IF YOU’RE like most ECPs who own or manage an office, you’re a busy person. Even so, it’s your responsibility to ensure the office runs smoothly and efficiently. Are your patients really pleased with your staff’s services? Do you have the right mix of products displayed and are they being offered? Does the office project the image you want it to and does it provide the non-verbal messages you want patients to obtain? One way of finding out these things—and a lot more—is to take some time to become a patient.

I’m not suggesting you become a secret shopper, instead I’m recommending you do this overtly. Take an hour or so one day and play patient. Go outside the office with a pad and a pen and start making notes. What do you see as you stand across the street from your office? Does the image your office projects give the messages you want to potential clients?

Walk in the door. What does the setting say to you: cluttered, spacious, dark, bright, modern, classic, dated, fresh, unreachable, inviting, etc.? Is the reception area accessible and welcoming or does the receptionist seem barricaded behind some high structure?

Take time to fill out all the required forms. Is it easy to do? Does the patient have to repeat the same information several times on different forms? How long does it take? Sit in the reception area and see how long patients wait to be called for their appointments. For the time you are in the reception area, are there things that help you understand the products and services you might be “buying” today?

Look at the dispensary and frame boards, watch your personnel dispense, listen to the phone calls, and in general, just become a typical patient. Yes, actually get your eyes examined and pick out frames, lenses, and treatments. In other words, go the whole nine yards.

If done seriously, you’ll have a pile of notes about things that concern you or could be done better. Remember, everything about your office makes a statement about it. The non-verbal stuff is as important as the verbal because they give off subliminal messages that patients interpret. As an owner or manager, always ask yourself two questions: what does this image say to me, and more importantly, what do you want it to say?

The danger here is that you don’t take this seriously and you just go through the motions. To make this work, you must put yourself in your patient’s situation completely and make sure everyone else does the same. The more realistic you make it, the more enlightened you’ll be.

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