Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘client experience’

Accessibility Along the Wine Trail

Posted on: June 18th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

This past Memorial Day Weekend I went with friends on a tour of wineries in Western Wisconsin along the Great River Road that runs alongside the Mississippi River. We tasted some good and some not-so-good wine, and we had a great time visiting the shops that are abundant in the small towns all along the trail.

As we toured in and out of the shops and restaurants I couldn’t help noticing the wide variety of interpretations of the American’s with Disabilities Act implementations there were in regards to restroom accessibility. The ADA is fairly straightforward in its guidelines as to what makes for compliant design and what does not. Here are some of my favorites from our trip.

A towel bar doesn't make a good ADA grab bar

A towel bar doesn’t make a good ADA grab bar

One – a towel bar does not a grab bar make.   Towel bars are not the same diameter as grab bars and consequently are not as easy to grip if one needs some added stability. Additionally, towel bars are designed to hold towels, not the weight of a person, so even if this one happened to be installed with proper backing behind the drywall, chances are it would give way if someone actually used it for support.

Two – installing at a diagonal does not count as two bars. The ADA requires both horizontal and vertical supports around a toilet. Additionally, the horizontal support needs to extend down one side and across the back of the toilet. Installing the bar at an angle does not meet the requirement for both horizontal and vertical support. Nice try, but no.

 

 

 

Angled mounting doesn't count for two.

Angled mounting doesn’t count for two.

As in the first example I’m curious as to how well this bar would hold up mounting into the rough stone of an old barn if someone actually needed the support. Neither the mounting bolts nor the bar itself struck me as too stable.

Three – this restroom gets an “A”. Not only have they installed all of the proper bars, they are installed in the proper locations with distances that meet ADA guidelines for spacing from floor to bar and toilet to wall. Of course, they also get brownie points for designing a nice looking restroom while they were at it.

 

 

This is how an ADA compliant bathroom is supposed to look.

This is how an ADA compliant bathroom is supposed to look.

When was the last time you were in the public restroom at your dental office? Take a look and see just how whether all of the proper bars are installed and in compliance. Adding bars is a fairly easy thing to do and will make patients with disabilities dental experience much better should they need to use the facilities while there.

Design for Accessibility

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Mom & Dad

Mom & Dad

I recently traveled with my aging parents to my sister’s wedding on Chesapeake Bay. It was a lovely weekend and everyone had a great time, yet while I see my parents every week, living and traveling with them for four days reinforced to me just how much care we, as designers, need to take in designing for accessibility.

My parents are both in their mid-80’s and I think they get around pretty well. They are both in good health, yet do suffer from typical effects of aging such as diminished hearing, vision, balance, and mobility. Consequently, traveling to unfamiliar places poses a challenge. They don’t hear instructions by TSA agents, hotel clerks, and restaurant servers well when there is a lot of background noise. They get tripped up when floors and transitions are not smooth or stairs are of an uneven height. They don’t immediately identify signs and wayfinding clues. Watching my parents navigating unfamiliar terrain made me realize just how much work we have cut out for us in creating designs for our clients that work to diminish these challenges.

The elderly are not the only ones that need good accessibility design. Anyone who has ever broken a leg or ankle or for whatever reason was restricted to crutches or a wheelchair can tell you just how challenging getting around can be. Entrance ramps that are supposed to provide accessibility are often at the wrong angle and require tremendous effort to mount. Restrooms that do not follow ADA accessibility guidelines are next to impossible to navigate alone. Most operatories are designed for the efficiency of the staff and do not take the ability of the patient at all. Good signage in dental offices is almost non-existent. Patients of all ages can benefit from better accessibility design. Our job as dental office designers it to make sure our clients’ practices excel in providing it.

Gotta Know How to Smile

Posted on: May 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Smile

Smile

There is a woman that works as a barista at my local Starbucks that makes me cringe whenever she is on the cash register when I come in. Occasionally, as I sit contemplating my next blog post, I’ll watch her and the other baristas as they hustle and work hard to serve up the various coffee beverages and keep the morning line moving. This particular woman probably hustles more than most of her coworkers. She is never idle. If there is a lull in traffic she is immediately looking to see what needs to be done next and jumps to it. There is no question that she takes her job seriously and puts tremendous effort into trying to do it well. However, she doesn’t seem to know how to interact with customers.

Being a barista requires one to interact with the customers. A significant part of the coffeehouse culture, and an area where Starbucks normally shines, is that they have consistently warm, friendly baristas that learn customers’ names, take time in spite of crushing lines to banter with them, and always provide service with a smile. This particular woman doesn’t seem to be able to do this. Perhaps it is her personality. Perhaps the manager has not bothered to coach her on her demeanor. Whatever the case, she is diminishing the coffee house experience with her gruff manner and lack of rapport with customers.

We see this same problem when performing Patient Experience Evaluations for clients. Front line personnel that are gruff and terse with patients have an immediate dampening effect on patient experience ratings. Patients want to be treated with respect and dignity and not like they are an annoying interruption to the person’s day. A warm smile and greeting go a long way toward helping to reduce patient anxiety.

For some people learning to smile, laugh, and engage with patients does not come naturally, especially while under pressure. This behavior requires training and coaching and consistent reinforcement until it becomes second nature. We believe everyone has the ability to learn to be warm and engaging if properly coached. As an employer one doesn’t have to hire for “type” – nor should they. But, one does need to understand the roll doing the entire job right plays in creating a positive patient experience and not just the technical proficiency portion of the job description.

You Have them at “Hello”

Posted on: May 9th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
"Hello!"

“Hello!”

Remember the old adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression? Well, we may not have as long as we’ve thought to make that impression. A recent research project has found that we humans form impressions of people from the very first “hello.” Michelle Trudeau on NPR’s “Morning Edition” reported on the research this past week. The way men and women say hello immediately causes us to form instinctive judgments on how trustworthy the speaker is, along with a host of other important attributes that were very important in keeping humans alive over the years.

Think about your dental office and how the receptionist answers the phone or says “hello” to people when they first walk in. I’ve always been shocked at how many offices I walk into to be greeted gruffly or with an irritated tone – like I’m interrupting their day. During our Patient Experience Evaluations this is one of the things we notice right away. If that first word out of the greeter’s mouth isn’t warm, friendly, and welcoming it sets a bad tone for the entire visit. The entire dental team has an uphill battle at that point to salvage the experience and send the patient away happy. Luckily, research has also shown that the way the patient is sent out the door has a very strong impact on how the entire experience is remembered.

Why set the dental team up for this much effort when proper training can avert potential disaster? Evidently, the famous line from Jerry Maquire, “You had me at hello,” isn’t all that far off.

What Sets Your Dental Office Apart?

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A three legged stool - dentistry, service, design

A three legged stool – dentistry, service, design

What sets your dental practice off from all of the competition?  What is your unique value proposition that keeps patients coming back and motivates them to refer their family and friends to your door?  “We provide great oral healthcare,” you say.  “But,” I challenge, so do the guys down the street – and across town, and in the next township over.  I would say that merely providing really good healthcare is not enough to brand differentiate your dental practice from all of the competition. Of course, this is something that every dental practice should be striving for. In fact, I’d contend they should be striving to provide exceptional oral healthcare. However, in an environment where dentistry is viewed as a commodity there has to be more to your brand beyond exceptional care.  The entire dental experience must be exceptional.

The hard part of building a business is in identifying that unique element that sets it apart from all of its competition.  We call this the “defining touch” of the business.  Once identified the business must have a specific plan on how to shape, hone, and refine this touch into the sharp sword of excellence that will give it an edge over the competition.  It is not enough to be good at one does.  One must strive for excellence in order to attract new patients, retain the ones you’ve got, and build a practice that flourishes.  Of course, we firmly believe that the design of the dental office is integral to this defining element and that success cannot be achieved without weaving the design of the physical space and the design of the patient service together into a symbiotic whole.  All three legs of the dentistry, service, and office design “stool” must be strong if it is going to support a winning team.

How Do You Know Whether Your Office is a Hit?

Posted on: March 21st, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

HandsClappingYou go to a show.  You thoroughly enjoy it.  So do all the people around you.  At the end you, along with everyone else in the theatre erupt into enthusiastic applause and leap to your feet.  As you leave the theatre you can’t stop talking about how wonderful the performance was, which were your favorite scenes – your favorite lines.  The next day you’re still talking about it to everyone you meet.  The sow was obviously a hit.

But, you run a dental office, not a theatre troupe.  How do you know if your dental practice is a “hit” with your patients?  You’ve just spent good money remodeling the practice after taking over from the retiring, senior associate.  Was that money well spent?  Have you achieved your goal of providing an exceptional patient experience?  Well, are your patients talking about you?

How would you know whether your patients are talking about you?  One of the first ways is to be tracking referrals.  The time to start tracking both patient referrals and appointment cancellations is before you embark on your remodel or some other major change in the practice operations.  The more baseline data you have the more certain you’ll be of the results after the change.  If you’ve been successful in improving the patient experience you should see referrals go up and cancellations fall.

You can also survey your patients asking them about their experience.  Again, if you can do this before the change doing so afterwards will give you comparative data.  Having a third-party survey your patients is probably a better choice than having someone from the office call.  Patients are more likely to be honest with a third-party than someone in the office they know – especially if they have a complaint.  Email surveys are also good as they are less expensive and you can reach out to every patient that you have an email address for.

Then there is social media.  You can look to see what your patients are saying on your Facebook page.  You can build quick Facebook surveys that can help you ask specific questions about changes in the practice and solicit responses.

As Lady Gaga says, “[we] live for the applause.” In the case of a dental office hit, the applause is a vibrant, growing practice.

Flowers – A Sure Sign of Spring

Posted on: March 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

Spring flowers in the snow.

Spring is almost here and one of the surest signs that it is on its way is the appearance of flower buds poking through the snow.  The mere sight of these bright colors immediately lights one’s spirits and puts a smile on one’s face.  The same is true when patients first walk into a dental office and are greeted by an arrangement of fresh flowers.  Nothing does the trick of brightening a room the way fresh cut flowers can, and after a long, cold, dreary winter, an arrangement of spring flowers can really add life to the office décor.

An arrangement of fresh cut flowers doesn’t only put patients in a better mood, but provide a great energy boost to the staff working in the office.  When staff members are in a good mood this automatically extends to how they greet patients in person as well as on the phone, making exchanges warmer and friendlier.  The more positive the interactions patients have while in the dental office the higher the likelihood they will provide positive referrals to their family and friends.

Happier staff also translates into a more productive workforce.  While the cost of keeping fresh cut flowers in the office may seem high, the returns from increased productivity and increased referrals more than offsets the rise in overhead expenses.

Blue – Another Great Color Choice for 2014

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
"Blue" jeans

“Blue” jeans

Blue.  More specifically, indigo, is a hot color right now.  Earlier we discussed that Radiant Orchid is Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year, but Indigo is definitely a hot choice right now among color enthusiasts.  The color watchers at The Wall Street journal are seeing a re-emergence of Indigo in everything from fashion to furnishings and print.

What makes Indigo such an appealing color? Think blue jeans.  Ever since Levi Strauss launched his line of jeans in the 19th century, Americans have been in love with their jeans.  Who doesn’t wear a pair when they are off work and relaxing?  Heck, we’re known to wear our favorite pairs until they have holes and are practically falling off of us.  If one is going to design a dental office and brand it as the ultimate in relaxed, comfortable, and friendly oral health care, what better way to capture this than by using indigo and denim as part of the décor?

The goal is to create a space that people feel comfortable coming to so they won’t cancel their appointments out of anxiety and that they’ll refer all of their family and friends to.  Indigo can be an excellent choice, working well against a backdrop of neutral colors from white to beige to taupe to bring a sense of calm and relaxation to the practice.  Will indigo appeal across genders?  We certainly think so. What man doesn’t own a pair of jeans and have blue in his closet?

Ready to Inject Some Bold Color into Your Design?

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by James Kuester 1 Comment

Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year

Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year is 18-3224 Radiant Orchid, which they describe as, “…a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple.”1

“While the 2013 color of the year, PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald, served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity, Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”1

We agree.  The modern dental office experience screams for originality, creativity, and individualization of the patient experience, and the design of the office is a key foundation for building a brand that brings this all together for the thriving practice.  Without a unique brand and patient experience how else is a dental office going to set itself apart and thrive in an increasingly crowded marketplace where a new practice opens seemingly across the street every day?  Infusing the office design with accents of colors that speak to the here, the now, and the creative is one way to keep the patient experience fresh, unique, and different.  Layered over a neutral palette of grays, beiges, or taupes, this color used as an accent can really re-energize a space without overpowering it.

We challenge our clients to think beyond the box and embrace a bold and different branding message and consider incorporating this year’s Color of the Year into their accent pieces.

1 Pantone Reveals Color of the Year for 2014:
PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid

The More Special Dental Experience

Posted on: March 7th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A Lindt truffle

A Lindt truffle

Do you remember when your dentist gave you a sucker after your appointment?  I do.  I loved Charm Pops and going to the dentist was the only time I ever got one.  Getting to pick out a grape one after my appointment made me feel special and helped take away the anxiety of having to go in the first place.  (I feared having a cavity and having my teeth pulled.)

The other night I returned to my hotel room following a banquet to find a Lindt chocolate on my pillow and the bed turned down.  While many consider such touches to be old fashion, I find them quite nice. The simple touch was a nice surprise coming back to the room after a long day.

I understand why dentists don’t give out sugary candy after appointments anymore.  A bit self-serving and not exactly a promotion of good oral health, but there are other ways to add a special little touch to one’s dental experience to make the trip more special.  (I friend and co-advisor in a youth group I work with likes to call this “specialer”.)  So, the goal is to design a dental experience that is “specialer” so patients feel good about their visits and time spent there.  When a “specialer” experience is achieved patients refer more family and friends about how great their experience was, which translates into growth for the practice.  And, the best part is creating a “specialer” dental experience only requires little touches – remember the Charm Pops and Lindt chocolate.