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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor January 16, 2008 - Tip #311 
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What stories do your patients tell?

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Additional Information

Since word of mouth referral is the number one way professional practices obtain new patients, let's take a look at what your patients are likely saying about your practice. People love to talk about any new and exciting experience that occurs in their lives and a visit to the eye doctor certainly could qualify. If you do things unique and special enough, you could have people raving about your services to their hair stylist, neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives.

Patients tell what you give them

I believe we all have tremendous control over what patients say about our practices, but few of us take advantage of the opportunity. It all depends on how high you set your sights. If you set out to achieve satisfied patients and provide eye care in the usual manner, then you may not get much buzz at all. People only talk about events that are truly noteworthy. If they just get what they expect, there is really not much to talk about. Most people have had an eye exam before and if the experience in your office is roughly the same, it's highly unlikely that much will be said. Satisfied patients don't refer their friends; enthusiastic ones do!

Worse than silence, of course, is negative word of mouth. Do enough things poorly and your patients will tell others how awful their experience was! Of course, most eye care practitioners don't create unhappy patients on a regular basis, but some practices have chronic problems and the owner doesn't even know it.

Positive stories

Creating a unique and exciting patient experience is not easy, but it can truly be the most powerful marketing strategy you could ever implement. It's really the only marketing effort you need to build a highly successful practice. Consider these examples as told from the patient's point of view:
  • I ordered glasses and they were ready the next day!
  • My appointment was started right on time; no waiting!
  • I hadn't thought about contact lenses, but the doctor made it so easy. I came home with them on the first visit!
  • This place has the coolest equipment; the doctor showed me a picture of the inside of my eye!
  • The doctor did not use the old-fashioned machine with lenses; he used one that was operated by computer.
  • The staff was so friendly; I could tell they really liked me and cared about me.
  • The doctor explained my eye problems by showing me a computer generated video. And I received a printed summary of everything they told me!
  • I never saw such a fantastic selection of frames. The optician helped me choose a style that looks great on me!
  • This office is really up to date; even the records are entered into a computer.
Negative stories

Watch out for these examples of patient dissatisfaction. Eliminate issues like these through more staff training and investing in your facility.
  • The girl at the front desk was really rude. I don't know what her problem is.
  • The office looked like something out of the eighties (seventies?).
  • They told me my vision insurance would cover my exam, but when I got there they said they had to bill my medical plan. I think it's just a way for them to make more money.
  • The assistant smelled like she just sprayed perfume over cigarette smoke. And she couldn't stop coughing.
  • I noticed cobwebs in the corners of the waiting room and I don't think the bathroom is very clean.
  • They said my glasses would be ready in 10 working days, but when I called to check on them they said there was a backorder.
  • I'm sure the doctor is good, but she acted like she was better than me and was mean to me about my contact lenses.
Efforts that can backfire

Having the resources to provide a special experience in your office is only part of the requirement. Be sure to review how you use the resources. Your patient's point of view could be quite different from yours.
  • Patients may not like an eye exam that takes a long time.
  • Patients may not find your explanations about eye problems or eyeglass lenses very interesting.
  • Patients may resent efforts that appear too slick and are obviously aimed at promoting services and products.
  • Patients hate surprises about fees. Tell people in advance what to expect.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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