Inviting Repeat Business
BY CHERYL BRUCE, BA, CPOT, NCLC, LDO, Spokane, Wash.
Are your patients getting the warm welcome they deserve? Creating a friendly office environment takes a lot of work, but it's one aspect of your office policy you can't afford to overlook. Read on to see if you're making the grade.
Between the phones, the patients, the vendors and the doctor, working at the front desk can be stressful. And that's on a good day. So, it's not surprising we sometimes forget to greet patients properly. But don't fool yourself that your patients won't notice. Put yourself in their shoes. How do you feel when the dentist's receptionist doesn't even look up when you arrive at her desk or when the allergist's staff members hide behind a glass window? Is this how you want your patients to feel when they come to your office?
The key to creating a welcoming environment is respect. No matter how busy you are, you should greet every patient and answer all questions to the best of your ability. An ignored patient is an unhappy patient and most likely, one who won't be coming back any time soon.
Survey the surroundings
If you haven't walked through your reception area for some time, you may want to make sure you're providing an appealing and comfortable seating area for your patients. Specifically, you should:
1. Evaluate the general condition of furniture and carpeting. Shabby furniture and stained carpeting can make a poor first impression.
2. Assess the d�cor. Is the color scheme up to date? Have you changed the wall hangings or pictures in the past few years? Ideally, you want to strike a balance between a sterile and a warm, calm environment.
3. Replace outdated and tattered periodicals.
4. Check the lighting. Is the room bright enough for reading?
5. Consider offering alternative distractions or activities. Some offices have optional TV viewing areas that show close-captioned news or videotapes.
At work, we tend to settle into a routine, so it's sometimes difficult to tell when we've developed bad habits. One way to assess your office's "friendliness factor" is by distributing patient survey cards, which can help you identify what aspects of customer service you need to improve.
A pleasant environment will keep patients coming back. Surprise them by giving them more than they expect on their next visit.