Optometric Management Tip # 42 - Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Staying on top of problem optical jobs
A typical daily scene in an optometric office goes something like this. A patient calls on the phone and asks if his glasses are ready. The receptionist puts him on hold and checks with a technician, who looks through drawers and trays and concludes – no, they are not ready. The receptionist uses her well-developed skills of diplomacy to tell the caller that they aren’t ready, but that the office will call the lab and check into it and she will call him back. The caller accepts this, but reminds the receptionist that he was told the order would take two weeks and it is currently slightly over that. Upon checking with the lab, the technician discovers that the polycarbonate progressive is on backorder... or that there was a breakage on the photochromic executive lens and they are waiting for new lenses… or that the frame is on backorder… or whatever the excuse du jour is.
Obviously, this type of service can hamper your practice’s reputation. From the patient’s point of view, it is poor service they are dealing with your office… not your lab. Here are a few tips to regain control over the service aspects of your optical department.
We may never eliminate all problems associated with making custom products like glasses, but we can reduce them and stay in control of them.
- Hold a staff meeting to raise the level of importance of good service on optical orders. We should not make promises (or even imply delivery dates) that we cannot deliver. Underpromise and overdeliver.
- Begin a process of daily checking on the status of all jobs that are outstanding and especially any that are near the due date promised. It is far better for your office to call the patient to report a delay then to have the patient call you and then hear about it.
- Offer patients the option of substituting a different frame or lens design if they want to speed up the order. We may even provide a loaner pair of glasses to help them through the wait.
- If glasses come in but must be rejected, we often explain the problem to the patient, but allow them to wear the incorrect pair (assuming vision would not affected), until the replacement pair is ready.
- Evaluate the service you get from your lab. As hard as it may be to switch labs, sometimes you have to - to maintain good service. If you have an in-office lab – evaluate the service it provides and that of it’s suppliers. I believe having an in-office lab can greatly improve service and speed up delivery, but it must be well managed and well staffed.
- We use a white marker board in our lab to track all problem jobs. My staff sees what jobs are currently having a problem and they check on the status of them every day.
- Instruct your staff to apologize for the delay and accept the blame on behalf of the office. Give a little sympathy for the inconvenience. Many staff members in health care do not know if it is OK to apologize or not, and they are afraid to. Usually, once a patient sees that you care and that you are really trying, they become very understanding.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management