marketing & social

Life through Different LENSES

A well dressed, happy team makes an excellent impression.

PHOTOS AND EDITORIAL by janice hurley

We make judgements very quickly about the value of what we purchase or the experience we are about to have. So do your patients. Understanding how your patients or prospective patients think is a good business practice and something you can’t afford to ignore. A good restaurant can’t ignore the plating of its fine food. Likewise, you can’t afford to ignore how your patients see or perceive the value of your dentistry based on the way you frame it or serve it up. Our perception truly is our reality.

Within less than a tenth of a second, your patients have decided how approachable, trustworthy and competent you are. Furthermore, their brains go on to justify your follow up actions to be in line with their first impression. Fascinating — our brains don’t like to be wrong. First impressions of your facility, your team and your treatment have a resounding effect on case acceptance. Yep–that worn out couch might be cramping your style AND affecting collections.

“You don’t have to stay here, Janice.” These were my mom’s words as we arrived for my endodontic consultation. It was 1990; 27 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a new employee of Dr. George Nelson’s in Sacramento, CA and I needed endodontic treatment. He sent me to “Dr. Smith” because, as a single mom of 4 small children, he knew I had limited, if any funds for dental care. Dr. Smith was thoughtful (and wise) enough to treat Dr. Nelson’s team members at no charge and Dr. Nelson was one of his top referring offices. Dr. Nelson didn’t just send the hard cases; he sent the easy extractions and the lucrative 3rd molar extractions. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

My mom was with me because she was going to be my designated driver. Who knows why I thought I needed a driver after endo but I had one. The hiccup in our perfect plan came when she entered his office and saw an overly crowded reception area with out-of-date furniture and a well-worn rug. It was then that she declared, “ You don’t have to stay here”. My mother had no way of judging the quality of care I would be given, which was her main concern, but in fact she was. She was deciding within seconds that I could do better and should leave.

Fast forward to today and I would tell you that very little has changed in the way all of us make decisions.


  • We are still very visually oriented. In fact, the only sense your patients have that is stronger than their sight is smell. If they perceive your office as disorganized – then their reality is, you are disorganized.
  • We make judgements based on the information before us, while running it through our past experiences and present values.
  • The longer you have been in your same environment, the less you notice what new patients are taking into account. You are not a good judge of, or in a strong position to understand their first impressions.
  • First impressions are lasting impressions and make up about 70% of their final judgement.
  • Patients are judging themselves on whether they made the “right decision” or not in selecting you within the first 2-3 minutes.
  • Your online reviews and internet presence is their first impression of you.

As “Dentistry’s Image Expert”, I have seen hundreds of offices and worked with countless teams, and we ALL have BLIND SPOTS when it comes to how others perceive us. Sometimes it’s the top of the line décor with a disinterested Patient Coordinator texting on her phone (or eating breakfast) when her patient arrives for the day. Sometimes it’s a warm and friendly, upbeat, enthusiastic team that functions in a hodge podge, no one matches, worn out attire that visually screams, “We are on our last leg here, financially!” I have consulted with highly trained dentists who have spent a disproportional amount of their funds on CE, and still practice with poor signage and visually repugnant buildings. I haven’t seen it all, but I have certainly seen my share. I am first and foremost a Practice Management Consultant to dentists. I absolutely focus on the profitability and health of the practice, and because I do, I know how much the image & brand of a practice matters.

Shape your patients’ perceptions of quality care with at least these TOP TWELVE image enhancing choices:

• Video record what your patients’ experience will be – from the drive into the parking lot to sitting in your treatment room. Record the view high and low, floor to ceiling.

• Take a team photo from head to toe for a week and see what your patient see. If you don’t look as good and as cohesive as the photos on your website – let’s talk about it. You want to strive for consistency in your professional presence.

• Take pictures of your signage – be sure it’s as big and clear as it can possibly be. Don’t skimp on signage. And remember, cheap and out of date LOOKS cheap and out of date. It matters! It really, really matters.

• Declutter – get everything possible off your counters in the treatment rooms. Put the brochures and marketing materials away in drawers and personally hand these items as needed. You’ll achieve two goals – you will look better organized and your patient is more likely to actually read what you hand them when personally delivered.

• Pay and hold accountable a reputable cleaning service. Talk to your team about what they are seeingin terms of cleanliness.

• Listen to your team about equipment and furniture that needs to be replaced. That x-ray head that won’t stay in place or that squeaky hygiene chair matters in shaping your patients’ perceptions of the quality of your dentistry and care.

• Listen to your recorded patient phone calls – through Weave or other marketing services. If your daily calls are being recorded (and they should be), listen to them! You HAVE TO KNOW what is being said. Do this individually and do this as a team.

• Factor into your overhead paying for your team’s attire from head to toe. Have written professional attire guidelines and be consistent. I strongly favor professional attire for the administrative team and not lab jackets or scrubs. See for suggested guidelines.

• Take all signs out of the reception area and treatment rooms that you think patients need to read. Instead, decide as a team what that information is and who will be communicating it when needed. (Ex: no cell phones or we offer payment options, etc.)

• Stop having personal and patient conversations up at the front desk as though no one can hear. Patients can hear you and when you’re not focused on them and you’re heard talking, they can easily feel unimportant.

• Get really clear that you are a service driven industry and that EVERYTHING can be said in a way that makes your patients feel good about themselves. Never correct your patients or make them feel wrong.

• SMILE from the morning huddle until your parting words – simply smile. Smile internally because you have the best job in the world and externally as a gift to yourself and others.

janice hurley, dentistry’s image expert

Attendees to her courses have described her as profoundly articulate, gracefully charismatic and powerfully entertaining. She really is the expert on personal presence & professional success in dentistry today. Her input on how patients see you TODAY is spot on and priceless. She takes offices through a 30 point IMAGE evaluation that allows those offices to set themselves apart from their competition.

A noted authority on treatment presentation and the effective use of photos and video in the dental practice. Janice consults and coached “hands on” and through articles published and programs presented. Even dental hygiene schools use her written protocol standards for both image and effective communication.

After earning her degree in Organizational Behavior from The University of San Francisco, Janice has invested more than 25 years’ experience as a dental consultant, helping her clients gain higher treatment acceptance and attract higher quality patients. As an international author and speaker on what it takes to project professional excellence and confidence so others feel it instantly, her goal is for everyone to use their professional energy for personal success.

Her energy is contagious and audiences inevitably leave raving fans and ready to reenergize their lives, and their practices. Janice has been a featured speaker with the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meetings, Yankee Dental Congress, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists, American Association of Endodontists, Philips Sonicare, Academy of Dental CPA’s , Henry Schein, and many, many more.