First impressions matter. Whether it’s the first handshake, the first walk-through or the first “hello” in a phone call – they matter. Those firsts are how you base your opinion on an experience, and that’s what your patients are doing the moment they call your office or walk through the door.
Visualize your office and think about the first points of contact:
• Your office’s exterior
• Your front desk staff
• Your office’s décor
In fact, the number one factor that makes patients’ first impressions is the cleanliness of your office. Winter salt, cluttered surfaces and old furniture don’t set a professional tone – it gives off the appearance of carelessness and messiness, two things nobody wants from a medical office.
Next up, your staff. A greeting and friendly attitude go a long way with patients, impacting 76% of their first impressions. Your staff contribute a lot to your team and they’re undeniably busy juggling many tasks, but if taking a moment to welcome patients into your practice or answer the phone and thank them for calling isn’t one of their top priorities then you have an issue.
Waiting time and office décor are also important to patients, so make them important to you. There are small steps to be made to ensure if a patient does have to wait, they aren’t sitting in your reception area tapping their toes in frustration. Make the entire experience of being at your practice a positive one with the right impression.
Consider other ways patients may first hear about you and your practice. Their first impression may be through a previous or current patient, whether through word-of-mouth or online. Their first impression may be over the phone when they’re inquiring about availability for an appointment. Their first impression may be your website where they’re trying to get a feel for your office and team. These are not the first impressions many dentists think of when considering how they appear to patients, but they matter just as much as the cleanliness of your practice.
Key areas to consider strengthening:
• Hire someone to update your website – 41% of patients are finding their dentists through search engines, which generally lead to them visiting your website
• Ensure your office décor is notable – 28% of patients consider office décor their first impression of a practice, and that includes your exterior
• Train your staff – 72% of patients will contact an office by phone first, so make sure your staff’s tone and professionalism result in a positive experience
The first time a patient thinks of you will probably not be the first time they meet you. It’s probably going to be the first time they come across your practice, whether that’s in or out of your office. This isn’t to say you can’t change the mind of a patient with your expertise, staff and skills, but why start with an uphill battle when a few key changes can start you off on the right foot… before you even say “hello.”
*Between February and March 2018, RKI, a third party independent research house, conducted a 10-minute online survey of active, practicing non-hospital affiliated dentists and dental specialists on behalf of Oral Health. Using Oral Health’s subscription list, a total of 398 dentists participated in the study (with 219 completing the survey to the end). Assuming a total of 20,000 dentists in Canada (and 398 total completes) the margin of error for the survey is +/- 4.86, 95% CI.