By Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA
May 24, 2017
Practice management lessons sometimes come from unexpected places. A trip to the Masters Golf Tournament taught me how to keep my patients satisfied and excited about my practice. It also taught me how to deliver streamlined, efficient service. Both are essential ingredients in creating a profitable practice.
Importance of Immaculate Surroundings
For those of you who are not golfers, the Masters Golf Tournament is one of the premiere tournaments held in the world. As such, tickets are hard to obtain. You either must have a special connection, or win a lottery that is held every year for the chance to purchase tickets. As luck would have it, I won the lottery, sort of. My nephew won tickets and invited me. I got lucky and had connections.
The first thing that struck me when we got to the golf course was the immaculate beauty of the course. I have been to other golf tournaments in the past, but the sheer beauty and cleanliness of the Augusta National Golf Course is unrivaled in my experience. Every fairway and green was painstakingly manicured. The fairways we crossed were lush without a weed in sight.
Can we provide that same immaculate experience to our patients? I believe we can and should. To compete in the optical industry, your office should be inviting and look inviting. To attract new patients, you have to look clean and attractive. The same concept holds if you want to retain patients.
Walk around your office once a week and do an inspection. Here is an “immaculate office” check list to use:
- Is the bathroom clean?
- Are there stains on your carpet?
- Are light bulbs burned out?
- Are there cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling?
- Is the glass on all of the mirrors and display cases clean, free of smudges and fingerprints?
- Are there papers and folders, or other materials, lying around on desks, or any other place they shouldn’t be?
Any of these things sends a signal to your patient that you are not interested in taking care of your facility. Patients may then ask themselves, if you can’t take care of your office, how are you going to take care of them?
Exceptional Patron Experience
Another part of the Masters experience that resonated with me was how organized everything was. It started with the front gate, which would not open until exactly 7 a.m. There was already a small crowd that had gathered by the time we had arrived, at about 6:30 a.m., but the Masters personnel had arranged everyone in an orderly fashion. The group closest to the gate was arranged in a row of 20 across and about 10 deep. The officials then cleared a space of about 5 feet for the next group. The personnel staff kept everyone organized and in line, but were friendly and pleasant at the same time. When the gates opened, they politely asked the first group to move through, and had the other groups wait until it was their turn.
In the group ahead of us, a few patrons (the Masters term for fans) began to run when it was their turn to enter. I heard an official firmly say, “No, there is no running here at the Masters. You will have plenty of time to get to the course, and you will be able to see what you want to see.”
I couldn’t help but wonder if we are that organized in our offices. Do we make the patient experience a pleasant one, or is it haphazard with long periods of waiting followed by a rushed exam? Offer your patients a schedule that reflects your ability to keep up with that schedule. It’s tempting to book as many patients as you can into each day, or to over-book with the thought that you will catch up.
Making patients wait too long for their appointment is a great way to lose the sale in the contact lens department or the optical. A practice consultant from Bausch + Lomb, who visited my office, told me studies have indicated that if the patient has to spend more than 38 minutes going through the exam process they will spend less in the contact lens area or optical department.
Keeping a tighter, or better organized, exam schedule that you can maintain shows your patients that you also value their time. In the long run that is a great practice builder.
Getting Pricing Right
An important part of my Masters experience was going through the pro shop and making a few purchases. This area was also very organized as staff guided us through the kind of snaking line you might see at an amusement park, and only allowed people into the store when there was enough room to accommodate everyone.
I purchased a golf cap and a pullover. The golf cap cost $25 and the pullover $89. Later that evening I went online to see if those could be purchased for less money. The cap online was $49 and the pullover was $169. I felt great about my purchase.
As optometrist and practice owners, the task of competitive pricing is daunting. We do not control the sale of our products like the Masters does theirs. But for products that patients can find easily online we should try to stay competitive. The key word is competitive, not cheaper or even the same.
For example, disposable contact lenses are easily obtained online, and in some cases, have unbelievable prices attached. I don’t believe we should match those prices, but we should be in the ballpark. Most patients would not leave your practice for a dollar more per box of monthly disposables, especially if you explained to them what that extra dollar will get them. You should explain to them that if they purchase from you they are guaranteed to get the exact product you prescribed, and not a knock off, and the product can be returned if necessary.
I recommend keeping prices higher in areas where it’s more difficult to compare prices. The main area would be professional fees. These are harder to compare, and they reflect the service offered. If you provide exceptional service you should be compensated. If you say, “All my patients have insurance, and I can’t raise my professional fees,” then you need to do a few things. Investigate and make sure you are getting the maximum reimbursement possible, see more patients, and develop a specialty niche that is not covered by insurance, such as specialty contact lenses.
Keep Them Wanting More
After returning home from the Masters I heard sports commentators talk about why the Masters is such an attraction to golf fans. One commentator hypothesized that the Masters has an aura because it leaves its fans wanting more. They do this mainly in the television broadcast since they limit the amount of coverage. Other golf tournaments can be watched from start to finish with virtually every hole being shown. The Masters does not do that; they limit how much is shown every day and which holes will be shown.
After hearing that, I thought how can we leave our patients wanting more? That’s a tough task to accomplish, but if you can get there you could be very successful. The Masters didn’t get there overnight, but rather, over years of consistent service to their patrons, an emphasis on keeping their grounds immaculate and keeping prices reasonable to those who attend.
To keep my patients wanting more, I tell them about all the latest products, whether they can afford them or not. If they can’t, then at least it leaves them with a goal to shoot for in the future.
In our practices, we can also aspire to the customer service level of the Masters by constant monitoring and improvements in our practice. Never sit still, continually maintain and upgrade your physical facility. That means adding new equipment on a regular basis, keeping prices reasonable and monitoring the patient experience to respect their time. Do these things year after year, and make your patients return longing for more.