o.d. to o.d.
Not about the Exam, It's
about the Experience
patients view all eye exams as equal, then why do they continue to return to your practice?
WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor
most optometrists would like to believe that patients come to a practice because
of them. Further, many of these optometrists believe that patients visit them initially
and continue to return because of the quality of the eye examination that they provide.
While there may be many reasons why patients
see a particular practice initially, I submit that patients who return do so for
a reason that most optometrists are not likely to be aware of.
Are you ready? The patients return
because of the experience that you provided in your practice. And there is an entire
marketing philosophy referred to as "Experiential Marketing." Businesses across
a wide variety of industries subscribe to this philosophy. And they are feverishly
trying to create the most effective experience that they can provide in their particular
industry or market segment.
Working in the dark
Now for those of you that thought your unique
eye examination was the reason patients kept coming back, here's a news flash:
Individual consumers, for the most part, believe that your eye exam is the same
as any other optometrist's eye exam. You have the same degree, use the same equipment,
ask the same questions (which is better, one or two?), and every optometrist they've
ever been to does all their work in the dark. See, same exam.
Here's another thing you should know:
The special person who patients build a relationship with you know, the relationship
that keeps them coming back may not be with you, the optometrist, but rather
with a member of your staff.
Why do patients return?
So let's talk about why the patients come back
and the experience that patients want. First of all, your eye exam isn't special,
you are. That's right, you. I know you have your picture taken with your phoropter
every chance you get, but it's not your phoropter that differentiates your eye exam.
It's your personality, sense of humor (or lack thereof), your ability to communicate
and your willingness to serve, all of which differentiate you from all the other
optometrists in your community.
Now let's talk about this experiential
marketing thing. I'll mention Starbucks. You'd be wrong to think that Starbucks
sells coffee. Coffee is only part of your Starbucks experience. The environment
you are in, the lingo that is spoken and the ability to customize your purchase
is all part of the Starbucks experience. And there's more much more, but
that's a start.
What's your experience?
So let's think about the experience. Is it waiting
mixed with paperwork, confusing questions from staff who don't know the patient's
name, topped with expensive pricing for products or services that aren't understood,
so that a problem that they don't comprehend can be corrected to your liking? Or
does your experience include patient education, communications and concern, from
both you and your staff, conveyed in a personal and caring manner?
Get together with your staff and then
a small group of your patients (not just those who are satisfied) and ask them about
the experience that you provide and how to enhance it. You might be surprised at
how well they can differentiate between the experience that brings them back and
the examination you thought brought them back.
Optometric Management, Issue: November 2006