Article Date: 7/1/2011

Twenty-One Steps to the Five-Star Review
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Twenty-One Steps to the Five-Star Review

What user review websites tell us about the best-of-the-best practices.

Justin Bazan, O.D.
Park Slope, N.Y.

When I see a user review website that gives a business dozens of glowing reviews, I often think: What are they doing to generate these five-star reviews? There is no way they can be that good.

I remind myself not to be a hater and to realize there is a lot to be learned. For instance, by reading the posts of website guests, you can learn exactly what the best of the best are doing—talk about insider info and trade secrets. It's all there for you, as plain as pixels.

The best optometric offices do things that people just love and can't keep quiet about. These comprise the anchor points of any word-of-mouth campaign. They are the core points of the much-sought-after five-star review.

To uncover these best-of-the-best qualities, I looked at three of the highest-ranked optometric offices in five major cities that garnered five-star reviews on www.yelp.com. I looked for patterns in and amongst the offices to arrive at my “top 21” list of things your practice needs to be doing to get buried in five-star reviews.

1 Be likeable.

Your business needs a foundation of friendliness. It is apparent from the hundreds of “yelpers” who penned the five-star reviews that people like doing business with people they like. People tend to forgive small mistakes made by people they like. Being friendly creates loyal fans who spread the word about your practice. It's banking on friendship, not just putting a buck in the register. If I had just one pearl, it would be to hire friendly people who other people fall in love with.

2 Be knowledgeable.

The highest-rated doctors seem to keep the patient well informed and feeling comfortable. Be sure to tell patients why you are going to do something. Make sure they understand what you will be doing, and then explain it again as you are doing it. For your optical sales, this knowledge also needs to mix with an incredible sense of style.

3 Make it easy to do business.

“We are on your side. We are here to help. We always want you to feel like you can come to us with any issues.” These are the things that patients love to hear and feel when they visit your office.

There's not a lot of policy talk in the five-star reviews. So be flexible and ultimately easy to work with. Fix issues beyond the patient's satisfaction. Know when a refund really is the best solution. Be open when it's convenient for your guests not just for you. This means providing early, late and weekend hours.

4 Wow them (without giving away the house).

A surprise gift, such as allowing patients to keep the mugs in which their coffee was served, goes a long way in creating patient satisfaction and loyalty. Focus on customer service, and realize that people will rave to their friends about the little things, like ring pops, chocolate, frappuccinos and stacks of cleaning cloths.

5 Provide value.

Price becomes less of a focal point when the level of service and quality of goods is the spotlight.

6 Get geeky.

People love impressive technology, especially when it allows them to see the inside of their eyeball or how they look in new frames.

7 Create an ambiance.

A relaxing environment is a winner. For instance, many patients appreciate sights, sounds and smells that create a spa-like ambiance. Clean, modern and comfortable are other words often repeated in five-star reviews.

8 Make hospitality #1.

They are your beloved guests. Serve, and take care of them. Provide them with anticipatory care. For instance, if you see it pouring outside, and the patient doesn't have an umbrella, give him one.

9 Exceed expectations.

Nothing builds loyalty and gets people raving like exceeding expectations. When glasses don't arrive on time and your patient is short on time, why not deliver them? If the patient is traveling out of town for a month and their contact lenses won't be ready, give them enough lenses to cover the trip.

Without the extra, you're just ordinary. Be extra friendly, extra passionate and extra helpful to get on the five-star fast track.

10 Be accommodating.

When time matters, your practice can make it happen. Does a patient need to be seen the same day as they call? Make sure it's no problem. If a patient calls complaining of a red eye, does your practice ask, “How quickly can you get here?”

11 Be Honest. It's the best policy.

“Those glasses look fantastic” sounds best when it is said with honesty. Patients respect and appreciate honesty. According to the Yelp posts I looked at, such patients will not only return to your practice, but they will also refer other patients when you're honest.

12 Think compassion, not commission.

Repeatedly, the optical sales all-stars of these five-star reviews came across as compassionate and always kept the guests' best interests in mind. These optical sales staffs are motivated by their hearts, not their wallets.

13 Listen up!

According to the ratings, the top doctors are superb listeners, and make patients feel respected. Your best response can only happen after you have fully understood your patient.

14 Be passionate.

Passion. It is there on the superstars. How passionate are you, your other docs, opticians and staff? If you and they are not borderline obsessed, get excited. The ratings reflect that the best of the best are fired up about their profession.

15 Accept responsibility.

Bad things happen. The top practices each have someone who steps up and accepts responsibility for these bad things. Apologize, and wow patients with a solution. Not all these five-star reviews started out as five-star reviews. Sometimes, the staffs of these practices took extraordinary actions to earn the upgrade.

16 Cut patients a break.

Think of ways to cut patients a break if they don't have health insurance or a vision care plan.

17 Perfect your timing.

Learn which patients enjoy conversation and which prefer you move with some expedition.

18 Have patience.

The opticians who showed the patience of a saint were the ones with the highest praise.

19 Be Consistent.

The “five-starers” are consistent at being great. You won't rack up five-star reviews if you have lapses in service. Make extraordinary the norm.

20 Remember like an elephant (or just keep really good record notes).

People like to feel remembered. When you ask about their son's science project or their trip to India, this translates to a genuine interest in their well-being. Care enough to remember that they work for Google. By remembering to remember, you make patients feel important. In doing this, your likeability value will gain dramatically.

21 Be transparent.

Patients hate surprises and hidden charges. In addition, they hate getting bills months later when they thought they were all paid. As a result, explain how your practice works, and facilitate patients into fruition.

The five-star mind-set

For additional ideas, refer to www.yelp.com. It's a wonderful source for the little things that make a big difference. Also, study your competition for specific examples of five-star service. Get five-star on your mind, and raise the reviews of your practice to the top. OM

Key Players in the Five-Star All-Star Game
Docs: good listeners, great explainers; passionate about eye care; a nice blend of professional and friendly, which has a calming effect on patients
Opticians: knowledgeable with a great sense of style; passionate about eyewear; never pushy and always on the side of the patient
Staff: accommodating, hospitable, comforting, bend-over-backwards type of helpful
Product: great selection, great value (not just a low price) and great quality
Environment: modern, clean and efficient, relaxing and comfortable
The experience should bring a patient up from the pits if they're down. Everyone should leave feeling like the are on cloud nine.

Dr. Bazan is in private practice at Vision Source Park Slope Eye. He is a co-founder of Peripheral Vision, a social media group for Optometrists. To join, visit www.facebook.com/peripheralvision. Please send comments and questions to Dr.Bazan@VisionSource.com. Or send comments to optometricmanagement@gmail.com.


Optometric Management, Issue: July 2011