Optometric Management Tip # 499 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Your patients want to buy their contacts from your practice!
A few years ago, I realized that many of my patients were taking their prescription to buy their contact lenses elsewhere; either online or at mega-discount stores. I asked my staff about it and they seemed quite aware of the situation. “Oh yes, lots of people tell us they are going to buy their contacts online,” said one on my technicians. “They feel terrible about it and apologize for it, but they point out that the lenses are the same quality and they are cheaper, so they don't have a choice.”
After hearing that, I decided to fight back. After all, patients actually want to buy from us; they trust us, they like us and they think of us as their source for eye care. They just need a little nudge ... a little reinforcement.
Reasons to buy from your office
I sat down and made a list of the reasons why patients should buy contact lenses from my office. It turns out that I had some great reasons and you can as well:
- New lower prices. I know I can't sell contact lenses for the lowest of the low on the internet or even for what some big box stores charge, but it did not take much to match or slightly beat some of the online vendors. I can still make a nice profit per box and I can tell my staff to brag about our new prices. I even suggest that they bring up some of the larger online vendors on our office computers and show patients the prices. At the same time that I lowered our per box price on some lenses, I raised our fitting fees and evaluation fees. They were much too low in the first place.
- Additional discount for yearly supplies. I really want to encourage patients to buy a full year's supply and simply offering a 5% or 10% discount when they do so made a huge difference.
- Manufacturer's rebates. The contact lens companies are helping independent ECPs to compete with the big chains by offering rebates to patients. Make sure your staff is well versed in these rebates and always offers the forms and receipts. When you couple your lower pricing with an annual discount plus a rebate, you really can compete with almost any vendor!
- Order from us online! It is not just about price; convenience is also a big factor in your patients' buying decisions. Have an on online ordering portal on your practice website in case patients want to buy contacts in their pajamas at midnight. The software is free from several major distributors.
- Free shipping. In certain quantities, distributors and manufacturers offer free shipping direct to the patient. Even in small quantities, the patient can avoid shipping by simply picking the lenses up at your office.
- Free trial contacts. In an emergency, you can help a patient out with the exact lens they need immediately. Online places can't do that. Make this service exclusively for patients who buy from you; just check the record before offering trial lenses.
- Free solutions and cases. Quite often, you will have samples of lens care products for patients who buy lenses from your office. Once again, make it an exclusive benefit.
- Easy exchanges. If lenses don't work properly or are torn, you will exchange them on the spot.
- Lenses in stock. If you stock the sellable boxes in your brand of choice, you can offer patients extreme convenience when they procrastinate and run out! They can just run over and get what they need – right now! You also may be able to buy at a lower bulk price.
- We are your eye care experts! Promote the fact that you and your staff are available to answer questions and solve problems about contact lens wear at any time.
Train your staff
Armed with the list above, have your staff members talk to patients if they show an interest in taking their contact lens Rx to go. Print the list in the form of a handout that can be used as a tool in the office and then given to the patient. With all those reasons, you should be able to retain 90% of your prescriptions.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management