By Tom Moseman
Senior Vice President, Envirosell
During office visits, your patients experience two forms of interaction–across fromthe doctor in traditional, nose-to-nose communication, andside-by-sidewith opticians or sales personnel in your dispensary. Thedesign of your office needs to accommodateboth ofthese modes of interaction.
Simply put, there are instances when the doctor needs to show authority, as well as situations when staff should foster a collaborative process of decision making. Good design can help to facilitate both.
When providing customer service, collaborative “hip-to-hip” seating isbest, butthere are other times that staff needsto sit opposite fromthe patient akin to what happens in banks: Interactions with tellers are nose-to-nose, but when you go to a loan officer, some banks have created informal areas with couches and coffee tables rather than the usual desk setup.
In retail environments, good sales people know to approach customers from the side–getting caught in their peripheral vision–and how to focus on the item for sale rather than just asking, “Can I help you with something?” In a dispensary environment, allowing patients to collaborate with you works well when it comes to picking frames. You can encourage informal interactions with a more casual seating area versus the usual across-the-display-counter arrangement. This design allows your staff to “be the mirror” to patients when they select eyewear options. Patients often bring others with them when they pick eyeglasses–a more casual setup accommodates these extra people in the interaction.
Waiting areas are a good example of casual and comfortable. Some doctors have magazines, but this is a great opportunity to impart eye-health information and to let patients know about services and options for eyewear and eyecare that you offer. This is an example of a passive collaboration.
Formality Builds Trust with Patients
When you are conducting eye exams, or performing tests,opposite seating, orwhat is known as a”confrontational” approach, is more appropriate. After all, looking at someone’s eyes through a slit lamp is about as nose-to-nose as it gets. Also, remember the need for privacy during these interactions. People trust their doctors, and a formal set-up helps bolster this bond.
The key is to strike a balance between formal and casual areas in your practice. As noted in previous articles in this series, you can learn a lot by standing in a corner of the room and observing the interactions that occur in different areas where patients interact with you and your staff. You can ascertain what will work best for you. This approach is common in retail stores, but most doctors are not trained to think this way.
Be Cost-Effective In Changing Your Interactive Spaces
Redesigning an existing space doesn’t need to be a major undertaking. Sometimes, you can simply rearrange existing furniture. Also, the staff will needtraining to understand which areas require formality versus casual interaction. Patients need to be handed off properly from one area to the next. By making it clear to patients what is happening next, and who is going to help them on the next step (e.g., going from the exam room to the contact-lens fitting area) this alleviates a lot of stress for patients.
Types of Interaction
Even the smallest practices can find ways to utilize good design to enhance interactions with patients. It just requires some time to make observations and to make a few small changes. The key, when it comes to the formal and informal, is to find a balance.
Other ROB Science of Selling articles by Tom Moseman:
For additional reference
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
By Paco Underhill