the business of contact lenses
It's Not Just About Money, It's About Time
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Recent consumer research shows that the focus and definition of a "bargain" is changing, especially for our more affluent patients. The new bargain recognizes the continually expanding time constraints we all have, regardless of economic status. It's rare to find a patient who isn't in a hurry. Being able to find a practitioner who delivers quality care and products in an expeditious manner is becoming more important for more patients.
Accordingly, while no one wants to feel like he overpaid for his contact lenses or related services, don't discount the value patients put on other aspects of what you offer — in particular, the valued and non-replenishable commodity of time.
Staying on Schedule
The way patients shop is different from a few years ago. Even if your patients have no intention of buying their contact lenses over the Internet, they've probably bought something else online. They've witnessed the time savings and convenience that online shopping offers. With this shopping experience as part of their buying history, "click and buy" becomes the new reference point for other purchases, even those they know they can't buy online such as your professional expertise.
Keep this in mind when scheduling patients. Most patients don't like waiting even one minute past their appointed time. And now the new wired reality we live in makes this more of an issue than it was in the past. To provide a simple, convenient experience for your patients, focus on keeping your schedule on time. Your patients will notice.
Relative to saving time, patients are now also thinking, "Was I able to get everything I needed in one trip to the office?"
While "buying" professional contact lens care is different from purchasing groceries, we can't ignore our patients' existing consumer psyche and function in an optometric vacuum. We should do everything we can to streamline patients' time in our offices and the number of return visits they need. If that follow-up visit you're recommending is habit vs. necessity, it's time to give it another look.
Staff can contribute to saving time by being educated and up-to-date. While all staff members won't be able to answer every question all the time, they should know how to find the answer quickly. One staff member asking another, who asks another, etc., has no place in the life of a time-challenged patient.
Make the Time Worthwhile
Whether a contact lens fit will ultimately be successful is impossible to predict. Sometimes even an anticipated straightforward case takes unexpected time. Regardless, when you dismiss a patient he should have a fundamental sense that you did everything correctly and his time was well spent.
During your initial evaluation, if you can forecast how much time you expect the process to take, tell your patients. Of course, let them know that there may be slightly more or less time involved. Give this plenty of thought, because if you say, "We'll need to see you for three visits after today," and you wind up seeing him for 14, that patient is unlikely to refer others to you.
Time is Money
The price of a box of contact lenses is important to everyone. But for a growing number of patients, the time and energy expended to get that correct box is becoming just as important. Use this knowledge to your benefit when marketing your practice. CLS
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.