The Business of Contact Lenses
Keeping Dry Eye Patient Satisfaction High
BY GARY GERBER, OD
The saying goes, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” In baseball it’s great—a .667 hitter is sure to make it into the Hall of Fame. But when it comes to treating dry eye, it ain’t good enough. In fact, research shows that four out of five isn’t very good either.
A landmark study published in Harvard Business Review (Jones and Sasser, 1995) looked at the relationship between satisfaction and loyalty rated on a 5-point scale (0 being completely dissatisfied and 5 completely satisfied). They dispelled the commonly held belief that those responding with a 4 are not worth the effort of changing to a 5. In reality, their research showed that there is a huge difference in loyalty between “satisfied” and “completely satisfied.” They contend that any drop in total satisfaction results in a major drop in loyalty.
While they didn’t study eyecare offices (or dry eye treatments), they did observe that in markets perceived as commodities without many choices (airlines and local telephone service), attempts to create complete customer satisfaction raise the products and services out of the commodity category.
There are many obvious parallels in the way many of us approach dry eye and how we can find substantial practice-building opportunities. Start by putting yourself in your patients’ place. They have a problem that they want fixed. It’s as simple as that. You can merely satisfy their needs. However, if you want them as loyal patients, you should completely satisfy them.
Simple Versus Complete Satisfaction
In clinical terms, the difference in satisfaction translates to a 100-percent abatement of dry eye symptoms. From the patients’ perspective, their eyes feel dry or they don’t. If they feel less dry only some of the time, they will slip further from 5 and closer to 4. Similarly, if their treatment involves more work on their part, they are also less likely to be totally satisfied. If there are several steps, regimens, and products with associated costs and time commitments, their overall satisfaction might feel compromised.
Pushing patients from a 4 to a 5 means that they need a compassionate ear from your front line staff to acknowledge and empathize with their problem. They want to be seen promptly and expect the administrative tasks in your office to be invisible and to not impede their treatment. These things are easy to pull off, and they are necessary if you want to instill loyalty. Whether patients return to your practice for new prescriptions can turn on something as simple as their satisfaction with the drops that you gave them. Do they help all the time, or do they stop working during the dry season in your climate?
Beware False Loyalty
The study authors refer to “false loyalty.” In our case, it would be patients who are “loyal” to your practice primarily because you accept their insurance. This is comparable to satisfied airline passengers in frequent flyer programs who book with other carriers as soon as their miles are used up, whereas completely satisfied passengers stay even when the program becomes more restrictive or disappears.
Dry eye treatment offers an opportunity to build your practice with loyal patients who are likely to refer other sufferers—but only if you do more than simply satisfy them. You need to go above and beyond their symptoms and make them “dry eye cheerleaders” for your practice. You can achieve this by doing all you can to ensure that the entire experience of working with you and your practice is as clinically efficacious and customer friendly as possible. 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.