Article Date: 7/1/2005

business advisor
See Things from Their Perspective

Four keys to understanding what your patients really want.

As the retail market for eyecare products and services gets more competitive, you have to ask yourself a basic question: why would any patient come to my practice instead of going to a competitor in the same area?

The kinds of answers that probably come to your mind are things like:

The reality: you can compete in a variety of ways, but outside of family members, good friends and loyal patients who will come to you no matter what, the vast majority of patients are going to select an eye doctor based on some combination of the following four reasons.


This doesn't mean bright, shiny or durable. Quality means adherence to standards. Did you deliver exactly what you promised? A quality eye exam is one that provides a competent ocular health evaluation as well as a comfortable, wearable vision prescription that provides the patient with optimal vision.

Sounds simple, but do this every time and you will have a lot of happy patients.

Speed and convenience

Many optometrists fail in this area for no other reason than they incorrectly view their own time as much more important than their patients'.

When I talk to people who made their last eyewear purchase at a chain store, they usually say the reason is convenience, not price. The average busy patient is simply not going to stick with an eye doctor who keeps him or her waiting frequently or doesn't deliver glasses or contact lenses on time.


For roughly 10% of your patients, low cost is the most important consideration. But, as I've said before, if price were the only thing that mattered, fancy restaurants would be empty and hot dog stands would be packed. Hyundai would be bigger than Mercedes and high-earning executives would live in mobile homes instead of nice houses. It is human nature to complain about how expensive glasses and contact lenses are. But, make no mistake about it, patients will spend a lot of money with you as long as they feel they are getting value.

An overall pleasant experience

O.D.s often tell me that they do not enjoy practicing anymore because their patients have gotten to be so confrontational and argumentative. If that is happening in your practice, it's probably because you're not providing a high level of customer service.

Nobody does better in this area than my good friend and fellow consultant Neil Gailmard, O.D. The owner of a multi-million dollar, one-location practice in Münster, Ind., Dr. Gailmard's philosophy is to train his staff to bend over backwards to please patients. That's something any optometrist can emulate.

In closing, you'll never get all the patients in your area, but you can certainly get your share if you do four important things: provide quality care in a timely and convenient manner, give patients their money's worth and work hard to satisfy them.



Optometric Management, Issue: July 2005