As a dentist, you spend your life perfecting and maintaining your clients’ smiles, so you’ll recognise the importance of a great first impression. In an increasingly competitive industry, it’s imperative that you stand out from the crowd. The good news? Your dental practice reception design can help you do just this.
A good dental reception design should do a number of things:
Calm nervous patients
Provide a good working environment for staff
Ensure privacy for clients
Set the tone for patient experience
Market your practice to potential clients
Read on for practical tips to help ensure your dental reception design meets these objectives and creates the best first impression possible for your clients.
Calm Nervous Patients
The unfamiliar sounds and smells of a dental practice can be worrying for patients, with as many as 50% of the British public feeling anxious about visiting the dentist and 12% reported to have dental phobia*. However, in the past few years there have been numerous game-changing developments around treating patients with dental anxiety and dental phobia but the experience starts long before they’re in the dental chair.
The colours used in your reception and waiting area design can have a psychological effect on how calm someone feels. Colours associated with tranquility such as blues, greens and neutrals can be stress-relieving and are therefore a good choice for a dental reception.
It’s often the clinical feel of a stereotypical dental practice that sets a patient on edge right from the start of their visit. For this reason we encourage you to explore the environments your clients use and feel most relaxed in. This might be a spa, a high-end hotel, or even their own living room! Softer lighting, comfortable furnishings and different seating ‘zones’ will all contribute to making your patients feel more in control and at ease. We recommend that you try to avoid having surgery doors in direct line with the eye of any patients sitting in the waiting area, and provide distractions for the client such as magazines, TV, an aquarium or a coffee bar.
*’The impact of dental phobia on care planning: A vignette study’ by Heidari E, Andiappan M, Newton JT, Banerjee A, published in the British Dental Journal on 26 April 2019.
Provide a Good Working Environment for Staff
Making your clients as welcome and comfortable as possible may seem like the foremost objective for a new dental reception area, however it’s your staff who will be spending the most time there. It’s equally as important that you consider their needs and what they’ll need to do their best work. Our advice? Be sure to consult with them regarding any specific requirements they may have.
Your reception staff will be spending most of their time behind the reception desk so it needs to be spacious, functional and uncluttered. We recommend involving your staff in the planning of the desk design right from the start as they’ll have a really good understanding of what’s important.
The room needs to be able to accommodate a reception desk that has enough space per staff member without feeling crowded for clients. Where possible we try to allow 1.44 square metres of working space per staff member behind the desk. In rooms where this would be impossible, it’s worth exploring having one ‘mobile’ receptionist or setting up an office elsewhere and keeping the front of house staff to a minimum.
You’ll also need to explore what tools your reception staff need on the desk for them to do their job properly. Items like PCs, phones and printers can eat into precious desktop space and require specific power sources and ports. If you can plan in advance for these items and where they’ll sit then this will reduce trailing cables and poor desk layout. Below the desk surface, items such as drawer units, cable tidies and file storage should also be considered to make the desk as functional and uncluttered for your staff as possible.
Other considerations such as air quality and temperature also contribute to providing a good working environment for your staff. It’s considered that 16 – 24 degrees celsius is the optimum working temperature, therefore rooms with access to good natural and mechanical ventilation will keep the air in circulation to achieve this.
Ensure Privacy for Clients
Keeping your clients’ information safe is always important, for example at your practice right now you’re likely to have good cyber security systems in place. However, a reception desk can still be an open book in terms of privacy!
When designing your reception desk, be aware that a corner or U-shape desk could leave clients’ personal information visible to others who might be able to see the staff member’s PC screen. Having a higher countertop in front of PC screens, or tilting screens away from view can help counteract this.
With some dental treatments offered costing thousands of pounds, we recommend that you consider how you take payments from your clients, as some people may be uncomfortable with other customers in the waiting area hearing this information. If possible, a separate, private room where payments can be taken should be designed into the dental reception area. After all, if you’re offering exclusive treatments, you need to accompany that with an equally exclusive and private experience for your clients.
Set the Tone for Patient Experience
The function of a dental reception is recognised as the primarily the area where clients wait for their dental appointments. But it can also form the first and most important impression for a potential client who comes in to enquire about your services. As well as the physical appearance and cleanliness of the area, they’ll also be interested in how efficiently the dental practice seems to run. Therefore, the reception is a great place to demonstrate this.
Any prospective client will want to learn as much as they can about your dental practice, so the reception area is also a great place to do this. That’s why we recommend including an ‘information hub’, where potential clients can easily access information about you, in your dental practice design. This might include a brochure containing information about types of treatments offered and prices as well as your mission, vision and values plus photos of previous client transformations and perhaps even a TV with a promotional and client testimonial video playing.
A reception design created to welcome people from all communities will be an instant plus for many potential clients. For those with a first language other than English, you might like to consider adding other languages to your reception signage and practice literature. Considering persons with physical disabilities and impairments or mental health conditions in your reception design is also crucial: think clear, wide walkways, ramps instead of steps, accessible and spacious WC facilities, a section of low-height reception desk countertop, soothing wall colours and sensory objects. Making your dental reception space inclusive through thoughtful design will ensure that all potential clients feel welcomed.
A well-designed dental reception should encourage logical patient flow so that clients using the space don’t feel cramped. Make sure that there is room around the reception desk for clients to speak to your staff without crowding out anyone waiting in the seating area. Keep messier areas, such as the children’s play section, separate but in sight of the main seating area so children can use the area without distracting other customers and parents can keep an eye out. You may wish to consider a partitioned refreshment area including a coffee bar and some loose seating to give a secluded and peaceful feel. Also, it’s key to have good signage throughout so you clients know exactly where to go in your practice.
Market Your Practice to Potential Clients
Your dental reception design offers you a great opportunity to attract potential clients using a clear and recognisable sense of brand. If your reception is visible from the front of the practice, make sure your logo and slogan are clearly displayed and ideally visible from the outside. Use brand-consistent colours throughout to create a cohesive and interesting design potential clients will instantly recognise as belonging to your dental practice.
Include an area within your dental reception design to showcase your products, whether this be your own brand of toothbrushes or at-home whitening kits. A well-thought out integrated storage unit, for example, will neatly store and promote items in a stylish and sleek way without costing you the earth.
The modern age has brought about a host of new ways to market your dental practice, including the now-unavoidable task of social media marketing. As well as your own marketing activity, it’s proven beneficial for dental practices to encourage their clients to recommend them on their personal social media pages. An easy way to capture this ‘free marketing’ is to set up an Instagrammable wall or booth within the reception area where your clients can take selfies and videos of their post-treatment looks. This is especially effective in practices with an emphasis on cosmetic dentistry.