Article Date: 8/1/2001

Pasta vs. Contacts
They actually have something in common, according to this marketing expert.

Selling contact lenses for eye doctors is the same as selling pasta for food marketers, says marketing expert, Gary Gerber, O.D.


It may seem far-fetched, but each takes the knowledge of how to create the right image, explains Dr. Gerber, president of the Power Practice.

Really, it boils down to the overall image each product conveys. Look at a box of contact lenses (for example, a package of CIBA Vision Dailies that has a white background and what looks like blue water droplets).

"The box gives you the feeling that the product is clean, healthy and it's going to give you crisp vision. You don't see a starburst that reads 'gives great vision.' There's no need to even indicate this. You assume it because the box appears high-tech. In contrast, the spaghetti box appears homey, so you associate the product with comfort food."

What's this have to do with everyday practice?

More than you might think.

It's all about conveying your intended message -- whether it's your office decor, your staff's demeanor or the sign outside your practice.

In Dr. Gerber's Westwood, N.J., private practice, his number-one goal is offering the best customer service.

"We do it out of necessity," he explains. "We have a parking problem and a signage problem, so we figure if we're going to severely inconvenience patients we'd better make the inside of the office an oasis."

When patients enter, they're immediately greeted. The office is clean, fresh coffee is available, magazines are current, and the office "reeks of new technology," says Dr. Gerber.

After pretesting, patients are escorted to an exam room where they're asked what kind of magazine they'd like to read and what kind of music they'd like to listen to.

Don't stop there

The key is to deliver good service to your patients on a consistent basis.

"Here's a perfect example," says Dr. Gerber. "This morning, I started my day with a progressive lens redo. The patient is a -6.00D, and she was understandably upset. The first thing I thought was, What can I do to make her happy? I didn't think about cost. We ended up letting her choose new frames, and we quickly made a new pair of single vision lenses at no cost to her. We also assured her we'd have her correct progressive lens prescription completed by day's end."

Look beyond optometry

Dr. Gerber notes that ideas for improving customer service and marketing your practice are everywhere. "You can adapt many ideas from other industries, whether it's the pasta industry or whatever," he says.

Dr. Stephen Cohen would agree. See his article (Unlocking the August 2001) for great ideas on improving patient satisfaction.

Optometric Management, Issue: August 2001