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First impressions count. Fortunately, there are many quick, easy ways to refresh the look of your practice. By Kerryn Ramsey
Running a dental practice is an all-consuming job. You’re involved with every aspect of the business whether it’s client satisfaction, staff issues, equipment updates, HR procedures, accounts or marketing. It’s understandable that when a dental practice has been in the same location for years, it’s easy for both the interior and exterior to start looking a little worn and tired. Thankfully, there are a few quick fixes that can refresh the look of your practice without breaking the bank.
Identify the problems
The first step is to identify the areas that can be improved with minimal effort. The problem is, when an owner is at the practice every day, concentrating on their patients and business, it’s easy to become blind to the issues. A fresh perspective can be helpful.
“It’s a common problem,” says Rod Phillips, managing director of Elite Fitout Solutions, a company that provides design, fit-out and build solutions for dental, medical and veterinary practices. “You build a house and 20 years later, you think it’s the same house but it’s not. It’s tired looking but you can’t see it. A great idea is to seek a bit of feedback.”
If you’re following up your clients, ask what they think of the service and facilities. Ask for frank feedback from your staff about how the practice looks. If you have hired a new staff member, ask them about their first impressions of the practice.
The exterior of your practice is the face of your business. It creates a first impression for new clients and reflects your quality of care. While practices located in shopping centres tend to be tidy in line with centre policies, standalone ones require regular upkeep.
Dr Stephen Cameron built Cameron Dental Care from scratch in 1986 and opened in 1987. He was the sole practitioner for most of the time in this standalone practice until 2017 when his daughter, Dr Sarah Cameron, joined the business which she now owns. The practice underwent a major renovation a few years ago and Dr Stephen Cameron employed a designer to choose the colour scheme of the exterior, along with the lettering and font of the painted sign. The original blue and yellow colour was changed to a contemporary dark and light grey.
“Practice owners have to understand that they’re dentists not designers,” says Dr Cameron. “I employed a local designer to create the exterior look of the practice. She chose the colours and suggested a new front door made of beautiful Australian timber. It all worked together wonderfully well.”
That’s not to say that Dr Cameron is not hands-on. When the exterior paint job started looking a bit weathered, he picked up a paintbrush and got to work.
“Since painting isn’t difficult,” he says, “a fresh coat can make a practice look like new.”
The reception and waiting area must look clean, contemporary and professional. Ensuring magazines are current, flowers are changed daily and throw cushions are rotated is an easy fix that costs next to nothing. Halogen lights are expensive to run and give a yellow hue. Update these with LED lighting for a cool white light. New lighting also requires that all walls are clean and in good condition as any small mark will show. It’s all about making the space non-threatening and relaxing.
“The reception/waiting area is where clients gain their lasting impression,” says Rod Phillips. “Once they walk down the hallway and into a surgery, they remember very little of the decor. They’re reclining in the chair, wearing goggles and watching television.”
Dr Cameron’s reception area is lit by fluorescent tubes. These can last for years but tend to deteriorate over time. He replaced all the tubes at a cost of about $10 a tube with an LED type.
“The new tubes give a consistent bright light with no flicker,” he says. “It immediately makes the waiting area look better. We’ve also added a perspex sign above the reception desk that matches our practice logo. The main thing is to have it neat, clean and calming. This is where clients sit, look around and really take in the branding of your practice.”
If your reception area is covered in notices and handwritten notes held up by tape, you’re not doing yourself any favours. It’s much better to create a display wall of information that’s clearly printed. Pamphlets should be in one tidy area rather than all over the space. The reception desk needs to be clean with no papers or paraphernalia left lying around.
A full renovation
There are many simple ways to keep a practice looking fresh, from cleaning windows to changing artworks to bringing in a gardener. So, at what point is a complete renovation required? Phillips has found that the look of the practice is usually not the trigger.
“The impetus for a full renovation is often due to a change of circumstance,” he says. “The business may be expanding or the technology is being updated or the business is changing hands. Once the decision is made, this is the opportunity to also update disability access and worn flooring.”
The importance of maintaining appearances cannot be overstated. Consumers have choices. If they walk past a new contemporary clinic but are being treated in a shabby, dated surgery, you’re almost making the choice for them.
“When I think of our clientele over the past 33 years, many are rusted on,” says Dr Cameron. “We provide high-quality treatment and that’s reflected in our practice ethos. You have to genuinely care about the people you’re looking after. If you care about the surroundings, that’s the first step in showing clients that you’re involved. It demonstrates you care about them and what’s going on.”