JERRY HAYES, O.D.
The $25 Million Practice
Getting there begins with the $7,000 patient.
While the title of this month’s column is provocative, it’s surprisingly realistic. Not only can you gross $25,000,000 through the lifetime of your career, you likely will. I have found that the average dispensing optometrist produces about $500,000 per year in gross-collected revenues. Assuming an annual inflation rate of 3% per year, the average O.D. will generate an astounding total of $25,001,339 through the course of 30 years in practice.
By the same token, a patient who spends $300 every other year in your practice for 30 years will spend a total of $7,030 (again, this assumes a 3% rate of inflation). Looking at it this way helps illustrate how important creating longterm patient loyalty is to the growth of your practice.
Cater to existent patient base
I also use these big numbers to point out a very common mistake. Many optometrists take their current patients for granted and direct all their marketing efforts at attracting new patients. Yes, attracting new patients is vitally important to the growth of your practice. But, once you hit $500,000 (that’s per O.D., not per practice) in annual revenue, your best source of future business doesn’t come from media advertising. It comes from your existing patient base and their referrals. Those are the people to whom you need to cater.
I’ve worked with quite a few O.D.s who generate $1 million or more per year. While the personality of these mega-practice O.D.s can vary greatly, they all have one thing in common: a relentless focus on customer service. It’s no coincidence that the owners of big practices do a great job of keeping patients not merely satisfied, but genuinely enthusiastic and loyal.
In my opinion, it takes more than your average refraction to create loyal patients these days. People expect that. Great customer service is what happens to patients before and after they see the doctor. If you want to differentiate your practice from other practices, step back and analyze how you and your staff interact with patients in the following four critical areas.
• Phone. Who handles your calls, a naturally extroverted person who actually enjoys talking with people or someone who gets cranky at crunch-time? Is she reasonably prepared to answer basic questions in a clear and friendly manner?
• Greeting. It’s common practice in many medical offices for the staff to ignore a patient when he walks in the door because she is too busy. Does your team fall into this trap?
• Wait-time. How promptly does your staff see patients for appointments or pick-ups? I don’t know about you, but I consciously avoid going somewhere if I know I’m going to routinely have to wait more than fifteen minutes.
• Conflict management. How well do you handle complaints and conflicts? Patients need to be happy, not only with their vision, but with the look and feel of their glasses and contact lenses. That’s not always easy. The hallmark of great customer service is working hard to satisfy all your patients, even the difficult ones.
You can’t please every patient
To paraphrase an old television ad, there is only one way to earn $25 million through the course of your career: “One patient at a time.” The way to do that is to please the ones you have now by putting a strong emphasis on good customer service.
THE FOUNDER OF THE HAYES CENTER FOR PRACTICE EXCELLENCE AT SOUTHERN COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN MEMPHIS, DR. HAYES IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO . E-MAIL HIM AT JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.COM
Optometric Management, Issue: May 2007