Written on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by Geoffrey Cooling
An Opportunity For Re-branding
There is an increasing focus on Practice presentation both within our profession but also in the wider healthcare arena. The Optical profession having gone through what private audiological Practice faces today is a case in point. I remember several years ago becoming very cognizant of a change in thought in the Independent Optical world. It was very obvious that the smart ones were making big changes to their Practices. Changes in relation to their customer service offering and their Practice environments.
A Spreading Concept
The idea of good Practice presentation has spread throughout the wider healthcare world and the idea of what good Practice presentation is has also changed. I have written before about the Practice of my friend, Lindsay Gillespie in Belfast. I always admired his Practice concept and deployment. Funnily enough, Lindsay’s Practice is a combined Optical/Audiological Practice. He had a clear vision of how he wanted to position himself and he translated that vision into an excellent Practice.
A Re-Branding Opportunity
The refurbishment of a Practice opens up opportunities for the business both in terms of re-branding and marketing. It is the ideal time to update the branding of the Practice and it gives huge opportunity for a re-launch marketing strategy across all channels. It will also allow you to position the Practice in the manner you want to. The options are there, you can go high street retail or a mixture of premium salon chic and clinical excellence. In many cases the money invested can re-pay itself quite quickly, as you will see below opticians can experience a 35% increase in business after a refurbishment.
We are all aware that the Optical business is far different from our own profession. However, I would imagine that properly handled a marketing campaign in relation to a refurbishment would reap significant rewards within your existing database. I wanted to investigate Practice refurbishment in the Audiological profession in the UK, so I had a chat with Robin Longton of Barnes Design Ltd.
During my travels I had come across Barnes Design, admittedly more in relation to Optical Practice refurbishment, but lately I noticed that they had undertaken a few refurbishment projects for Audiological Practices. I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of the concepts that had been mooted to them in relation to the projects they had undertaken. So I had a chat with him and it went like this;
G.C. So first of all, what incidence of Audiology Practice re-fits are you seeing, is it a trend or spotty at best?
R.L. Although they only make up a small percentage of our market, we have seen an increase in enquiries for Audiology Practice refits over the last 12 months.
G.C. How does it compare to the Optical industry?
R.L. The basic premise is generally the same, most want to achieve a high-end, modern, crisp professional look to their practices, often with a view to taking on the larger national chains.
An Optical shop fit tends to be more weighted towards retail furniture which there is obviously less call for in an Audiology practice, but professional looking, clutter free reception desks, waiting areas and consultation rooms speak volumes about your business whatever industry you are in.
G.C. What is the design process?
R.L. We would generally attend site for an initial consultation and carry out a survey. We then produce plans with a couple of layout options and costs for review. Once we have feedback on these its just a case of fine tuning until we reach a point where the customer is happy. A visit to our showroom is highly recommended to view our furniture ranges first hand and to choose from our wide range of finishes.
G.C. What is usually the lead time and fit out time?
R.L. It can vary widely but the average shop fit generally takes around 6 months from initial enquiry to us being on-site. Of course should there be a need we can achieve a shorter turnaround time.
Obviously time needed on site is dependant on the scope of works, but by manufacturing all furniture in-house & using our own installation staff, therefore not relying on sub-contractors for any part of the works, we are able to achieve the shortest turnaround times in the industry.
G.C. You have said that most Opticians see a boost in business, can you give me a percentage and do you know how long it lasts?
R.L. All opticians tend to see a boost in sales following a refit which averages at 30% dependant upon various external circumstances. I would like to think the uplift is permanent in most cases but it is impossible to quantify really. Although the fact that around 65% of our orders come through returning customers shows that most are pleased with the effects of one of our shop fits and see it as a worthwhile investment.
A Worthwhile Investment
I am inclined to agree with that statement, I think that with the new business reality we face and the changing nature of our customers, upgrading of a Practice is a sound investment. I also think that handled properly it could lead to an increase in business levels, how long that increase lasts is the question. No matter what though, it will give the Practice the opportunity to re-position itself and its’ brand towards one that better serves it. One that will allow it to continue to be relevant within the changing market.
A Cautionary Note
A Practice refurbishment will give you the opportunity to completely change your physical presentation. Physical presentation alone does not make brand, remember that. Take the opportunity to address all of the elements of your presentation, all of your processes and procedures and your communications. Consider everything at the micro level, Lindsay was always careful about every element of his Practice. No element could clash or be contrary to the overall brand. I know of one Practice owner that carefully selects the china that tea and coffee is served in to Patients. To some that may seem a bit much, I really don’t think it is, brand is about emotion and experience. For anyone who understands that concept, no element is too small for attention.
I would like to thank Barnes Design both for their help and for the use of the images they supplied, more of which you can see below. I would like to make it clear that I have accepted no favour or monies from Barnes for inclusion in this post. Although if they are offering, I need a new iMac!
Cooling the free loader