Patients Say the Darndest Things
the business of contact lenses
Setting Fees: It's Not Just About Time, It's About Knowledge
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Our consulting company doesn't sell contact lenses. And while Home Depot stocks thousands of items, I don't think it sells contact lenses either — at least not yet! So what does our company, your practice and Home Depot sell that is similar? In a word: information. We're all in the "how to" information selling business.
Home Depot sells information about how to build something or fix it. Our company sells knowledge about how to make money in your practice. You sell the expertise about how to safely wear and enjoy contact lenses.
Charging for Information
Home Depot sets its information "fees" at a low level, usually free. If you want to learn how to refinish your kitchen cabinets or install carpeting, free classes are available. The tools and supplies will cost you, but the information the company sells is free.
Our company generally sets fees for our time, but by digging deeper clients might discover it's not just about time. They could rightfully question, "Time to do what?" The answer being, "The time it takes to figure out and then teach you how to make more money. That knowledge is the essence of what you pay for."
This is essentially the same thought process your next patient might go through when analyzing your professional fees. Your fees are being charged for what you typically say, for the time and expertise you spend with a patient or, more succinctly, for the information you share with that patient during that time.
Yes, a patient could probably spend a few hours — or perhaps days or weeks — online learning about the nuances of astigmatic soft contact lenses. But you already have that information immediately available and customized for that particular patient. Why would a patient spend days searching the Internet attempting to figure out which contact lens might be best for him when he can just ask you?
Of course, most patients would not surf the Internet for this information. So, what's the point of my information selling premise?
You have done the equivalent of the surfing for the patient. In fact, you spent about eight years of your life in college doing so and then added all of your practice experience to those eight years. You are the Google of contact lenses! But the information isn't and shouldn't be free.
In addition to selling contact lenses, you're also in the information selling business. That information is vital to your patients' success. The way it's packaged and delivered, as well as the content itself, is a big part of what defines your professional services. Make sure it's delivered succinctly, understandably and, of course, that it's up-to-the-second accurate.
Valuing Your Expertise
Practitioners are more comfortable charging a high fee for an eyeglass frame. Perhaps that's because it's tangible.
When it comes to professional fees for contact lens services, I've often lamented that the fees we charge are woefully low. I've talked about getting paid for the time you spend with patients. I'd like to now push that time model even further by restating what I said previously. "Time to do what?" The time — all of it, past and present — to fit your patient with contact lenses and impart your years of acquired information to do so.
If "charging for your time" still doesn't resonate with you because it's not tangible like an eyeglass frame or a contact lens, then perhaps charging for the information you've amassed through the years will work for you. We charge for it, Home Depot does and so can you. 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.
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: March 2008