I recently came across a quote on The Disney Institute’s website. The Disney Institute, a business solutions division of the Walt Disney Company, focuses on improving customer satisfaction and experience. Their content is developed primarily for Disney companies and theme parks, but the institute offers training and development for other businesses. Many of their teachings can be applied to service based industries, including optical. According to Disney:
This brings up several questions: How do you define value for your customer? How do you exceed their expectations? How do you set yourself apart? The roots of these questions should lead you to the same place -- How are you different than your competitor?
Putting Patients First
There are so many ways to put patients first, but putting them anywhere but first can cost your business. Start by changing the experience and making the patient feel important. There are many tricks to providing a great experience, and a great list of tips are provided on the website Business Training Works!
Here are a few tips from the list, which is compiled for general retail sales.
- Smile when greeting a customer in person and on the phone. (And yes, they can tell if you are smiling over the phone).
- The live customer standing in front of you takes precedence over someone who calls on the phone. (This can be tricky, especially in small offices).
- The correct answer is never “I don’t know” unless you add to it, “but I can find out for you.”
- Learn to read body language to see if a customer could use some help (especially if they say they’re browsing and prefer to be left alone. Leave them be, but be vigilant).
Now take these points and apply them to your office. Many patients dread a visit to the optometrist, why not make it fun? Get them interested and tell them about a new brand of contacts you’re trying, or new technology in the office. Offer to help and style them in the latest frames. Patients sometimes don’t know what to choose, especially first-time wearers. Be the authority they trust and count on. Compliment a patient about how great they look in their new eyewear. Be excited about your products. Be confident. It is contagious, and your patient will pick up on it.
Delivering your product
The product you deliver is the cornerstone of your business. Your actual products come from a variety of suppliers – optical laboratories, contact lens brokers, insurance providers, equipment manufacturers and frame distributors. Your contribution to the equation is the service you provide a patient.
An annual evaluation of your suppliers is key to providing an adequate and timely service to your patient. Are your labs providing you with quality products, or have they been making more errors lately? And do you track the errors made? Are your reps current with supply issues and making you aware of product changes in the industry, or have they become complacent with providing you face time? These questions are paramount to exceeding patient expectations because they directly affect the product you provide the patient. This is one big key to providing the best possible experience.
If you feel that you are under-delivering as a result of your vendors, reach out to the company representatives. It is their job is to ensure product delivery and they are usually happy to help in any way that they can. It is their job to keep your continued business; make sure to lean on them for help and guidance with any problems that surface. Your feedback can encourage change and aid the vendor in developing their business along with yours. If they cannot help, or seem to fall short of your expectations, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship.
Patient experience and the Internet – the new “word of mouth”
Patients are being proactive about their experiences and taking to social media outlets. Yelp, Google, HealthGrades, Facebook, DemandForce, the list goes on. A simple Google search can provide an endless supply of information, but most patients only need to look at a few to determine where to take their business. Most consumers are well informed about your practice before they step foot in the door. They even have expectations based upon what they have read about you. For example, does your doctor always seem to be 10 minutes behind schedule? Someone probably mentioned that in their Yelp review.
Speaking of Yelp, when was the last time you checked your online presence? This should be done regularly to engage consumers and receive feedback. While you’re at it, see how you compare to your competition – no surprise, they’re online too. Read into what your patients are saying. But don’t stop there, reach out and respond to negative feedback. Take the time to listen: why are they satisfied with your services, and how could you be better? If you don’t know where you could improve, you won’t know where to make appropriate changes.
Remember, customers are the reason you are in business. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. The relationship you develop with patients ensures repeat business for many years to come.
Alex Bennett, ABOM. Alex graduated from Colorado State University in 2007 with a degree in Natural Resources Management. He has been an optician since 2008 and currently works in the Denver metro area. Alex is also a contributing blogger for DailyOptician.com and is completing prerequisite courses in order to qualify for optometry school. In his free time, he enjoys running, rock climbing and traveling.