staff & marketing
Turn Staff Into Marketers
Your staff can help build relationships that result in trust and increased business. Here’s how.
REBECCA L. JOHNSON, C.P.O.T., C.O.T., C.O.E., ASHEVILLE, N.C.
Your fantastic website and expansive social media presence may get patients in the door once, but whether you ever see that person again depends entirely on their visit experience. Successful marketing requires a consistent alignment of everyday practices to what matters most to your patients.
Marketing is more than communicating the value of a product and making a sale. It is about building relationships that result in trust and increased business. Creating a patient-centered experience with a feeling of community is the best marketing tool to ensure a loyal following of patients who enthusiastically refer friends and family.
Let’s take a look at some role-based marketing opportunities.
A perspective patient who calls for an appointment wants to know: “With several eye doctors within a 10-mile radius, why should I come to your doctor instead of one of the others?” Experience shows that most employees cannot answer this question with confidence.
The solution is to regularly schedule time with your employees to discuss the uniqueness and mission of your practice. Make sure employees can list reasons a perspective patient would receive value by choosing your practice.
Building your appointment schedule is sometimes more about maintaining relationships with established patients. Never assume that just because a patient did not respond to a recall card that he/she does not want to return to your practice. Eye exams can get pushed to the back burner. A friendly “we miss you” phone call, text message or e-mail may be all that is needed to remind the patient of the forgotten appointment. Consider offering online options to make it easy for the patient to schedule his/her next appointment. (See “Human Resources Technology,” page 48.)
Many EHR systems can link patients with other family members. Use this technology to offer to make an appointment for other family members. An example: “Mrs. Johnson, I see that Gary is due for his eye exam also. Would you like to make his appointment on the same day as yours?”
|Front desk receptionist|
An unstated question on each person’s mind is, “Do I matter?” People like recognition and love to be celebrated. No one has a greater opportunity to recognize and celebrate your patients than the receptionist. The simple act of remembering the patient’s name acknowledges interest in the patient as a person, not just revenue. Eye contact and a warm smile always pays high returns. Body language should be congruent with vocal language: Don’t be the fast food restaurant employee who shouts “welcome” when the door opens without ever looking up.
Keeping personal notes in the patient’s file reminds the receptionist to celebrate the patient. For instance, “Mrs. Parker, I saw that Jason got a baseball scholarship at Georgia Tech. I bet you are proud.”
Pre-testing is an often untapped resource for marketing opportunities. Great financial investments are made in the latest technology, but we fail to advertise the benefit to patients. Talking about this technology demonstrates the value of each test. It impresses patients and gives them something to talk about with others.
A pre-test script increases the confidence of the technician in discussing technology. A few examples are listed below.
► Checking pressure: “We have a new instrument that allows us to measure your eye pressure without blowing a strong puff of air in your eye.”
► OCT: “This instrument uses focused light to produce cross-sectional images that allow the doctor to measure the very thin layers of your retina so that he can make the most accurate diagnosis.”
► Spectacle prescription device: “This equipment reads the power of your current glasses’ prescription. Are you planning on getting new glasses today? If so, ask the optician to show you the new line of frames we just got. My favorite is the black one with the little touch of ‘bling.’”
The patient is now anxious to see this frame even if she was not planning on getting new glasses immediately.
Reassuring the patient of the quality and value of the products you provide fosters patient referrals, great reviews and satisfied patients.
Jay Binkowitz, president of GPN, gives this example at the time of dispensing: “Mrs. Jones, I am so glad you chose our new HD digital lens package. I know you will really enjoy all the great benefits, as your lenses are going to protect your eyes both day and night and will be comfortable for your day-to-day wear. And, Mrs. Jones, your new eyewear is covered under our great warranty. So, please let us know whether you need anything in the future. Our goal is to make sure you’re happy. Thank you again for allowing us the opportunity to take care of your eye health and eyewear needs.”
The optician should follow-up with the patient within two weeks of the purchase to ensure the patient is satisfied with his/her new eyewear.
The checkout experience should be compared with the grand finale at a fireworks’ display, not a sterile discussion of insurance and out-of-pocket expenses. Look to delight your patient with this last impression. For example, a vase of fresh flowers on the desk and an offer of a Hershey’s Kiss or a York Peppermint Pattie can create the perfect ending. Also, attach a “Like Us on Facebook” postcard to the appointment card.
When sending billing statements, include a “buck slip,” or dollar-sized piece of paper with information about the practice, a sunglass coupon or a notice that you are accepting new patients.
Develop your internal plan
Have each employee answer the following questions at the next staff meeting:
1. What are three things you personally do or could be doing to market our practice?
2. What can we do as a group to retain patients and have them refer others?
Let everyone share their answers and brain-storm together, encouraging “out-of-the-box” thinking. Document the ideas, and decide which you will implement immediately and which you will implement in the future.
Creating an internal marketing team requires getting and keeping everyone on board. Depending on personalities, some employees are more comfortable with this than others, but remember that people get on board with an idea when they can relate to a purpose. Make certain that each person can relate to and understand the importance of their individual contributions to the internal marketing plan. OM
Ms. Johnson is the founder and president of EyeTrain4You, an ophthalmic staff coaching and development company. E-mail her at Rebecca@EyeTrain4You.com, or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.