By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
Just as first impressions of people can be made within seconds of meeting them, a practice can also make an impression on someone before they even set foot in the door, and we want this impression to be good, setting the tone for a good patient experience and aiming for their five-star satisfaction with the visit overall.
Front Door First Impression Checklist
Signage: Is your practice sign easy to see? Is it easy to tell exactly what the business is? Is the sign clean and legible from the road? Is it well lit? Is this sign consistent with the colors and symbols in the rest of your branding?
Names: Are the names of the doctors listed on the front door and/or the sign? The more times a person sees a name, the more likely they are to remember it. Also keep in mind that the names of associate doctors on the front door/sign may need to be updated if staffing changes are made. This update should be made on web sites, business cards and social media, as well.
Hours and Contact Info: Nothing is more frustrating than standing in front of a business whose doors are locked but seeing the business hours displayed saying they should be open. Update these as often as you change them to ensure their accuracy and lessen the chance of a misunderstanding. Make sure the phone number is also properly displayed for those with a possible eye emergency after hours or those who wish to leave a message but find the office closed. Also, consider adding Twitter handles to the front window or a simple “find us on Facebook” logo to further connect to patients who may be passing by and who want to know a little more about the doctor inside the practice. Have an “away” message set up on voicemail and social media if you are going to be closed for vacation, renovation or personal reasons, and state the date and time you expect to reopen.
Curb Appeal: Some of this may be handled by property management if you do not own the building, but make sure your windows are regularly cleaned on the outside and on the inside. The decor in the front window should be freshened on a regular basis (nothing should be sun-faded, old or dusty). Make sure landscaping is modern and well kept. Change out old mulch with new, fresh mulch as needed. Obviously, if you own the building, you are responsible for its appearance and upkeep, so do a visual inspection of the exterior at least twice a year. If people see certain physical aspects of the building are being neglected, they might think things inside are also not taken care of the way they should.
A Peek inside:
If your waiting room is right in front of your front window, make sure it is tidy and displays a couple of toys or busy-blocks if you are a family practice or vision therapist who is welcoming to young children. As a parent myself I can tell you a family friendly waiting room is always noticed and appreciated. If your optical is in front of the window, put its best, newest frames front and center and make sure its displays are dusted and cleaned at least once a week.
The interior should be nicely lit. Carpets, welcome mats and floors should be regularly cleaned and stain-treated if necessary. Walls should have a fresh coat of paint in an inviting color. Front desk staff should be easy to spot, welcoming and quickly accessible. House plants and indoor trees bring a bit of fresh air in, but only if properly maintained through regular watering, trimming of dried leaves and re-potting with fresh soil as needed (twice a year).
If you think you may be unable to keep up with the care needed for plants, consider adding a burst of color with fresh flowers in a vase at the front desk replaced regularly (about every one to two weeks depending on the flowers chosen). You may even be able to strike up a deal with a local florist on a discounted rate for regular floral arrangements in exchange for you advertising their business by displaying their business card in the arrangement of flowers, as well as placing a pile of their business cards next to the arrangement.
By following this “Front Door First Impression” checklist, you will be giving patients a good impression of your practice before they even set foot in the door, which will bring you that much closer to winning their approval and exceeding their expectations for their entire eye exam experience.
What do you do to entice new, potential patients passing by to give your practice a try? How does the appearance of your practice change with the changing seasons? Do you have regular maintenance and landscaping scheduled and done professionally, or is it only done as needed? What aspects of your practice’s physical appearance have you gotten compliments on? What part of your practice’s outside appearance are you most proud of?