it is an open space with no clutter.

“Less is more, visiting patients will be more comfortable with less chairs.” She also suggests readily accessible product displays with testers. Risa Goldman Luksa, founder and president of Goldman Marketing Group, recommends channeling beauty counters such as those at Nordstrom for retail displays.

“This allows patients to touch, feel, and smell products as they shop,” Ms. Luksa says.

Other quick changes for a pleasant reception area can be implemented even if you are not planning a space renovation. Remove clocks from the area, offer wireless Internet access, add live plants or flowers, or consider offering refreshments to patients. Remember that personal touches are everything in creating a great patient experience. Keep conversations private, and if possible, greet patients by name as they enter the premises. This is a simple but effective tool that is used frequently in the hotel and restaurant industry and easily translatable to a patient visit.

NEXT: Is your reception area enhancing best practice offerings?

 

Marketing placement

So now with repair work and the physical assessment of the reception area complete, how does one determine if the reception area is best enhancing the practice offerings? This is a more challenging task and one wants to strike a balance between educating the patient yet not inundating the patient with marketing materials.

Thoughtful placement of marketing education is key.

“Remove magazines from the waiting area and replace them with branded materials such as hardback or iPad before and after picture books,” Ms. Luksa says. Ms. Maley recommends using silent PowerPoint presentations to display before and after success stories.

“Visitors can see themselves if you use photos of different ages, ethnicities, etc., and patients will ask you for more information during their consultation,” she says. Ms. Maley cautions, however, the “need for a balance between educating the public about services and pummeling them with vendor brochures and promotional materials.”

Ms. Luksa echoes the importance of tailored electronic interactions, favoring “something custom on TVs as opposed to TV shows that have commercials or potentially inappropriate subject matter.”

Avoid these ‘no-no’s’

There are also some absolute “no-no’s” when it comes to front office etiquette. According to our experts, many of these mistakes boil down to creating patient discomfort. Importantly for privacy matters, patient conversations should be conducted confidentially and out of earshot from others in the office, according to Ms. Luksa. If possible, do not use the same area for patient check-in and check-out.

Patients should not wait long in the reception area, but if there is a delay, “touch base with patients on a regular basis to remind them you have not forgotten about them,” Ms. Luksa says.

Ms. Maley recommends doctor’s offices avoid deluging patients with overstimulation.

“A clipboard full of redundant forms with today’s technology is not necessary,” she says. “Use technology to prepopulate forms (name, address, phone, etc.) so patients fill out only what is necessary.” Beyond the paperwork, Ms. Maley also cautions avoiding overuse of promotional materials including repetitive videos. This is likely to annoy both patients and staff.

So consider a little “spring cleaning” of your reception area, even if it is a little out of season. Creating a clean, inviting, engaging, and respectful sanctuary for patients may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

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