Article Date: 5/1/2002

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Contact Patients Before or After?

Here's a simple way to increase patient satisfaction in your office.
By Gary Gerber

After spending a few days in a five-star hotel, I found a letter from the hotel in my home mailbox. It thanked me for my business, asked if there was anything that wasn't to my liking and invited me to come back.

On the way to the airport recently, my pager went off with a message letting me know that my plane was on time. After the trip, the airline e-mailed me a message similar to the hotel's letter.

Better hotels do it. Airlines do it for their frequent flyers. Why don't we do it for our "frequent flyer" patients -- or for all patients?

Before or after?

Many of us already follow-up with our co-managed laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) patients the day after their surgery. Patients appreciate those calls if you make them out of genuine concern. They're not uncommon and many of us already make them.

Put yourself in your LASIK patient's place and ask yourself when you would most need hand-holding, cajoling and nurturing? Is it after the surgery -- or just before?

I started a project with clients to call LASIK patients the night before their surgery. We found that patients were apprehensive, and we heard questions such as, "Do I really want to do this?" "Are my contact lenses that bad?" "Will I be that one-in-a-thousand patient who has problems?"

Assuaging their fears and offering reassurance and empathy goes a long way toward building relationships with patients. By calling patients before surgery instead of after, patients' satisfaction scores on surveys went up.

Stay in touch outside the office

Most of us only interact with patients when we see them in our offices. Some of you might send marketing materials such as newsletters between visits, but why not contact patients individually before their appointments, as we did with the LASIK patients above?

Let technology help

If you have a patient who's due in on Tuesday for her first experience with contact lenses, why not contact her the Monday before with a phone call or e-mail that says something like:

Dear Ms. __________,

We look forward to your visit tomorrow. We assure you that your experience with our office and your first pair of lenses will be comfortable and enjoyable. We're confident that you'll enjoy all of the benefits that contact lenses can offer you and we look forward to introducing you to this exciting new world of vision correction.

I recently recommended that my clients use an Internet tool called LivePerson Express (contact tpante@liveperson.com). This tool allows you to insert a chat button inside an outgoing e-mail. When your patient clicks on that button, he'll instantly be able to chat with your office online, without installing any additional software! (You can also install this button on your Web site.) another great tool to use is JambaTalk. Call (800) 371-0217 for a demonstration of how to totally automate your calls.

Reach out and attract patients

Expand your thinking and consider communicating with patients before they're even your patients. This is when they're most impressionable and their impressions of you can last a lifetime. 

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY WHOSE MISSION IS TO MAKE OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT 800-867-9303.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2002