Your capture rate (or retention rate, which may have a nicer ring to it) is one of the most important factors we can look at for practice profitability. There are plenty of optical retailers (both online and brick and mortar), that are working hard to attract your patients for their eyewear purchases. But you have the patient in your office first and you should be able to retain the vast majority of them when it comes to buying glasses.
Here are my top eight factors that lead to higher eyeglass retention rates:
• Start by measuring your capture rate on an ongoing basis. Design a routine that will automatically report this metric to you on a monthly basis. You can assign it to a staff member or use a business analytic software system. There are many ways to measure eyeglass retention rate, but the simplest and most widely used is to divide the number of eyeglasses sold by the number of refractive exams performed in a given time period. Details like the number of outside Rxs filled, the number of multiple pairs sold and counting pairs of lenses or complete pairs of glasses will have an effect on this measurement, but as long as you are consistent with your method, it won’t matter much. The national norm for independent ODs is about 65%, but I would set a goal to reach closer to 75%. Of note with this metric is that it uses all refractive exams as the divisor and we all know that many refractions do not result in a change in Rx or a recommendation to buy new glasses. But refractions are a convenient and readily available data point, which makes it good to use.
• The doctor prescribes specific products and talks about them at chairside. Optometrists are historically very conservative when it comes to recommending products, but we really should get over that. Patients want our professional opinions and they want to know about the latest and greatest technology in eye care. Present the best eye care possible to your patient at the end of the exam. The more specific you are about lens features and the best types of frames, the more likely the patient is to buy them in your optical.
• Design a better handoff or no handoff. The transition from the exam room to the optical dispensary is the most vulnerable time in the patient relationship and this is when most patients decide to go elsewhere for glasses. Don’t give them a reason to. If your optician is often not available when you are ready to do a handoff, you have a problem. You may need more staff or more cross-training of existing staff. You may need better support from staff to drop other tasks and take care of live patients. I avoid the handoff and the search for opticians completely in my practice by using super-techs, which are scribing technicians who are also opticians.
• Faster start and more efficiency. A major reason patients leave your office prematurely is that they have other things to do. They often say they will return for the frame selection, but once they leave, you will lose many optical sales. If you are taking an hour or more on the clinic side, some patients will have to leave without ordering glasses because they did not allot enough time. Speed up the check in time, reduce the waiting periods and increase exam efficiency.
• Tie in frame selection with dilation. Don’t let the need to dilate pupils prevent the patient from ordering eyewear. Review how and when the drops are instilled and train staff to coordinate dilation and frame selection. Waiting for the drops to work is an opportunity to use that time effectively in optical, but prioritize which steps to do first.
• You may already have this going for you, but it is very important to provide a great patient experience during the entire exam process. If that part goes extremely well, the patient will become loyal and want to buy glasses from your office. If something goes wrong, the patient may decide he can do better elsewhere for the optical products. It is a comprehensive, team effort to impress patients with the exam experience.
• It is easy to forget the obvious, but one big way to influence where your patients choose to buy glasses is the state of your optical. If you invest in it and make it more beautiful, larger, and better, people will decide early on that they want to get glasses from your office.
• Great looking value frames. When I ask ODs why patients take their Rx to go, by far the most frequent response is “price.” I believe that is true. Most independent ODs will admit they are not the cheapest place to buy eyewear, but that business model serves us well. In addition to offering high end designer frames and premium quality lenses, you should also have a nice selection of value priced frames. Many ODs carry budget frames (and they are required by most vision plans), but some practices strategically make these styles outdated. I think that is a mistake. There are some very current and fashionable shapes and colors available at low price points and it is smart to carry those. If your staff can show the value line with pride, you can change a patient’s mind about leaving.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.