In my work as a home stager I often have to explain to clients that when they get too familiar with their home, they stop "seeing" it as it really is, and become blind to things that strangers would notice right away. Things like excess clutter, dirty or damaged property, poor traffic paths...
If you've had your space for a while, take a look at it with new eyes - the eyes of your customers, clients, or patients. What do they see when they first come in? How do they move through your space? What do things look like from their vantage points?
Start with the exterior of your building. Is it clean and well-maintained? If you have control over the exterior, for heaven's sake don't let it get dirty, cobwebby, or run-down. If you lease, cultivate a good relationship with your landlord, and convey to them that keeping things looking great is good for your business - and what's good for your business is good for THEIR business.
Is the entryway easy to access? Physical challenges aren't restricted to those in wheelchairs: doors that are too heavy or cumbersome are a challenge for any with poor strength, and entryways that are too confined for heavy foot traffic make people feel uncomfortable.
Is there a place to sit down and remove shoes or boots? And are there ample places to put boots, coats, and bags (if necessary)? My personal pet peeve is offices that request I remove my boots, then make me stand in a puddle of melting slush while I try to figure out where the #%$& I'm supposed to put them...
What's the temperature like? Too warm? Too cold? Cold waiting rooms and offices are the bane of my existence; nothing says "I don't care about your comfort" more than an interior climate that's frigid or boiling.
Does your office have a smell? That may sound like a weird question, but I'm always amazed at the number of health care offices, say, that smell too "medical" (i.e. like the inside of a Band-aid box). And many people these days are affected by chemical sensitivities, so harsh artificial air fresheners or perfumes are a big no-no.
What's the lighting like? Is it bright enough to read by while waiting, or is it too glaring? If you have office staff, do they feel refreshed and energized at the end of the day, or are they dragged down by poor task lighting and canned indoor air? My least favorite optometrist's office had lighting that would have been great to have sex by (i.e. enough to see, but just barely), but was brutal for a waiting room - I always left with raging migraines from squinting at my magazines.
Actually sit in your waiting room seats. Are they comfortable? Are they too close together? Do you honestly know how full your waiting room gets at its fullest? Are the chairs easy to get into and out of? Firm seats with arm rests are ideal, especially if you serve aging populations. Avoid too soft and comfy and low (think: overstuffed sofas bad).
Please re-think playing the radio over your office's sound system. I have never found commercial radio to be calming or restful (and surely you want your clients to be calm and rested!). Soft, New Age music might seem an appealing alternative, but becomes nauseous after several hours. The best solution I ever experienced was a family doctor who made note of each patient's musical preferences during their initial visit, and pre-programmed her office stereo (via her laptop) every morning to play their favorites at around the time when each patient could be expected to be in the waiting room. She never made anyone wait more than ten minutes (really!), so there wasn't any opportunity for conflict of musical tastes. I miss her very much (I just moved to a new city, which in retrospect was a very stupid idea, in this day and age of GP shortages)... :(
Head to your inner office/consulting room/treatment room, and spend some time sitting or lying where your customers have to sit or lie. Do they have something interesting to look at? (And those stained ceiling tiles don't count.) The most beautiful acoustic tile treatment I ever saw was at a friend's Reiki office, where she suspended lengths of green silk in great billows across the entire ceiling.
If your clients have to undress, do you have someplace for them to hang their clothes? Personally, I don't like rolling my nice suits into a ball on top of the only chair in the room.
I hope you get the idea. I'm not even going to mention bathrooms. (Just wait until my next post.) You probably designed your office space for your own tastes and preferences; just don't forget that you are playing "host" to the people who are paying all your bills...
(And speaking of bills... if you want repeat customers, try and make it easy for them to pay you. I don't mean offering multiple payment options; I mean, giving them a place to write a cheque or input their next appointment into their Day-Timer. Please. Juggling a purse on top of one's knees is a circus act, not the proper way to end a visit.)
Until next time...
copyright 2006, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow