Bernadette Jiwa, author of The Right Story: A Brief Guide to Changing the World, says that we don’t get customers by accident: “We get them by intentionally crafting the experiences and the messages that change how the right people think and feel — which, in turn, changes what they do and the kind of customers they become.” She adds that if we want loyal customers, “we need to work out what, apart from price, might encourage that loyalty.”
Early on in practice, I did what others told me, followed past trends and let insurance plans dictate my choices. I reaped patients or customers who were not loyal, wanted only what their insurance covered and didn’t refer. Eventually, I realized I created the customer that was my worst nightmare.
DETERMINING THE CUSTOMER
Understanding this, I then determined who I wanted my customers to be. They would appreciate our heart for them, enjoy quality products, crave excellent customer service and look forward to new technology. Yes, I would lose patients, however, I would gain those who best fit our vision/mission.
After choosing my customers, I then had to craft their desired experience. To figure this out, I polled some of the 20% of my patients who were responsible for 80% of my income (Pareto’s Law). The result? My dream customers wanted to be a part of a fast, efficient and accurate exam. They wanted to see test results. They also wanted to feel at home.
My dream customers didn’t want to be sold to, yet they did want us to solve their problems and stand behind our products. They wanted trendy, brand names in frames and the latest technology in contact lenses. They wanted us to take care of the friends they referred. They didn’t say they wanted us to be the cheapest. They expected price to be commensurate with value.
SO, WHERE TO START?
To serve our dream customers, we took these six steps:
- Evaluate demographics. Does your perfect patient live within five miles of your office? If not, then you need to move or re-evaluate. Starbucks, Walgreens, etc., know that location matters. Some vendors can provide demographics studies. Our electric company gave us a free basic demographics study. Although it requires a payment, an in-depth study may confirm you are on the right track.
- Know the vision and mission for your practice, which includes knowing who your dream customer is. If this is not written, you will find yourself getting sidetracked often.
- Create an atmosphere that mirrors your vision. Keep the interior of the practice light, airy and clean. Keep displays minimal, and use soft colors. Ask patients how they feel in the office, if they don’t tell you. One of the best compliments occurs when patients tell us they feel at home and that they leave more peaceful than when they arrived.
- Create processes and protocols that ensure every patient has a consistently amazing experience. Examples include a checklist for welcoming each patient, pre-testing, dispensing eyewear and, eventually, every touchpoint in the practice.
- Provide outstanding customer service. Continuously work with your team to paint the picture of what great customer service looks like. Everyone should share experiences, good and bad, that can be applied.
- Be empathetic. Remember the saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care?” Show you care by listening to patients’ concerns and then solving their problems. Make it personal, and communicate in their style.
As you enjoy upcoming meetings and exhibit halls, remember to select products that your dream customers will care about and technology that will improve their experience. When tempted to complain about a patient, remember who has the power to change that behavior. OM