Les Jones talks about the importance of setting the right tone during the first few seconds of a patient’s visit to a practice.
I was recently reminded of how important first impressions are in any customer-facing business.
My wife and I were up in Yorkshire for a one-night mini break and in the evening we’d booked into an Italian restaurant. Like most of us would, I’d Googled various restaurants, read stacks of reviews and finally decided on the Italian restaurant as our choice for the evening. The menu looked great, the photos on the website showed a vibrant, buzzing environment and the reviews were overwhelmingly five stars.
When we arrived, we were shown to our seats by the Maitre-d’ – we were upbeat and looking forward to a nice evening.
Our waiter then came over with the menus.
He walked up to our table and, without a word of welcome, a smile, or any eye-contact, placed the menus in the middle of the table and then walked away.
My wife and I looked at each other.
In just five seconds, the waiter had managed to change our mood, our focus of attention and our expectations of the evening. Five seconds was all it took.
For the next few minutes we talked about what had just happened and how we would have done it differently. My wife, who had the seat with the wider view of the restaurant, then started to look past me as she focused on the waiter’s approach to other tables, whilst giving me a running commentary.
Each time he came back to us to take our orders for food and drinks, we were zoned in on his mood and his interaction – or lack of it.
Our feelings were then deepened further when another couple arrived at the table next to us who the waiter clearly knew. He then spent over five minutes talking and laughing with them as his backside hovered inches away from our table.
The food came and went and it was good – but the tone of the evening had been set by the performance of our waiter in the first few seconds of us arriving.
It’s not hard to see the parallels here between the restaurant and your practice.
When a patient walks into your practice, you and your team have the power to make them feel welcome, relaxed and valued or anonymous, nervous and simply an irritating part of that day’s conveyor belt of appointments.
How much time do you spend with your team talking about the importance and potential impact of those first few seconds? How much, as practice owners or managers, do you tune into those initial interactions by your front desk team?
Getting those first seconds right could be the difference between a slightly negative, forgettable experience and a five-star Google review or, even better, a personal referral.