contact lens economics
Step Up Your Service to Retain Contact Lens Patients
BY GARY GERBER, OD
You compete with other practitioners to acquire new contact lens patients and to retain current patients, so it's important to revisit some of the seemingly simple things you can do to help separate your practice from the pack.
Disposable lenses have certainly taken us away from the more customized fitting of GP contact lenses. Right or wrong, many patients perceive a "contact lens fitting" as you opening a box of lenses. How can we we prevent this product commoditization from commoditizing our care?
Think Like a Patient
Start by realizing that patients don't have the clinical prowess to determine who's the better doctor -- you or your competitors. They don't know and probably don't care if the lenses you're fitting are nonionic and move x millimeters with the blink. But they do know and do care about how you treat them as consumers. Take care of their basic consumer needs, and referrals will follow. Ignore them or discount their importance and you'll be setting a course toward mediocrity.
Personalize the Experience
Even a returning veteran contact lens patient will appreciate small personalized changes in your "routine." For example, when you finish working with a patient, have the appropriate solution (you shouldn't have to ask, you should know) waiting for him at the front desk. Provide any necessary paperwork with his name already on it.
For new patients, again make sure to personalize all documentation and instructions. Instruct your technicians to complete these forms with a patient's name, prescription, wearing schedule and any other personal data before the patient approaches the training area to begin training.
Devise a procedure (some of our clients use instant messaging) to alert your technicians about the care system a patient will be using so they can have it ready with the patient's name when he comes to the training area.
Share the Excitement
If you have a large staff, tell them when a new contact lens wearer is in the office. Ask them to interact with the patient and show their excitement and enthusiasm for him. A staff member who did not work with the patient but tells him, "So you're our newest contact lens patient -- you look great with your new lenses!" can help define your practice as one that recognizes the power of contact lenses to do more than just correct vision.
Instruct your technicians to ask the patient, "What's the first thing you're going to do with your new lenses? Is it a sport? Social event?" Record his answer and ask the patient how it went at his first follow-up visit.
Prepare for the Follow-up Visit
If the patient is picking up a supply of lenses at the follow-up visit, then make sure the lenses are ready and waiting -- with the correct solution -- when he enters the exam room. Ask the patient about the "first-contact-lens -wearing event" discussed above. In fact, make that one of the first things you mention when you enter the exam room.
Gear Up for Future Visits
Finally, take this level of service beyond initial visits. Inform patients that you'll call them should any improvements to their current lenses become available before their next visit. Ask them if there's anything specific about their contact lenses that they do not like (for example, the lenses may not come tinted and a patient wishes they did). In these cases, inform patients that you'll alert them as soon as an upgraded lens becomes available.
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.