The Business of Contact Lenses
Don't Lose New Patients After the Appointment is Booked
By Gary Gerber, OD
It is often stated that the number-one practice building problem facing eyecare practitioners is lack of patients. “If I had more patients, everything would be okay. I'd have more money to invest back into my practice, I could hire more and better staff, and I could move to a nicer office.” As I've said before, the focus on more patients isn't always the best solution when you're slow (focusing on getting more money usually is). But for now, let's go with the assumption that we can all benefit from a fuller appointment book. The question then becomes, how much fuller?
How far in advance are you booked out? If someone calls your office while you're reading this article and asks, “How soon can I get my eyes examined and get some contact lenses?” what will your staff say? “Come right over,” or, “Our next opening is in three weeks”? Which is better?
Strike While the Iron is Hot
Being booked a few weeks in advance is cited by some experts as the bellwether of a healthy and vibrant practice. However, there are several flaws with this thinking. Once you understand them, you'll understand that other than patients possibly perceiving that you have a slower practice, there is nothing wrong with, “Come right over.”
First, if you're booked out too far in advance, you are potentially losing out on the time value of money. The revenues that are waiting to be collected are, well, waiting to be collected. Think of this example. Which scenario would you prefer? First, the current one in which you wait until your patient, who is booked three weeks into the future, pays you when he comes in three weeks, or he pays you today when you see him right away? In the latter example, the revenues are in your hands and can be used three weeks sooner.
The second, often overlooked problem with being booked too far in advance is that as soon as the appointment is booked, you are at a higher risk of losing the patient to a competitor! Think of the last time you made a major purchase and had to wait for it to be delivered. For me, it was a flat screen TV. After doing my research and committing at the store, I was told that the TV would arrive in about a week. For what seemed like every second of the following week, I was in a heightened sense of flat-screen-TV awareness. So, too, it goes with your patients from the moment they hang up the phone and are told, “We'll see you in about three weeks for your contact lens fitting.” At that moment, your patients become acutely attuned and on the prowl for contact lenses. Like no other time in their lives, they are susceptible to marketing messages and recommendations from friends who also wear lenses. “Why are you waiting three weeks to be fit with contact lenses? My guy can probably see you during lunch time today. Just go there!” All of a sudden, TV commercials that were once white noise are assimilated and processed. Websites are looked at on smart phones and Google is burning up with searches for what's new in lenses. The longer patients have to wait to see you, the more you risk losing them.
No Can Do?
What if you just can't shorten up the waiting time for an appointment? What should you do? Communicate often and meaningfully. At the close of booking the appointment, email, snail mail (or both) something to the patient about lenses. Follow that at about the halfway point to let the patient know that you're excited for him and happily waiting for him to come to your practice. Keep the fire lit and keep your competitors at bay. CLS
|Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.|