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Assuming you're with me in principle about the importance of "customer" service in
building a successful practice, let's explore some real world steps you can take to
improve patient satisfaction and loyalty.
If any revitalization in the area of customer service is to occur, your staff must be in full
support, so that is a great place to start. It doesn't matter if you have a staff of one or
fifty, I would hold a special staff meeting to discuss the importance of customer service
for any business. Discuss how great companies make their customers feel and ask staff
to share their own personal experiences with great service. The owner and manager
should discuss their own beliefs that practice success is highly dependent on patient
satisfaction. Satisfied patients actually are not really good enough because satisfaction
means one received the service and products that were expected. We need to exceed
expectations. We need enthusiastic patients! Those are the ones who tell others about
their experience at your office.
The highest level of satisfaction is best called loyalty. Maximum patient loyalty is our
goal because of two important factors: retention and referrals. Loyal patients return to
your practice on a regular basis and they refer friends and relatives as new patients.
Influence point analysis
A great way to launch your new initiative for building patient loyalty is to conduct what
is called influence point analysis. An influence point is any interaction your practice has
with a patient. The Walt Disney Company, a well-known master of customer service,
refers to these points as moments of truth. Begin your project by taking a pen and pad
of paper and writing down your influence points. The first one would likely be the initial
phone call by the patient. Another one would be the greeting at the front desk when
the patient arrives for an appointment. Continue through a hypothetical patient visit
including dispensing visits and consider all the side points along the way. You'll find
that you have some major influence points and some minor ones.
Analyze each influence point and get your staff's input on each one. Be objective.
Who in your practice handles each point?
How well is the point currently handled and what could be done to improve it?
What physical surroundings does the patient see at each point?
How much financial support is given to each point and would an additional
investment help to improve it?
How do other eye care practices handle this point and can you learn from them?
Consider intangibles, such as smiling, using good manners, preferred use of
words, cleanliness, punctuality, efficiency, and general integrity.
What impression is given through indirect influence points, like recall mailings,
statements, advertising, and follow-up phone calls?
What can you do to prevent negative influence points, such as one dissatisfied
patient telling many other people about a poor experience?
As you analyze your practice and motivate your staff to become passionate about
excellent service, ask yourself this tough question: Why should a patient select your
practice for eye care when compared to all the other practices in the area? You should
have several very strong reasons very quickly. Those reasons are called your
competitive advantages and you must have them to reach high levels of success. If
you have some difficulty coming up with these or if they seem a little weak, you need to
develop your competitive advantages. Fortunately, you can buy them! Of course,
financial investment in your practice must occur in a gradual fashion as you can afford
it, but in some cases it just takes time and effort, not cash. Consider some of the ways
that spending money on your practice can provide competitive advantages:
Increase your staff. Service and attitude often improves.
Purchase a patternless lens edger and provide better optical service.
Move to a larger and nicer office.
Remodel the reception area and optical.
Buy one advanced technology instrument - like a retinal camera or nerve fiber
Why not make 2008 the year of great advancement in your practice? Start with great
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.