Wow Your Patients in Your Practice Restart Marketing Communication
June 10, 2020
By Maddie Langston, IDOC Practice Marketing Consultant
Small to medium sized businesses everywhere which are public facing are in what I like to call “restart” mode – reopening the business to the public after a temporary closure due to COVID-19. If you own or manage an optometry practice, you may have mixed emotions about your restart. You need to start seeing patients again for annual eye exams and their eyewear needs, but now you have new processes in place which may feel exhausting. Your team may not be excited about getting back to work. You may not be particularly excited about it, either. I acknowledge these feelings. This situation is inherently difficult.
Some business owners are sending mixed messages to their customers because of their conflicted state of mind in their email campaigns and social media posts. The hair salon I visit every 6 – 8 weeks has reopened; however, their social media posts and email campaigns so far have discouraged me from booking an appointment. The marketing of their restart has left me with the impression that seeing clients is a bit of a burden. I like the salon and all the stylists, and I hope the salon does well, but right now, I am not sure they really want to see me. I do not want to be a burden or perceived as an annoying client who is disregarding their safety because I need a haircut.
I recognize there are also people who did not understand the rationale for business closures, and they are ready for life to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. They do not want to adhere to new requirements. They want to walk into the practice to pick up their contact lenses or have their eyeglasses adjusted or repaired – same as before COVID-19. Right now, they do not perceive there’s any real risk to their health, and feel those that do should stay home “if they are afraid” but that all businesses should open up with no new requirements for those who are unafraid.
So, I understand that practice marketing during your restart is complex. That said, I do have some tips to help you wow your patients in your practice restart communication!
You’ve implemented new requirements for patients, which may include visits by appointment only (no walk-ins), wearing a mask, arriving alone or if the patient is a minor child, one parent or guardian only, taking their temperature and working closely with the optician to shop for frames (the optician is the “personal shopper” and brings frames to the patient rather than the patient browsing and trying on frames on their own). Post the new protocol in a prominent location on your website so that you can link to it in other communication channels such as email and social media.
Your patient-facing safety protocol should be written in a friendly tone of voice – “what we’re doing to keep our patients safe” – rather than overly severe. Make them feel welcome! For those patients who may feel skittish, knowing that everyone must adhere to the same guidelines is reassuring. For those people who feel resentful of the new protocol, remember that they are scheduling an appointment to see their optometrist – a healthcare provider.
The purpose of the email campaign to patients is to inform patients that the practice is open for eye exams and their eyewear needs. The tone should be friendly! Let patients know that you welcome them back to the practice.
If you have a patient relationship management platform, be sure to check for templates designed for your practice restart. Instead of listing your new requirements for patients in the body of the email, link to the safety protocol housed on your website. Do not make the communication of the safety protocol the central point of the email campaign. Avoid using “overly literal” images in your email to patients, which includes pictures of doctors wearing masks. Thank them for their patience and support during your temporary closure. Be sure to tell them you can ship their contact lenses and eyeglasses to them and/or are providing “curbside pickup”. Let them know that because you are no longer accepting walk-ins for any reason, when they come in for their appointment, you and your optician(s) can focus on that person and their needs. It is their time!
If your practice is in an area heavily impacted by COVID-19, I understand you may feel hesitant to call people to reschedule missed appointments. That said, if you are not in this position, call patients who had their appointment cancelled due to the closure to give them an opportunity to reschedule and be prepared to talk through your safety protocol. Do not assume, but if a patient tells you they lost their job and access to medical insurance and/or vision plan as a result, be sure to let them know you can still help them.
Facebook and Instagram
Remember to let your followers know that the practice is now open for eye exams and eyewear dispensing, and how they can schedule an appointment. If you have changed your office hours, update your Facebook page with the new hours and share a post which lets your followers know about the new hours. Consider recording a video which shows your followers an aspect of your safety protocol, such as a new process for sterilizing frames in your optical. Thank your patients for their support during your closure and let them know you are happy to resume regular hours for routine care.
I know you and your team will be busy with patients and perhaps a bit more tired than usual because you’re operating under new conditions over the next few weeks but remember—you now have an opportunity to redesign the patient experience from start to finish. You can show leadership and expertise as a healthcare provider in your community by adhering to safety protocol, and you can really wow your patients through the communication about your practice restart.
Maddie Langston brings extensive experience in marketing and sales administration and has developed strategies to drive sales for various industries. Most recently, Maddie developed marketing programs for a national network of independently owned auto repair service centers. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Liberty University. Maddie and her husband Jim have a teenage son and two beagles. She enjoys reading, watching documentaries and hiking in her spare time. For questions or comments about this article, please contact email@example.com.