I recently covered the topic of measuring your eyeglass and contact lens prescription retention rate or the inverse of that: the Rx walkout rate. Of course optometrists are required by law to release those prescriptions after every exam, but the goal is to have the maximum number of patients choose to purchase that eyewear from your office.
First, let's consider that there is much to be gained by increasing your retention rate. If an average pair of glasses in your office sells for $400 and if your cost of goods is 30%; your gross profit is $280. If you can retain just one patient per day who would have taken his Rx elsewhere, you will generate a gross profit of $5,600 per month or $67,200 per year. It's worth quite a bit of effort and investment.
A great optical
Without a doubt, this is the biggest factor that will result in you retaining more Rxs and selling more glasses. Invest in creating an amazing optical with beautiful displays and furnishings. Try to increase your frame inventory with unique product lines. Improve your merchandising and displays. Make the optical area larger. When a patient gets a glimpse of your optical, he should be thinking..."This is where I'm getting my new glasses."
Rather than trying to prevent patients from buying glasses elsewhere, it's much better if you just make them want to buy their glasses from you.
Make everything else great too
The relationship and trust with their doctor is a major reason patients buy glasses from the office where they have the exam. If the exam quality is excellent, customer service is great, staff is friendly, office is attractive, appointment is on time, and the patient feels like you care… the chances are very good that you'll fill the Rx.
Offer some options at a lower cost
I don't think you need to compete on low price, but it's smart to have a section of frames that are more affordable and still have style. Be sure to offer at least two levels of progressive and antireflective lenses. You may highly recommend the premium level in most cases, but when a patient indicates that cost is an issue you can offer the standard product at a lower price. Also, look into commercially available payment plans that provide immediate payment to you (less an administrative fee), but allow the patient to finance the purchase over time. Some plans are available with no interest. The important issue to some people may not be the price of the eyewear; it may be the monthly payment amount.
Before sending the patient off
When a patient indicates they would like to take their Rx elsewhere, I would always respond with a yes first; acknowledge that the patient will receive a copy of the Rx. Here are some other options to try, depending on the situation.
Have a one page handout, professionally printed, that lists why your office is the best place to buy glasses. Give it to the patient before he leaves your office and tell him you hope he will shop around but come back. I have one titled "Six Reasons to Buy Your Glasses at Gailmard Eye Center." Do you have six reasons?
Walk the patient into your optical to review the lens features the doctor recommends so the patient can make informed decisions wherever he buys the glasses. Spend a few minutes reviewing lens design, lens material, antireflective, photochromic tint, frame choices, and proper measurements. In the meantime, he may see something he likes in your optical.
Before the patient leaves, consider saying: "The doctor always wants me to ask… is it our quality, frame selection or price?" You may be able to overcome the objection and at least it shows that you care.