Article Date: 11/1/2006

business advisor
The Best Question To Ask

Honesty is still the best policy, even when it comes to spectacle sales.

JERRY HAYES, O.D.

If you are looking for a way to better please your patients and improve the success of your optical dispensary, I want to pass along an idea from my good friend Dr. Neil Gailmard, author of Optometric Management's "Practice Management Tip of the Week" e-mail. A well-known speaker and writer, Dr. Gailmard has a multi-million dollar, highly professional practice in Munster, Ind.

Neil told me that some time ago he started having his assistants ask a simple question during each patient's case history, "Were you planning to get new glasses today?" As the cartoon characters in the Guinness commercials would say, "Brilliant!"

Information is power

Here is the brilliance of Neil's question. If the patient says, "Yes, I plan to get new glasses," you don't have to give him a sales pitch when there's only a marginal change in prescription. An affirmative answer is an invitation for you and your staff to offer the patient his new prescription in sunglasses, computer glasses, golf glasses, etc.

However, if a patient says "No, I don't plan to get glasses today," simply asking the question — and paying attention to the answer — actually helps your office avoid being perceived as pushy. In this case, just be totally honest, "Mrs. Jones, I have good news. Your eyes are healthy and you don't need a prescription change. Do you like the glasses you have now or do you want something new?" That approach will greatly please a patient who has already informed you she doesn't want to spend the money at this time.

Too pushy?

I've worked with O.D.s long enough to know that many of you will shy away from asking this question because you think it would be too pushy. I disagree. The very reason many of your healthy spectacle patients schedule an appointment is because they want new glasses and have the good sense to get their eyes examined first. Posing that simple question is an honest and straightforward way for your staff to determine the primary reason the patient is in your office that day.

Wants and needs

What about the patient who says, "Yes, I do want new glasses," but you determine they don't really need a prescription change? Some O.D.s see it as their job to talk a patient out of getting new glasses when the pair they have been wearing for two years is still in reasonably good shape. While I think it's essential to be totally honest with your patients, I don't think it's your role to tell someone who wants new glasses that their old glasses are still good enough. Not providing a patient with what he or she wants is a good way to lose that patient.

I recently spent more than $200 on four new shirts that, I can assure you, I didn't need. I still wear a size 16/33 and none of the shirts in my closet are frayed or out of style. No, I didn't need those new shirts. Like any red-blooded, American consumer, I just wanted them. Just like some of your patients want a new frame style or second pair of glasses, even if their prescription hasn't changed.

As I am sure Dr. Gailmard would agree, the best way to please your patients is to find out what they want. And the best way to do that is to simply ask them.

THE FOUNDER OF THE HAYES CENTER FOR PRACTICE EXCELLENCE AT SOUTHERN COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN MEMPHIS, DR. HAYES IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO OM. E-MAIL HIM AT JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.COM.



Optometric Management, Issue: November 2006