The Business of Contact Lenses
Why Ask “Why?” Planning for Future Success
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Keeping track of relevant practice management statistics is obviously important. Knowing what percentage of all of your patients wear contact lenses, how many wear particular modalities, how often they return, how many have an accurate pair of glasses, how many buy annual supplies, how many patients they’ve referred, your revenue per patient, and many other items are all great things to know.
The good thing about measuring past data is that it should be very reliable and accurate. It happened, it’s done, and you can measure it with confidence. But there is one problem: by the time you’ve measured these metrics, they’ve already happened.
For example, calculating the percentage of lens wearers for the first three months of the year cannot happen until April 1. You have to wait for those three months to pass. Similarly, knowing how many patients wear daily disposable lenses is only possible after they start wearing the lenses. So the inherent problem here is that if only 10% of your patients bought glasses during the first three months of the year, it’s too late to change that.
Be More Forward-Thinking
When you only measure and act on the past, you aren’t in planning mode for your future. You are, by definition, managing your practice reactively rather than proactively. While you certainly need to learn from mistakes and fix them, you can’t grow and morph into something better if that’s all you do.
A better approach would be to have data on what will occur in the future. But, as no one can reliably predict the future, the next best thing is to talk to your current patients and survey them about why they do—or don’t do—the things that they do, and then use that information to plan for future success.
For example, you might ask a few patients, “We noticed that you purchased a year’s supply of contact lenses. Why did you do that?” Patients’ responses might include:
1. Convenience of always having lenses on hand.
2. Convenience of not having to call or go online to reorder.
3. Lower price (if it applies).
Once you have that information, you can include the most common responses in a second wave of surveys sent to all of your patients, asking them to rank their importance. Let’s say that the first choice, always having lenses available, was a clear favorite. Knowing this, you can stimulate more annual supply purchases by broadcasting, “Having a yearly supply of lenses means you’ll never run out,” as opposed to, “Save $20 on a yearly supply of lenses.” With this approach, when you again measure your past performance success (how many supplies did we sell), the results should be more favorable.
Similarly, you could ask a few patients, “If you already wear contact lenses, why did you buy glasses from us when you could have gone elsewhere?” (Yes, it takes some courage to ask such questions, but it’s worth it.)
Suppose the most popular responses were:
1. I trust working with you because you have my prescription and performed the exam.
3. Insurance covered some of the cost of the glasses.
Then, as above, send out a survey to the masses and ask them to rank the above three items in importance. Finally, use those responses for future marketing.
Let Your Patients Be Your Guide
Rather than looking in the rear view mirror of your practice management car, ask your patients where they’d like to be driven—then take them there! 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.