BUSINESS MODELS and customer experience vary widely across all types of industries. Consider the restaurant industry: There isn’t a single business model that defines a steak dinner. If there were, how could you account for the inexpensive steak sandwich available at the drive-through and the premium-priced steak at the Capital Grille? Each establishment determines who its customers are and creates a dining experience accordingly.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk does not let the auto industry define his business. For example, the manufacturer of premium automobiles released its new Roadster, which reaches top speeds of 250 m.p.h. and accelerates from zero to 60 in less than two seconds. That is something most car manufactures wouldn’t even consider, yet it is one part of how Tesla differentiates its company.

Conceirge-style desk at Ziegler & Leffingwell Eyecare.
Courtesy of Babboni Photography

How does this apply to your practice? If you visited 100 eye care practices, you would find that many of them strongly resemble each other. The standard waiting room with lines of chairs; the large front desk is cluttered with paper; the pretest area and exam rooms have decades-old technology; and the optical area has walls of frames on pegs and fluorescent light fixtures in a suspended tile ceiling. These practice owners have let some old model of what an eye care office should look like define their businesses. But — today’s connected consumer will reject that type of experience for better ones. Invest in your physical space and your staff to transform your customer experience. Here’s a few ways to do so:


Change your reception area into a true welcome center, a concierge desk. To do so: Take the phones off the front desk, and have them answered in the back. Remove all the clutter, and serve coffee or bottled water. Hire the happiest person you can who makes people feel welcome.


Build an intake staff who takes phone calls, schedules appointments and collects all the information your pretest staff members ask during the exam. This streamlines the eye exam experience for patients and increases your efficiency at the same time.


Take out the ceiling and fluorescent fixtures, and raise the ceiling (if possible); replace it with a drywall ceiling and new LED lighting. Remove all the pegs that hold your displays, and replace them with shelves. Then, add beautiful merchandising to highlight frames by collections. That’s just one or two extra pairs of glasses sold a month to pay the loan. You’ll do far better than that if you make this change in the retail experience.


When we got out of optometry school, we were all given a blank canvas to paint a picture of how we were going to practice optometry. If you don’t like your picture, paint over it, and start again. Don’t let our industry define the way you practice. Dream big, take risks, and have fun. It’s such a better way to enjoy your career. OM