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HomemibusinessNothing Wrong with a Vacuum

Nothing Wrong with a Vacuum

Just because you’ve got clean empty spaces in your practice rooms, there’s no need to fill them. In fact, the less clutter, the better.

As I visit practices, there is one semi-constant I observe in our businesses: Like nature abhors a vacuum, optical retail abhors a flat, empty surface. At least, we seem to. Look around your office, including your reception area, your dispensary, and even your examination rooms. What do you see?

If you’re like many of your peers, you probably see a lot of ‘stuff’. Magazines, patient ‘education’ information, vendor product information, contact lens rebates, computers, laptops, trial lens kits, mirrors… you get the idea. There may be a corollary that in established practices, there is usually far more ‘stuff’ than in new practices (although I have found some new practices to be the exception to this loose rule).

Over time, without consistent focus, our flat surfaces turn into my garage. Yes, I confess, when I look around my garage, I can remember the reasons why I have every single thing I see. The things are important, individually. And I didn’t go out one day and purchase all this stuff to put in my garage. It happened slowly, over time. And because I see it every single day, I don’t really notice the cumulative effects until I pay attention. I believe the same holds true in many of the practices I get the opportunity to visit.

All these things, observed at any one time by a customer who visits once every 24 months, can create a fairly ‘noisy’ environment

A Multi-Planed World

Since we operate in the strange multi-planed world of medical and retail, the appearance of our practices needs to be able to reflect both. A patient should be able to expect a clean, clutter free environment. Now, that doesn’t mean your retail area needs to look as clinical as the local Apple Store. But it does mean someone should be looking at your practice through the eyes of a customer, to make sure those areas are something you can be proud to present to your patients.

Often, the stuff we have displayed is intentional. We’ll make some technical medical information we copied from a journal available in the reception area (and maybe a patient will self-diagnose their pterygium while waiting for prescreening).

More often, we’ll allow vendors to leave ‘customer facing’ marketing materials behind in our dispensary, maybe to coax our patients into asking a question about a product they saw. And then there are all those beautiful point of sale posters on the cabinets promoting particular frames… At some point, all of those things could be useful during a one on one conversation with a patient.

All these things, observed at any one time by a customer who visits once every 24 months, can create a fairly ‘noisy’ environment. More often than not, whatever messages you are trying to convey will be lost. And even worse, your patient may begin to wonder about your back room or records area – most don’t understand what Electronic Medical Records (EMR) look like yet. What quality of care are they receiving from an OD or MD whose trash hasn’t been emptied yet this week? How serious about care is a practice with coffee cups on the reception counter? It may sound silly, but your patients tell us it’s not.

Areas of Pride

I encourage my practices to create ‘areas of pride’ within the office for each staff member. These are clearly defined customer areas, which each staff member is responsible for observing and maintaining – frame display areas, reception areas, prescreen rooms, examination rooms, and so on. Nothing gets put in that area without the staff member’s involvement.

I also encourage the practice owner or administrator to share the ‘new rules’ with your vendors.

You will quickly create a simplified environment, which is welcoming and comfortable for your patients and customers. You’ll also create some ownership with the trusted staff members who will be responsible for a little corner of your practice’s world. There is nothing wrong with ‘stuff’, just make sure it’s helping you to keep your message clear and targeted.

Greg Wolcott is CEO of Practice Building Solutions. Greg works with optical retailers around the
world to transform their practices through improved operations, patient care, and profitability.

This article was originally published online at www.practicebuildingsolutions.com. It has been edited and reproduced with permission.