Creating the ideal patient experience starts from the moment a patient walks in your door. They should enter a reception area that is pleasant and inviting to not only keep patients happy while waiting (hopefully briefly) for their next appointment but to also reflect the high standards of your office.
An array of studies has found it only takes 7 seconds to form an impression on someone when initially meeting. Just as you would hope to make a positive first impression on a patient, you also need your reception area to make just as good a first impression.
These essential elements of any comfortable reception area will help you keep patients happy—even when waiting for their appointment to start.
The reception area should be a physical reflection of your dental office’s values. Therefore, a degree of professionalism should be maintained throughout the various physical features. Business-like décor, cooperative staff, dedicated receptionists, and a clutter-free environment all showcase dedication to high quality care.
While there are aesthetic representations that indicate office values, maintaining a staff that creates a welcoming environment and greets patients with enthusiasm further demonstrates a high degree of professionalism. Share your expectations for greeting visitors in an appropriate manner and utilize basic customer service training if needed. Additionally, establishing an easy and efficient check-in process will improve patients’ attitudes and make the overall process easier for your staff.
Comfort & Design
First and foremost, comfort should be a chief concern while designing a reception area. Don’t underestimate how a comfortable place to sit can turn a bothersome waiting experience into a relaxed and happy one. Consider features such as back-support, cushioning, height, width, and overall quality to determine a seating option that will satisfy a wide array of patients. People’s moods are undoubtedly impacted by the environment they’re in, so cheap seating could lead to unpleasant feelings from your patients.
The overall design and aesthetic elements of the reception area should be minimal. Patients who enter your dental office should feel calm and welcomed, not bombarded. Simple elements that you could consider including in the space are plants, wall art, and photography. Don’t over-complicate the design features because, as many say, less is more.
Most people utilize smart phones as entertainment but don’t have access to unlimited data. Therefore, offering free Wi-Fi will keep patients entertained as they pass the time in your reception area. As an additional feature for individuals waiting, having appropriate television stations with subtitles playing throughout the office offers another way to pass the time.
Although less popular in the past few years, physical materials such as magazines, newspapers, snacks, and beverages are also viable options to keep patients entertained. Offering a bottle of water can be a welcome gesture to patients in your reception area. Individually packed snacks, such as nuts, are both satisfying and good for patients’ oral health. No one likes to wait for things, but complimentary food and drinks can help make people more forgiving—particularly if they’ve shown up for the appointment on an empty stomach.
It’s also important to consider entertainment options for younger patients. Keeping a variety of activities on hand that they can keep after completing is a fun—and safe—way to help them pass the time. Individual coloring sheets and packs of crayons are a great option for this. This can also help reduce potential anxiety by keeping children’s minds off their appointment.
One thing to keep in mind is that physical forms of entertainment require a degree of preparation and potentially disinfection to keep them safe for patients.
Despite the best intentions, waiting for dental appointments will never rank as anyone’s favorite way to pass time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it as pleasant as possible. Utilizing these simple tips to improve your reception area will ensure that you’ll do all you can to give your patients the best experience possible in your practice.