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Client vs. patient: Who's more important? (Part 3: Reception area)


In part three of this "client vs. patient" series, we explore the importance of catering to both patients and clients when it comes to the design and offerings of your reception area. You can view the entire series here.

You want new patients. You take courses, workshops, read forum threads and even hire “experts” on how to market to patients, get them in the door, connect with them, get them to say “yes” and have them return, time and time again. There’s a falsely held truth in dentistry that success relies solely on new patients and how much treatment dentists can diagnose. This is far from the whole story.

There is another target market that plays a critical part in the success, diversity and longevity of a practice. These are the clients. Clients are the decision makers. They decide if a patient moves forward with treatment, which level of service a patient will tolerate, if the cost to value ratio is acceptable and often drives the patient’s emotional response throughout the process. Often these important individuals are called guardians, parents or spouses. Don’t be fooled by those titles. These people are clients and must be catered to in marketing, technology, practice management, team development and office environment with equal amounts of thought and energy as a patient.

Related reading: Client vs. patient: Who's more important? (Part 1: Marketing)

Reception area


The reception area/lobby is going to be an important factor for patients and clients when deciding to embark on becoming a loyal consumer. The design, layout, style, comfort and informative elements tell a story to every patient and client about the potential for  their upcoming experience and level of treatment they might receive. They are actively looking for evidence that confirms their hopes while also noticing those things that solidify their fears. Patients and clients look for different elements in a lobby that meets their needs and soothes any pains they might be feeling. It’s easy to impress both groups with some intentional design.

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Pictures: Display pictures of your current patient base. Patients find it comforting to know others they trust picked the office too. Include a photo collage of your team having fun in the community, with each other, and doing things they love. Makes for great talking points in the back office.

Resource center: Patients want to have their questions answered and they often find it embarrassing or intimidating to ask the doctor. Have a resource center that provides relevant information for all types of patient questions, situations and concerns.

Kids Zone:  A practice is typically filled with kids, patients and family members. Having a kid-friendly area with books, computers, games, music and toys will entertain patients and give clients a breather.


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Refreshments: Clients make appointments around school and work obligations. This typically means early morning, lunch or dinner times are interrupted or completely missed. Offer beverages and snacks during those mealtime appointments or have a ‘feel free to feed’ policy for clients and encourage them to bring their own snacks.

Related reading: Client vs. patient: Who's more important? (Part 2: Tehnology)

Work stations:  Make it convenient for clients to be delayed or leave work by having a work station for them. Giving them space to continue fulfilling their daily obligations will make it easier for them to keep all appointments.

Relaxing environment: Often when an office is being designed, practitioners go for cost effectiveness, modern looks or color rather than comfort of furniture (seriously, have you sat in those egg-shaped chairs?). Yet, when was the last time a team member sat in a lobby chair for more than five minutes?  When clients are comfortable, they are not only willing to return happily to the office, they don’t notice how long they are there (time distractor!). Live plants, sofas, sunlight, soft indoor lighting and family-friendly music all go a long way.

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This article is part one of a five-part series. Next: Part 4: Client vs. patient: New patient appointments

Editor's Note: Jen Butler, M.Ed., has been working in the area of stress management and resiliency coaching for over 20 years. For more information on how to stressLESS, join her mailing list, take a stressLESS Intensive™ course, and connect with other like-minded, dental professionals while learning how to reduce and manage stress by joining a stressLESS Mastermind Alliance™ TODAY!

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