Patients to Purchase a One-Year Supply
DAVID M. PEARCE
I have read many articles on the value of sending
patients home with a one-year supply of contact lenses. I think most practitioners
understand that it's good for their patients and good for their
practice. However, somewhere between the articles explaining why it's important
and the patient walking out of the practice with one or two boxes of lenses, the
patient isn't getting the message.
While most eyecare practitioners and their staff don't consider
themselves salespeople, the fact remains that oftentimes you have to play that role.
Selling often has negative connotations, but you can do it in a professional and
educational way. For many practitioners, the obstacle is simply not knowing or not
being comfortable with how to overcome the primary objection...patients not wanting
to spend the money.
A Common Scenario
Oftentimes after you've completed a contact lens exam and presented
your patient with the option of purchasing a one-year supply of lenses, the patient
will balk at the price and say, "I don't really want to spend that much money today.
I'd like to purchase just two boxes."
Following is an explanation that may help you encourage such patients
to purchase a one-year supply. While this technique won't work on all of your patients,
it will increase the number of patients who get the message. With practice and repetition,
you'll see marked improvement in cash flow, patient satisfaction and retention.
First, tell such patients that their reaction is a very common
one and that you understand they have other "necessities" that they'd rather spend
their money on. Many patients don't consider spending money on contact lenses as
an investment in their vision health, so you need to help them see things from a
different perspective to change their minds.
First explain the economic benefits. Ask if they've ever shopped
at BJ's, Sam's or other similar wholesale stores. These stores offer bulk or volume
pricing discounts on a per unit basis. For example, if you use paper towels regularly,
you can save money by buying a 20-pack at $0.80 per roll vs. buying 20 individual
rolls at $1.49 over the next 6 months in the meantime you may second guess
yourself for buying them individually when you go to clean up a big spill and realize
you ran out.
Explain that the same is true for contact lenses. Patients simply
pay more per box when they purchase only one or two boxes at a time rather than
if they were to buy six or eight boxes at one time. Plus they won't have to worry
about what to do when they realize they don't have another set of lenses right before
they're set to go on a two-week vacation/trip.
If the up-front savings aren't enough for patients to make the
decision to order a one-year supply, give them an even more important reason: Prolonged
or extended wearing of lenses beyond their intended useful life is a leading cause
of contact lens complications. Say, for example, a patient is wearing his last set
of two-week lenses and he forgets to call you to reorder. Most patients will extend
the lens life an extra week or two, sometimes up to several months because
they still see fine and they just haven't had the chance to get more. But disposable
contact lenses are designed to provide optimum comfort and correction for a certain
amount of time before the materials develop deposits and lose their full effectiveness,
which can cause irritation and other more serious complications.
So encourage patients to think about how valuable their eyes
and good vision are. By having a one-year supply on hand, they don't have to put
themselves in a situation where they'd need to wear their lenses an extra week or
two. And they can enjoy the convenience of knowing that they don't have to think
about reordering lenses until their next annual visit.
Recap by reminding patients that they like saving money, their
eyes and healthy vision are important to them, and if the lenses were free they'd
get a one-year supply and change them regularly. They'll most likely agree, so tell
them that you'll go ahead and order a one-year supply.
If a patient still says that he doesn't want to spend that much
money up front, tell him that he can pay for half of the order that day, and you'll
bill him the following month for the balance. Then have a staff member prepare an
Good for Patients and Practice
Sending your patients out of the office with a one-year supply
of contact lenses is good medical practice and good business practice. As you can
see from the example above, by explaining/educating your patients about the benefits
(both financial and medical) of having a one-year supply on hand, you make it easier
for them to justify the expense. They walk out of your office feeling good about
saving money and comforted that they're in the good hands of an eyecare practitioner
who cares enough about them and their vision health to take the time to explain
things to them.
From a practice standpoint, there are a number of reasons
why this is simply good business. Your cost per patient goes down; you spend less
time recalling and re-ordering lenses on a quarterly basis; your cost of goods decreases
with larger volume orders so you can remain in the profit column and still pass
on significant savings to your patients. You could reduce four separate orders each
costing $5 in shipping, for example, to one order at $5 in shipping fees (which
become even less when combined with other orders to a one-stop distributor).
For example, say your cost is $20/box for up to five boxes and
$19/box for six boxes to 15 boxes, plus $5 shipping.
Four quarterly orders would cost $160 for the lenses plus an additional
$20 for shipping for a grand total of $180 (or $45 per quarter)
A one-year supply would cost $152 for the lenses plus $5 for shipping
for a grand total of $157.
To figure out the yearly cash savings of the annual supply in
this example, subtract the total cost of the annual supply ($157) from the yearly
cost of quarterly orders ($180) for a total cash savings of $23 per year.
If you sell the lenses at a retail cost of $42.95 per box, a two-box
quarterly order would cost a patient $85.90 per quarter or $343.60 annually. Subtracting
from that your annual price for quarterly orders ($180) would give you an annual
profit of $163.60, or $40.90 per quarter.
However, if you retail eight boxes a year's supply
at $319.95 (almost a 10 percent savings to patient) and then subtract from that
your yearly cost of an annual supply ($157), you would have an annual profit of
This example shows you how to pass the savings on to your patients,
improve your margin, retain the same cash profit and increase patient retention
without spending staff time on recalls or reorders. In addition, you keep a satisfied
patient who isn't likely to go online shopping for replacement lenses.
Practice Makes Profit
Practice this explanation or your own variation of it
on your staff, your family or your friends. Get comfortable explaining the economic
and eye health benefits of buying a one-year supply of contact lenses to your patients.
Once you've got it down, do it regularly so that you can get the message through
to more patients. You are doing them and your practice a disservice if you don't.
Mr. Pearce is the director
of sales and marketing for Imperial Optical, Inc., the largest independent contact
lens distributor in North America (www.imperialoptical.com). You can e-mail him
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: May 2006