By Amir Khoshnevis, OD
Before Amir Khoshnevis, OD, completely redesigned his University location of Carolina Family Eye Care in Charlotte, North Carolina, a staff meeting began when he unfolded a card table in the office dispensary.Now, a dedicated 315-square-foot conference room for staff meeting and training is front and center at CFEC.
Our staff meeting room is truly one of the nicest rooms in the building. This location is 5,600 square feet and our conference is 315 square feet of that. Our investment for table, chairs, cabinet, AV, and everything needed to make this room functional, was around $5,000, and I kept costs low because I used vendor programs for the AV and refinished/refurbished the huge cabinet that had been scheduled to be demolished because the last tenant left it in the building. Obviously, we have ongoing costs associated with the extra space, but the return on our investment is excellent. We’re reminded of this every time we gather.
Making Education Part of the Plan
My team realized, in the early part construction, we were taking up significant space that could have been revenue-producing rooms, but we stayed focused on our belief that staff education and training should be a central part of CFEC’s growth plan and not an afterthought.
When you wear a nice suit, you tend to act differently, and when you have a designated area where you conduct staff meetings and training, instead of just talking about the daily challenges in a break room, it shows the staff you respect them and your business. I assure you, they behave differently in that environment.
The staff meets weekly in the conference room, which is dominated by a large wooden “board room” table, nice chairs and is encased by windows. The room is equipped with audio-visual equipment, including a big screen TV, and there is a white board used for all discussion; whether it’s education, root-cause analysis of a service breakdown, or thought provoking ideas for the week (most likely on the topic of excellence in customer service).
We take the team through role-playing scenarios, to visualize how to handle staff, doctor and patient issues. The conference room also is used for staff lunches, but the staff respects the room. They always leave it clean and ready for its primary purpose. And, having a dedicated conference room shows respect for the importance of staff and education.
If you are serious about getting staff buy-in when it comes to delivering the best patient care and respecting you and your patients, you also have to show the staff the same respect.
While we, internally, see the benefits of this space, we also make an impression on the people in our sphere of influence. Our patients confirm our belief that a well-trained and educated staff, especially on the topic of customer service, can make or break a practice. In our patient surveys, we frequently read: “Very knowledgeable staff, great customer service, etc.” However, great customer service throughout the experience does not happen by accident. It must be trained and discussed regularly. Maybe just as importantly, we get a big “wow” out of visitors–potential employees during interviews, industry partners who conduct education for the staff, and colleagues who come to our office for local meetings.
We are always looking for diverse ways to use our space and our conference room. We have mostly used the room for business meetings, but I’ve hosted meetings for the industry as well–for example, an Oakley educational meeting for area retailers. We wanted to create a relationship with these retailers to build referrals for patients and Rx sunglasses.
When we had our grand opening ceremony for the community, we become a gallery–displaying work by local artists. We are hosting a meeting for financial advisors in the local area. We will be pitching our services and our group savings plan to these professionals and to their companies.
Did we anticipate all the benefits of building the conference room? Not really. Like most optometrists, we were too focused on obvious benefits (staff education, meeting space for doctors, etc). We became aware of the additional benefits, such as hosting networking events or education, after the buildout. My advice to any OD in the early phases of space planning is to think about the culture and experience in the office 10 or 15 years after it opens its doors. What must you have in place to accomplish your goal? Can you really deliver excellent care without your staff’s buy in?
For a look at CFEC’s floorplan redesign, click here to see the PDF file.It will open in a new window.
Amir Khoshnevis, OD, founded Carolina Family Eye Care in 2003. He is a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and is a member of several optometric associations. He is a presenter at AOA and SECO. Dr. Khoshnevis has a strong interest in specialty contact lenses and has built a medical co-management contact lens practice as well as a clinical investigation site for specialty lenses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Rolf Loken Photography