Issue #4: The Director of First Impressions
How Sweet is Your Greet?
As a “close cousin” topic to last month’s TeeTime on telephone skills as a vital (yet often neglected) part of customer experience, most practices underestimate the role of the person sitting out front whose job it is to meet patients when they first arrive.  You call that person a receptionist.  In reality they are your Director of First Impressions and they have an outsized impact on how you are viewed by your customers.

As with a telephone call, people form impressions about your practice from that moment of first in-person contact.  Traditional research indicates that a person’s impression is formed within seven seconds of meeting someone.  All sorts of decisions are being made that range from trustworthiness to kindness, intelligence and status.  

I actually think this happens much faster than seven seconds.  More recent data, referred to by psychologists as “thin slicing,” suggests that opinions are formed in as little as 1/10th or 1/20th of a second, depending on the attribute. 

A long-held marketing maxim is that “everything communicates,” and what happens at that first in-person encounter is no exception.   Your Director of First Impressions is setting the tone for the visit based on both verbal and non-verbal cues.  So, it’s not just how they say “hello” (assuming they do!) but whether or not they smile, how they are dressed, appearance of visible tattoos and the like.

Compounding this complex mental analysis that happens in the blink of an eye is the physical environment that surrounds your Director and what it communicates.  Shown here are two very different extremes from medical practices below.  Which one do you find more appealing?:

While it’s not feasible that every medical environment has the resources to invest in a high-end look and feel reception area – physical environment will be a topic of future issues – it’s no longer acceptable to arrive at a medical appointment and find a sliding window (closed or open).  

What’s the fix?  While remodeling takes time and effort, you can upgrade the role of your receptionist immediately.  Give him or her the title they deserve.  Develop standards of performance that should mimic how job seekers are taught to arrive at an interview:  smile, shake hands, introduce yourself, speak clearly, maintain eye contact…you get the idea.

From Walmart’s greeters to the Waldorf Astoria's welcoming staff, retail and hospitality giants know the significance of first impressions.  The impressions created by those who see the patient before the clinical workup begins can be lasting.           

Today or tomorrow, when you arrive at your office, go through the front door and see for yourself.  Try hard to make your entry "as if" you were coming in for the first time.  It’s high time that everybody in the business of serving customers asks the key question:  How sweet is our greet?
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About "Tee Time"
Shareef Mahdavi has been helping doctors enhance their practices for years through technology, patient experience, and better economics.

Tee Time provides answers to specific pain points within medical practices, offering advice and solutions from companies that have been reviewed and evaluated by SM2 Strategic.