Article Date: 10/1/2008

view from the top
view from the top

Attack of The Robo-Sales Force

How innovation will ultimately convert customers into patients.

GARY GERBER, O.D.

Gerber's marketing tip for the month: Hire a sales force to stand in high traffic shopping malls to perform cursory vision screenings and encourage prospective patients to visit your practice. Pay each sales person $50,000 per year, plus benefits. Of course, once you see how many new patients you'll acquire, you'll be upset when a sales person calls in sick or arrives late.

However, what if you had a "robo-sales" representative who did the same tasks, the same way every time, was always on time for work and never called in sick or asked for time off? Banks use them now — they're called automatic teller machines (ATM); airlines have E-Ticket machines; and consumers scan groceries in self-service lines.

"Sales force in a box"

This automation trend will reach eye care and when it does, we won't have an "eye exam in a box." Instead, it will be our "sales force in a box."

After a basic vision screening — not a substitute for a comprehensive exam — the robo-sales representative will educate the consumer about your practice.

Self-service trends already play a pivotal role in the transformation of our healthcare system. Consumers check their blood pressure in drug stores, indicating they are eager to explore the next generation of convenient self-screening and monitoring options in a retail environment.

Self-service health screenings (vision or others) can encourage consumers to catch problems early when they are usually most treatable. These screenings may also help consumers identify risk factors to prevent future health disorders — saving them heartache and money in the long run.


ILLUSTRATION BY MARK COLLINS

Thorough testing still needed

Initial self-service screenings will not eliminate the need for thorough exams and testing by you. Quite the opposite would be true. Marketed correctly, these self-service screenings will generate leads for new patients by educating consumers about what eye services are available as they relate to results of their screening and directing the consumer to you, the eyecare practitioner, for professional care.

We obviously know that eye exams detect and treat vision problems. Spotting eye diseases at a more treatable stage is preferred to finding them later. The problem is that most Americans are uninformed about the need for regular eye examinations.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) claims most people seek professional eye care only every 36 to 48 months — about half as often as recommended. A recent pilot program for self-screening vision tests of 6,000 people in Georgia showed that 30% never had an eye exam, and 80% of those using a kiosk screening device were directed to see an eyecare professional.

Our wired society is ready for innovations that engage consumers and ultimately convert them to patients. Self-service screenings and monitoring at convenient business and retail locations make perfect sense, especially when user-friendly technology makes the experience satisfying and informative. These technologies will encourage consumers to either schedule more office visits with you or become your patient.

Once these technologies become mainstream, you'll stop reading (because I'll stop writing) articles about how to motivate your staff. The only motivation this technology will need is an electrical outlet. OM


DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM, OR, CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2008