Article Date: 6/1/2011

Over Promise, and Over Deliver
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Over Promise, and Over Deliver

When you under promise, you risk living with mediocrity. Here's why.

Gary Gerber, O.D.

“Under promise and over deliver.” You've heard it many times before, and on the surface it seems logical. After all, over promising and under delivering isn't likely to help you build a sustainable practice. However, instead of accepting this seemingly innocuous business axiom at face value, how about we tweak it to say, “Over promise and over deliver?” Here's why.

Mr. Jones, at the end of his eyeglass frame selection asks you, “So when will my glasses be ready?” Not wanting to disappoint him, and expecting you'll have the glasses in roughly four days, you tell him, “They should be here in about a week. We'll call you when they arrive.”

Four days later, when the glasses arrive, you call him and say, “I have great news. Your glasses came in earlier than we expected. I have them here. Would you like to pick them up today?”

Shaping the future

On the surface, that exchange seems benign and appears to give off a positive customer service vibe for Mr. Jones. After all, you did get the glasses sooner than expected. However, this same scenario, repeated with hundreds of patients during the course of the year, can have significant implications on how you shape future office policies. It means that you, the practice owner, will come to accept and live with mediocrity. In this case, mediocrity is the delivery of glasses in four days. Why not push the bar higher and work to get glasses even sooner, say, three days? If you strived for this goal, you could tell future patients, “We'll have your glasses in three days,” or the more timid among you could say five days. Regardless, either is better than the previous seven days.

Examine your office policies

There are many policies and procedures in your practice that you should examine with your “over promise” microscope to ensure your promises aren't inhibiting the growth of your practice. For example:

Waiting time. For those practices that ask (via a survey for example), one of the biggest patient complaints is the waiting time to see the doctor once the patient has arrived for his appointment, and for larger practices, the actual waiting time for an appointment. Using the above “over promising” philosophy, savvy doctors will hold their own feet to the scheduling fire by promising patients they are (for example) seen by the doctor within five minutes of their appointment time. Heavily scheduled practices would also benefit by saying, “You won't have to wait more than five days for non-emergency appointments” (assuming the current wait is longer).
Overall value. Gain the most with this philosophy by examining the overall value you provide your patients. If they expected to get Y amount of value for $X and they indeed got exactly Y, can you make changes in your practice to promise Y+Z and actually deliver it for a slightly higher fee than $X? This concept can include eyeglass selection, the types of ophthalmic lenses you routinely prescribe, your “go to” contact lens and just about anything else that has a price tag.

Aim for solving patients' problems, providing good service and providing value to your patients and if you're unlucky, you'll land exactly where you aim. Shoot for something higher than what patients expect, and deliver that. By doing so, you're practice will wind up miles away from mediocrity. I promise. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2011