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I want you to try a little exercise. The next time you walk into your practice, pretend you’re walking into it for the very first time. You’re not a dentist, office manager, hygienist or receptionist; you’re a patient visiting the office for their initial appointment. Look around your waiting room. Does it feel homey, like a family living room, or does it feel clinical? Are your floors swept or vacuumed? Are there toys for young children to play with? Take a look at your operatories. How are your hygienists dressed? What color are their scrubs? Do they match, or is each dressed uniquely? Is your office quiet and serene or is everyone talking and laughing? What sort of music are you playing?

Make note of details like these because collectively they communicate a powerful message. Understanding this message is a crucial part of marketing, but it’s even more important to decide whether it’s appropriate for the practice you want to run.

Atmosphere is integral to any business. It’s one of the clearest identifiers of who you are and what you do there, and it can directly affect what sort of patients you draw. Like it or not, appearance matters in our society, and just as you take care of your personal appearance, you also need to take care of your practice appearance.

If you want to be seen as a cosmetic practice that caters to discriminating patients who want only the best, then your practice had better look like the best practice in the area. Invest in an interior designer and spend some money on attractive modern art. On the other hand, if you’re a pediatric practice, you want your waiting area to feel kid-friendly. Your walls and carpet should be warm and colorful, there should be cartoons on your waiting room TVs and plenty of toys for children to play with while they’re waiting (as well as magazines that will appeal to parents). Family practices should feel comfortable and relaxed. They should be clean, but the waiting room shouldn’t feel sterile. Remember, clean doesn’t always equal comfortable. If the place feels too clean, it could make families feel like they need to watch where they step and can’t relax.

Also, keep in mind that the atmosphere isn’t just the waiting room and operatories. Every member of your team is part of it as well. If you prefer that your staff conduct themselves like medical professionals and keep things serious while at work, you’re going to draw a much different clientele than if you tell them to relax, make jokes and engage your patients.

Think about the atmosphere around your practice and what it’s saying about your business, and if it’s the wrong message — change it. Your atmosphere frames the way your patients see your practice, and I don’t have to tell you how an awful frame can ruin a great picture.

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Comment by angela on August 3, 2010 at 7:06pm
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my firstcomment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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Comment by Mary Jane RDH BS on July 19, 2010 at 10:08am
Very apropos to my new office! It is in a rural community (farmers, etc.). Old, well established office purchased by a young dentist from the mid west. He wants to establish a very quiet, reserved border-line sophisticated establishment...well, he has lost most of the former clientele. I tend to be a relaxed hygienist and take my cues from the patient. If they need chit chat because they are nervous, they get it..peace and quiet if they don't. I prefer to concentrate on my work but a patient's comfort comes first. He is not an easy person to talk to and to be honest, I don't think he would listen to me. But he is a good dentist and it is a shame..your advice is excellent.


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