Optometric Management Tip # 474   -   Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Master the Fundamentals

I love the spring training season for major league baseball.  All the managers and players are filled with hope and optimism.  The teams that will be most successful in the regular season work hard on the fundamentals of baseball.  It's not just glory plays and home runs that get you to the World Series, but making sure you do all the little things right, like charging easy ground balls and backing up teammates.  Practice owners and office managers are a lot like coaches on baseball teams and our fundamentals are things like excellent customer service and quality control.  Let's review some frequently dropped fly balls in eye care practices and see if you can improve the performance of your team.

These issues happen so frequently that they can become normal and accepted.  Check to see if any of these events occur in your office and if so, fix them.

Staff start times
What time do you open the doors in the morning?  I don't like it when I arrive at an office or store for the first appointment of the day and I find the door locked.  It's inconvenient and it's a bad first impression.  What am I supposed to do?  Go back to my car and wait for some sign of life.  Eventually I see a staff person open the door and I check my watch to see if she is late.  I enter with two other people who arrived after me but managed to get to the door before me.  The lights are off and the room temperature is cold (or hot).  You get the picture.

This issue can just creep up on you and then everyone pretends it is OK.  It may have started when the practice was smaller and the staff showed up a few minutes early to open up.  Over time, staff started arriving on time or a little late.  And we all know that some patients show up very early!  Fifteen minutes early sometimes.  But I actually like that much better than when they show up late. 

The solution is obvious; schedule staff to start work a half hour earlier than patient appointments.  The computers are turned on, equipment is uncovered, heating or AC is adjusted, coffee is made and everyone is ready to start work when the patients walk in.

No one at the front desk
There are many legitimate reasons why a staff member has to leave the front desk: go to the optical lab, get an old file, use the washroom, get supplies, and so on.  As the practice gets busier, these tasks become more frequent and you can end up with no one at the front desk quite often.  Patients walk in and no one greets them.  You may have resorted to a sign-in notebook for patients, which I think is very undesirable even though it is convenient for staff.  Staff members bring patients to the desk after and exam or optical sale and there is no one to take over.  The doctor comes to the front desk to speak to the receptionist, but she is not there and the doc ends up checking in a patient who has been waiting.  Having the doctor do an unfamiliar task can lead to problems, such as staff not knowing the patient has checked in and incorrect intake forms being completed.

There can be more than one remedy for insufficient coverage of the front desk.  Analyze the situation and see if you need more staff members or if you can reassign existing staff duties.

Glasses or contacts not ready
When you tell patients that their optical products will be ready in 10 working days they take note and they expect you to live up to that.  Develop a system that keeps track of orders and if there is a delay be sure to call the patient and explain before he calls you and asks about the item.  Patients generally understand if a problem occurs as long as you call them first.  While we're on this topic, see if you can shave a few days off that delivery time.  See if you can get the order started faster on your side and ask the lab if they can improve delivery time.  Two weeks is pretty long.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management