Transform your practice and increase
patient care and satisfaction with a features-advantages-benefits system.
BY GERAD TAYLOR
My optometric career has included a very special business
partner that goes by the name of Change. Change and I created this partnership at
the very onset because I knew that it would be a valuable relationship. In fact,
it's probably the single most important element in a family of business tools that
you can utilize to develop a successful practice.
Your business toolbox
must include: quality of care and product, compassion for those whom you serve,
clinical wisdom, patience, enthusiasm, financial caretaking and extensive knowledge
of products and technologies, including new clinical techniques. Yet within this
group and above it, I believe that change is the critical ingredient in the formula
When we talk about
change, I don't mean change in random, impulsive bursts, but rather thought out
and programmed change. Change without planning is chaos. Change with intention is
great business management! The word change itself can be depressing and downright
frightful to some of us. Yet change is a necessity for being current and growing
strong. It shouldn't be a depressing word and I'll show you why.
I'm going to use
an old sales acronym of F.A.B. to take us through the various sides and affects
of change. F.A.B. stands for Features Advantages Benefits, and it's
through the F.A.B. formula that we can understand how change can be our strongest
business partner. Everything that we do as a service in business should satisfy
the F.A.B. formula.
service should have a
unique Feature that serves a specific need. This Feature should have an Advantage
that positions it over other older or competitive services or products. Ultimately
it must have a personal Benefit to the recipient to have value.
Fit patients with a
technologically-advanced contact lens
Total oxygen transmission,
UV protection, thin lens, totally wettable
Health benefits not
available in older lens technologies
Ability to wear lenses
comfortably and safely for extended periods
This final concept
is commonly overlooked in sales. You can have a wonderful product full of features
and advantages, but if it doesn't have personal benefit it won't sell. A contact
lens that allows complete oxygen transmission, is extremely thin, blocks all UV
light and is totally wettable on the human eye is full of features and advantages
compared to older competitive lenses. Unfortunately, patients won't appreciate this
unless they understand that the contact lens can be worn safely and comfortably
for extended periods of time so that they don't have to handle it but once a month
which is to their personal benefit.
A lot to live up to
As business managers, in addition
to being doctors, we have a responsibility to serve several publics. First, we have
the ultimate responsibility to our patients. They depend on us for competent, state-of-the-art
care. Second, we have a responsibility to our employees who depend on us for their
livelihood. Third, we have a responsibility to those who supply the products that
we use in our practices.
Next, we have to care for our practice
(business), which is the platform that provides the ability to serve the first three
publics. Finally, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to be excellent
managers of our business. Using F.A.B., we can look at why change is such a critical
component as a business partner in allowing us to achieve success in meeting this
responsibility to our publics.
The anatomy of change
Change itself is a key component
that must be looked at and understood before we can see how change in our practice
is important. We must look at some of the Features of change.
Addressing the issue of change makes us evaluate what's
important to us and our practice. It creates a culture of introspection that demands
that we evaluate the reasons we do things, which is an advantage. The benefit is
that we get a firmer idea of the direction in which we need to move. In fact, if
we're considering what's important and what
we want our business to be and to look like, we automatically create a vision for
our practice. Of course, creating a vision is something that we all know we should
do, but seldom take the time to develop.
feature of change is risk. The advantage of risk is that creates introspection
as to what it means to be alive, to try new things and to understand that we might
have failures as well as successes. In other words, risk invigorates us. As a result,
we strive to improve, create, repair, and innovate, which will lead to success
the ultimate benefit.
Install new state-of-the-art
Faster test results, smaller footprint, compatible with information systems
Improved patient flow and accuracy, increased staff skill sets, save space
Improved doctor-patient interactions, increased patient "wow" factor, improved
differentiates your practice from others. This is an advantage, positioning you
in a different light and giving you a competitive boost. In today's world of "pick-a-doc"
from a list, you must achieve a competitive edge. Your practice will benefit from
new patients who are looking for differentiation among what appears to be the same
story from every provider. Your established patients will stick with you, as there
won't be any others who do things the way you do; your differentiation becomes a
Change will invigorate your staff. Once you have a
vision and know what's important to you, communicate this to your staff and allow
them to participate in your vision. This will consolidate their commitment. Then,
as you and your staff work towards achieving the vision, change will become everyone's
partner. Each will realize that to achieve the vision, things must continually change.
It will become a part of the culture of your practice, which will propel you forward.
The end benefit is that you will achieve your ultimate goal.
Another benefit that comes from communicating
your vision to your staff may appear on the surface to be a negative, yet in the
end is not. It's that you will find out which of your staff is on your ship and
which member isn't. It won't take long before you and your staff recognize who isn't
buying into the vision. The person who isn't on board your ship isn't wrong, he
just isn't headed in the same direction. Ultimately, it's a benefit for that person
to understand that and to find a ship that is going his way. Keep staff who want
to be on board your ship and are excited to be heading in your direction.
Making it real
Let me share with you some specific
examples of change that our optometric practice has gone through and what it's meant
to achieving our vision. To do this, you should know that our vision was to create
a leading-edge optometric group that would provide the highest level of care and
products to our patients. To accomplish this, we knew that we needed to differentiate
ourselves so that our success would last as an ongoing business for those that would
follow in our place.
Our dream was of an optometric practice
that would be a trend setter with the vitality and strength to survive any change
that the future could place before us. We realized long ago that we needed to become
more efficient, in light of third party involvement in our practice. We felt that
we needed to have the ability to see more patients in the same number of hours and
still provide care at the highest level. We therefore decided to integrate state-of-the-art
refracting systems into our offices and to train technicians to do the refractions.
This allowed us to change our schedules to accommodate increased patient flow.
The new systems had all the features
that we needed, which allowed us to have our staff do the refractions which created
a huge advantage over our previous methods. The benefits were manifold. First of
all, we were able to see many more patients in a higher-quality manner in the same
amounts of time creating a tremendous financial benefit. The techs who were
trained on the new refracting systems were very proud of their new skills;
this boosted morale and increased our staff retention rate.
Another benefit was from and to the
patients. They were excited about the new technology, the accuracy of the prescriptions
and the extra time that we could spend with them. Really it was less time, but it
was richer in doctor-patient interaction, which they perceived as more time. Thus
everyone had a benefit from this change in our practice.
Add specialty services
to the practice
New specialized diagnostic
and treatment tools
Differentiate the practice
from those of competitors, increase patient base and revenues
Meet the needs of a
loyal patients who require special services
We've also added low vision specialty
services and vision therapy services. These changes weren't necessarily easy, but
had great benefits. Both services required many adjustments in our weekly patient
flow and schedules, as well as space requirements and remodeling. But the advantage
in our community was a tremendous differentiation of our group from others.
We've also added corneal refractive
therapy. Being able to reshape corneas to eliminate myopia is a tremendous advantage
over customary contact lenses. The benefit to the patients has been outstanding
and they let us know it! These additional services help our team move towards our
corporate vision, which encourages the staff. We can afford to give them more in
benefits and salary, as well as the satisfaction they tell us they feel as we meet
Empower your staff
We've restructured our staff into
operational teams with team leaders for each. They all have input into the daily
operations and teams can make decisions that work best for their area of responsibility.
We've seen a tremendous change in attitude as our staff members take ownership and
pride in what they do and how their area operates. It's been a tremendous morale
booster and it ends up not only benefiting each one individually, but it strengthens
Kirchner is president of Hi-Tech Optics and a senior partner of EyeCare Specialties.
You can reach him at Jkkirchner@aol.com
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2005