Insights From Our Editors

3 Ways the Pandemic Changed Practice Operations

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

July 8, 2020

The pandemic has touched all facets of our lives, including our practices.

Here are three observations of the “new normal” that we are seeing in practices across the country.

E-Commerce
The battle with e-commerce was already engaged before the pandemic hit. Throughout the pandemic e-commerce got stronger at an amazing clip. In our own household, delivery services such as Amazon Prime became a familiar friend. We received so many boxes at our front door that we installed a parabolic mirror so we didn’t have to open the door to see if a package was there.

Research from McKinsey is showing that our patients are likely to keep the behaviors they’ve adopted during the pandemic stay-at-home orders. Translated, that means we cannot afford to wait and see what is going to happen. It’s already happened.

Some practices are offering seamless e-commerce experiences from browsing, researching, selecting, purchasing and returning/exchanging both products and services. Successful practices are making sure their sites are easily accessible on a mobile device and delivering a consistent, reliable digital experience across multi-channels.

A common mistake being made by practices is trying to replicate the in-practice experience online. Patients do not expect a digital experience to be like an in-person one. The digital approach permits predictive analytics, artificial intelligence-powered search and personalization functions that can create a completely new and different experience. Practices that are implementing these options are enhancing patient experiences.

And don’t forget the opportunity social media offers including peer support, reviews, recommendations, multimedia content and gamification. In the digital world it is incredibly easy to take one person and show them wearing five different frames with five different outfits where each frame complements “the look,” or to show exactly the right and wrong frame shape for each of the face shapes. Color becomes another variable that you can use to easily show right and wrong choices. It’s your choice whether to present this material as an educational approach or as a game approach.

Health & Safety Operations
With close to 90 percent of practices across the country already open, practice operations have been adapted to comply with local, state and federal health-and-safety regulations. These changes will remain for the foreseeable future. But as with anything, practices are learning to be more efficient and even more effective at delivering the health-and-safety procedures. Most practices that have been back into operation for more than three weeks are at 100 percent of their pre-pandemic patient load.

Basic Practice Operations
Basic practice operations such as ensuring physical distancing, controlling the number of people in the practice at any given time, improving speed of service, instituting contact-less transactions and introducing self-service options are all part of the changes practices have made. Successful practices are enhancing these in-practice operations in order to improve the patient experience.

Elevated customer service is a way to compete and win over online players. Elevated customer service must go beyond greeting patients, handling complaints, managing returns and handling special requests. Post-pandemic, practices will have to make their in-store experiences even more extraordinary in order to give people a reason to visit that is compelling, justifies their exposure to health risks and overcomes the inertia of behaviors adopted during the shutdown. There are a multitude of books and Ted talks that can help you raise the level of your in-person customer service.

REFERENCES
https://hbr.org/2020/07/the-pandemic-is-rewriting-the-rules-of-retail
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/survey-us-consumer-sentiment-during-the-coronavirus-crisis#

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