contact lens economics
Learning to Live and Breathe Contact Lenses
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Most of us have heard or read about those famous "monster" contact lens practices that are so well respected and renowned that they have an endless supply of patients who are happy to forego their insurance benefits and who find that it's worth waiting two months to get an appointment. No, I'm not dreaming -- a handful of practices like this still exist. How they got where they are is simple -- they live and breathe contact lenses.
Do you? Let's see how your contact lens practice stacks up against these award-winning offices.
Make the Right Impression
Your office smacks of contact lenses from the second patients walk in the door. Posters and point-of-purchase materials adorn every square inch of your office. Your staff members wear buttons that say, "Ask me about contact lenses." Your on-hold message makes announcements about contact lenses.
Now let's take a look at the "monster" contact lens practices. Their walls bear no posters. Instead, they have art. Point-of-purchase materials are few and far between. Staff wear professional-looking clinical attire that's free of corporate merchandising, and the on-hold message plays classical music. If all of this is true, then how can I say that these practices live and breathe contact lenses? Easy -- I've asked their patients.
How you perceive your practice often differs from how your patients perceive it. And when it comes to growing your business, it doesn't matter what image you think your practice projects. It matters what your patients think.
Ask Your Patients
Hopefully you're already surveying your patients about their experiences in your contact lens practice. You should ask about fees, office hours, staff phone skills, etc.
But if you really want to know whether your practice is heading in the direction of those few iconic contact lens practices, then you need to ask patients more global, open-ended questions. Ask, "In a few sentences, how would you describe our practice to your friends?" If they answer, "Caring doctor with up-to-date technology," then your destiny of becoming the area's best contact lens practice is ill fated. If instead, they reply, "This is the only place to get contact lenses and someone would have to be crazy to go elsewhere," then you've succeeded.
Get Staff Feedback
So, how would your patients describe your office? You can start by asking your staff how they would describe it. Their responses can alert you to where their primary focus is on your practice.
When I do this with clients, typical staff responses are, "Friendly and courteous, we don't rush our patients." All great stuff -- but what about contact lenses? If your own staff doesn't respond with, "We're the only place around here where a sane person would get contact lenses," then you have some serious introspection to perform.
Live it, Breathe it, Do it
While you could seek out the best of the best and try to learn from them, here's an easier way: Seek out other industries or companies that are totally and unconditionally committed to a single purpose and mission. If you go to Disney, analyze how things all gel together. The next time you're at a well-known restaurant, notice how the wait staff interacts with you. These businesses perform in perfect harmony because all of the players understand and have bought into the company's mission. Next month, I'll tell you how you and your practice can do the same.
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
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: January 2005