What does it mean to have a premium practice? What does premium customer service deliver? These are common questions posed to medical practices and businesses as they seek out advice on how to thrive in today’s ever-competitive environment.
What does it mean to have a premium practice? What does premium customer service deliver? These are common questions posed to medical practices and businesses as they seek out advice on how to thrive in today’s ever-competitive environment. With the challenge of trying to do more with less and the concern of reduced reimbursement for medical services, receiving more revenue for premium, higher-quality deliverables is attractive.
Customer service is designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction or the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation. Customer service is a baseline necessity of any relationship that offers a service or a product. Customer service can be good or bad and either enhance or detract from a transaction or encounter.
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Premium customer service means a superior level of satisfaction that exceeds the customer’s expectation and is offered at a higher price. Premium customer service is offered in a lot of marketplaces, and it can exist in the optometry practice as well.
The optical is one place to offer premium services and practices. Many patients enter the optometrist’s office with an expectation to purchase eyewear. Given that patients can take their business to many locations, why not deliver exceptional products and the service that goes with them?
The next time that you are in your office, remove your bias and walk into your optical. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What is your first impression? What is your worst impression? Ask these and more questions. Similarly, the next time you are in your favorite businesses, ask the same questions. For example, what makes the Apple store and the Ritz-Carlton special? What do they do, say, and offer that you do not? These two brands are well known for their premium service. Copy what you like, and don’t be shy about it.
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Have you considered these strategies?
Use your patient’s name over and over again throughout the encounter
• Answer every question with “yes,” even if the real answer is “no”
• Smile and laugh
• Keep the simple approach
These tactics apply directly to the optical. Even with a minimalistic inventory of only 100 frames, astute frame sellers take charge of the sales and education process. Allowing patients browse or wander around your optical can set yourself up for confusion and reduced sales.
Overwhelming patients with too many choices can be a failure, despite the attempt of trying to offer more choices. Walk into the Apple store and count the number of choices offered. Mimic high-end stores with very minimalistic options as opposed to the big-box chains.
Typically, 40 percent of gross receipts should result from optical sales. When it comes to frame selection, be aware of brand image and notoriety. Specific brands are an enormous part of exemplifying the persona of the practice. Every brand has a defined personality.
Whether the brand represents a cool lifestyle (like RayBan), heritage and craftsmanship (think Persol), classic elegance (like Chanel), or designer trends (Dolce & Gabbana, Prada), the consumer identifies with what that brand stands for and, as a result, places a lot of value on it. (Think Nike, Apple, and Starbucks.)
While a patient may come back to your practice because of an problem with her vision, it’s the consumer who keeps coming back because she knows you’ll have her brand in the latest design to complete her look.
It's fair to say that most optometry offices sell glasses whether it's high-end boutique eyewear or a more utilitarian frame selection. Exploiting existing optical infrastructure and investments is wise, but it's also conservative. What if you weren't afraid to take a premium care model to the next level?
What if you and your staff offer exceptional service with a distinctive offering? With declining reimbursements, optometrists-as well as our ophthalmology brethren-are looking for ways to distinguish our practices from the competition and bring novel patients into the fold. Enter the niche market. A doctor needs to do a little soul searching to determine:
• Am I fully committed to premium customer care?
• What is my special interest?
• Is my office equipped for a niche?
• Will the local market support the niche?
Providing a customer experience is essential for a niche to thrive, not just survive. If you tout yourself to be a specialist, you better be able to back it up. That means affording your patients the complete package. Quality care and superb patient satisfaction are both a necessity.
You may be a whiz in the lane, but your front desk is what brings the patients into the chair, and staff are the ones who often keep them coming back. What distinguishes a practice from the one down the street is the total patient experience. When patients build genuine rapport with the office as a whole, they become true net promoters that ultimately bring new patients to your office.
Niche practices capitalize on their unique-and often elective-offerings to generate alternative revenue streams. Whether your practice offers vision therapy, sports vision, or premium dry eye treatments, many of those services are not covered by standard vision or medical plans.
When patients are responsible for the bill, they will compare prices and look for the best value, just like any other consumer. Discount shoppers will always be a part of the market, but the majority of patients are truly searching for procedures and treatments that will benefit them regardless of cost.
Dry eye care is the perfect illustration of a niche. You may think almost all optometrists treat dry eye in some fashion. That’s true. However, are we all experts who are uniquely dedicated to the condition? The answer is a resounding “no.” Many patients are frustrated by years of being offered a bottle of artificial tears and no other solutions. They are looking for a physician who will be singularly focused on their plight.
Creating a dry eye niche can be a gradual process initiated with minor changes that won’t throw you or your staff into a tailspin. Start by committing specific appointments in the schedule for evaluations and follow-ups. Dry eye patients often recognize the time spent and appreciate the high-touch attention more than anything else.
Offering novel diagnostic testing will set your practice apart from your colleagues as well as lead you to a more precise assessment and treatment plan. Diagnostic specificity and accuracy generates better outcomes and happier patients.
Building a legitimate niche requires a more significant investment in equipment and technology to put your office at the top of the heap, but starting small can pay off. Investment in hardware may be a necessity for growth, but patients and their attention to premium customer service are what drive a practice from good to great.