By Ally Stoeger, OD
The scenario: A person walks into your office and requests a frame adjustment or repair for eyeglasses not purchased in your office.
Conventional wisdom is that if you provide these services for free, people will show their appreciation by returning to your office when they need an eye exam or new glasses.
Here are four reasons why conventional wisdom may be wrong:
People remember you fondly if you were able to help them in an emergency–even if they pay for your service. They really may not care if the repair costs $10 to $20 dollars or so. People in need are comfortable with paying a fee as long as you tell them what the fee is before you do the repair. That’s what they expect from other businesses and that’s what they expect from you.
We have all had the experience of happy patients who are completely loyal to your practice—until their insurance changes and you are no longer on their plan. Why expect a patient who received a one-time free adjustment to be more loyal to your office than what we have seen from long-term patients?
When service is provided for free, the person receiving the service generally does not appreciate the level of skill involved. It takes years of experience to become proficient at repairing and adjusting frames. If you charge a fee, the person assumes your office employs skilled individuals. If you provide free services for people who do not purchase eyeglasses from your office, the person receiving the services may assume it’s free because it’s easy. And if it’s easy….and adjustments and repairs are free…why not just order on the internet? Anyone who is experienced in optical knows the public seriously underestimates the amount of time and expertise involved in properly servicing eyewear. Why reinforce that mistaken perception?
The person in need of a repair is walking into your office for assistance; not for free assistance. Any time someone walks into your office, you have the opportunity to impress that person. I suggest that the best way to impress a patient is to offer a great patient experience. Charge for frame adjustments and repairs (except, of course, for the eyeglasses your office has sold to patients) and use the income to improve staff pay so that you can hire the best. That’s a great way to improve the patient experience.
Bottom line: When you offer free adjustment and repair of eyewear that was not purchased in your practice, patients may be purchasing additional services in the future, in spite of the service being free and not because it is free.
Do you offer free frame adjustments and repairs on frames not purchased in your practice? Why or why wouldn’t you consider charging for this service?
Ally Stoeger, OD, was a founding and managing partner of a multi-doctor practice and has recently opened a new practice in Gainesville, Va. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow Dr. Stoeger on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gheyedr.