the business of contact lenses
Re-Attracting Your Long-Absent Patients
BY GARY GERBER, OD
We all have patients who are long overdue for care. In fact, when most offices experience a reduction in patient volume, one of their reflex marketing ideas is to contact patients who are overdue for an examination. This is a good strategy, provided that it actually is a strategy. Following are the steps you should take to maximize your efforts in enticing these overdue patients to return to your practice.
Test, Measure, Repeat
First, there is no one single strategy, message, or technique that will work in every practice. For that reason, make sure every step outlined below is tested, measured, and then tweaked as necessary for maximum effectiveness.
Step 1. Communicate via snail mail or e-mail. Some patients respond to one medium more than to the other, so you'll have to conduct a small test first. For patients who are overdue, snail mail usually works better because email addresses might have changed. Of course, patients could have moved so their snail address might also be inaccurate. Most of the testing here should be for content, but something you should never leave out is the notice about step two—that is, let patients know you'll be calling.
Step 2. In both written and phone communication, highlight key benefits and reasons why patients should come back to your practice. If possible, customize the reasons for each patient. Now is the time to write and talk about new products that would apply to them, changes in insurance coverage, expanded hours, new technology, or any other benefits that would entice patients to call the office. While it's okay to ask patients to call for an appointment, sometimes (test this) it's easier to ultimately get to the appointment phase by taking smaller intermediate steps. For example, in your letter and phone call you might offer to send patients more information (or point them to your Web site) about a particular personalized benefit. For two-week daily wear patients, you could talk about how daily disposable lenses can allow them to more comfortably wear lenses for longer periods of time compared to their current lenses—and send them information about daily disposable lenses.
Step 3. Because you will be calling every one of the patients you've mailed, there is a very high likelihood that you'll encounter a lot of answering machines or voicemail. For this reason, have a script ready for each patient type.
As before, don't simply say, “Please call us to schedule an appointment.” Instead, say something such as, “It's been about three years since we've last seen you and we wanted to share some exciting news about contact lenses that you can wear more comfortably than the two-week lenses you're wearing now. Please call or e-mail to learn more.”
Calling patients once and leaving a message like this isn't a strategy. Instead, have a well thought out follow-up system in place and plan on making multiple calls. As above, you need to test the best day and time to call and make careful notes about when you called each patient. This should increase the chances of reaching the patient rather than the answering machine or voicemail. It will also help you to not cross the line between calling because you care and winding up in the harassment zone.
Worth the Effort
If all this sounds like a lot of work, well—it is. But the potential returns are significant. If you're still not comfortable with the extra amount of work, consider outsourcing it. One of the companies we've had good success with is www.datappointment.com. 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.