Article Date: 5/1/2007

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staffing solutions

Cost-Cutting Costs You
You don’t have to compete on price to retain and attract patients.


Imagine this: Another O.D. has just opened a new practice in your town, and you’ve noticed that her arrival coincides with a decrease in patients at your practice. Your first instinct may be to lower your fees, which may work for the short-term. The long-term reality: Someone will always be willing to do what you do at a lower fee.
In addition, patients (like all consumers) tend to relate quality to cost. “If you pay more, it’s probably worth more,” goes the theory. Like it or not, many optometrists’ reputations for quality are based on their fees. Price/fee becomes the ultimate deciding factor only in cases in which patients perceive everything else as equal, which, incidentally, is almost never.

Perception of value
The quality of care, the overall appearance of the practice, staff helpfulness, friendliness and that unique personal touch are qualities that often allow practices to hold on to their competitive edge, retaining and attracting patients, despite slightly higher fees than their colleagues/ competitors.

Expand patients’ perception of value
Before you consider matching or lowering your prices to compete with a nearby O.D., schedule a staff meeting at which your team can discuss new ways to expand patients’ perception of value. You should discuss:

• the key components of excellent service and patient satisfaction in an optometric practice. How important are things like being on time for appointments, delivering eyewear when promised, maintaining a spotlessly clean office, answering patient questions, greeting patients with a warm smile, getting to know them by name, as well as their individual visual and cosmetic needs?
• a past experience in shopping, dining and traveling during which the service was impeccable. Discuss what made individual staffers’ experiences “memorable” and what, in particular, employees did that was so outstanding. Then, talk about the ways in which you and your staff can incorporate such behaviors into your practice. For example, after paying the bill at a local restaurant, I forgot to take my credit card. The manager found my telephone number, called to tell me about the card and then had it delivered to me later that same evening.
• an experience in which the service was horrible, and identify distasteful and annoying behaviors. Try to pinpoint what it was about these individual experiences that left scars and what, in particular, employees did that was so unsatisfactory. Were they rude, short-tempered, inattentive? Then, chat about the ways in which you and your staff can ensure your patients never have these experiences at your practice.

Such discussions are invariably lively, interactive and a great teambuilding activity. They also raise team members’ awareness of behaviors (both positive and negative) that impact patients’ satisfaction with the services they receive.
The bottom line: Instead of making practice management blunder #1 — competing on price — engage your team in expanding their repertoires of interpersonal skills to enhance patient satisfaction. This helps your practice keep its competitive edge and raises it above comparisons based solely on fee/price.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2007