contact lens economics
Eliminating Delayed Gratification
BY GARY GERBER, OD
I'm going to tell you something that's going to change your life. I normally charge clients thousands of dollars for the same advice, but you can have it for free.
This single practice-building tip will make you a gazillion dollars -- but I'm not going to tell you now -- you'll have to wait.
Now You Know How it Feels
Disappointed? Wondering why I would be so mean to the loyal readers of my column?
To let you know how your patients may feel. On behalf of the thousands of contact lens patients who've experienced this emotional letdown and disappointment, I wanted you to experience the let-down of being promised a significant life-altering event and then having the gratification of receiving it delayed. Not for the sake of being mean or vindictive, but to give you fresh perspective on a potentially stale topic.
Can You Say, "Buzz Kill"?
You see, contact lenses are old hat and routine -- for you. But for a first-time wearer, they're the vision correction alternative from heaven. Why then do some of us tell patients, "I've completed my examination today and I've determined that you would be a great contact lens patient. Because you're active and play a lot of sports, you'll love the freedom they provide. You'll really like the way you look without glasses, too. So let's go up to the front desk and set up an appointment for next week to fit you with some new contact lenses."
Changing Old Ways
Here come the excuses: "Gary, I'd fit patients the same day if I had the time and the staff to take care of them."
Yes, I've heard it before, but if you're serious (and I mean really serious) about growing your contact lens business, then you have to get past that excuse. You have two alternatives:
1. Cross-train your current staff, which is what our best clients do. Of all the skills you might teach a staff member, teaching patients how to take care of their contact lenses (put them on, take them off, use care solutions, etc.) is one of the easiest. If you have a current nontrained staff member who wears contact lenses, then it's even easier. If he doesn't wear contact lenses, then fit him or at least have him experience the process so he can develop a better understanding of it.
2. Hire another staff member and train him for this task. As I mentioned above, if you're dedicated to growing your business, then this is a viable alternative.
Make the Change
While delaying a patient's gratification is a huge obstacle to success, it's also part of a larger hurdle to increasing your practice. We tell clients that one core practicing-building goal is to have patients not just become referral sources, but practice evangelists. The goal is to have patients' perceptions of their experience change from "good doctor, good office; I like my contact lenses" to "I'm so happy with the experience at my eye doctor's office that I can't put it into words. I can't wait to tell my friends!"
Accomplishing this takes a total office commitment to complete and unadulterated patient satisfaction. So while delaying the fitting process (for most offices by one week) isn't a cataclysmic practice faux pas, you should recognize it as a smaller piece of the contact lens practice-building jigsaw puzzle -- a piece that appears small to you but is meaningful to your patients.
Step one: Commit to increasing your contact lens practice. Step two: Recognize excuses as such. Step three: Do something about it.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.