A colleague recently asked me how to handle a patient who returns with her new glasses and announces she does not like the frame style and would like to exchange it for a different one. The general public increasingly thinks of eyeglasses as a retail product and not a custom-made medical device. Most people don’t realize that in order to exchange the frame, we have to make a new set of lenses. You might try to educate them about that, but many people don’t really care and it just sounds like excuses.
The optometrist who asked me about this situation said he knew my management philosophy strongly supports excellent customer service as a practice building strategy and that he shares that belief.
We have a policy
With frame restyling, we actually tell patients in advance about our frame exchange privilege as if it is a consumer benefit. We present our frame exchange policy as an advantage that we offer, but we also mention that a regrinding fee may apply and that the offer is limited to 30 days from dispensing. In this manner, as Dr. Dick Kattouf used to say, we brag about the objection before the patient objects.
We don’t usually bring this topic up verbally, but we include it in two documents that are given to patients. The first is an educational handout titled “10 Reasons to Buy Your Glasses at Gailmard Eye Center.” Reason #8 is “We offer a 30 day frame exchange privilege. After getting your glasses, if you decide you don’t like the frame, you may exchange it for any other frame. If new lenses are required, a regrinding fee will be charged.”
Here are a couple of details about our policy:
• The regrinding fee is 20% of the total lens price (usual and customary prices including lens options). The goal here is to come close to covering most of our lab costs while making the transaction affordable for the patient.
• We also charge the difference on the frame price if the patient selects a more expensive model, or we give a credit if the new frame is priced lower. The patient clearly understands this aspect and this is the fair approach.
The second document that mentions our frame exchange policy is on the backside of our superbill walkout statement. This statement details all fees charged in an office visit, along with payments, amount billed to insurance, procedure codes, diagnosis codes, recall date, and general practice information. The reverse side lists many office policies. I realize most patients do not read those policies, but it is handy to have it there when we need it as a reference.
Tell them in advance
As with so many situations that arise with patient satisfaction, everything works out well if you tell people the policy in advance. That makes it fair. Of course, you would not want to try to tell patients everything that could possibly go wrong and how you handle it, but if your staff acts like they know what the office policy is when the issue arises, patients are more likely to accept it. The alternative is the staff member going to a manager or doctor, which could give the perception that you just made up your response on the fly. And if you can point to the policy in a document the patient received, all the better.
By the way, I recently revised my “10 Reasons to Buy…” patient handout and I’ll provide that in next week’s tip article.