By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
Oct. 9, 2019
Rebates for annual supplies of contact lenses can be hard for patients to actually get. And when they don’t get them, they can blame us.
Here is how you can make it easier for patients to get the rebates you promised.
People love to hate rebates. The reason is that rebates require work and often weeks of waiting. Then, after weeks of waiting, the rebate request may be rejected. Research suggests that it is not the companies offering the rebates that are the problem, but it is the consumers tendency to procrastinate and their inability to follow complicated, multi-step instructions that results in as many as half of all rebates going unfulfilled.i.
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Why do companies give rebates? The best answer was given by Hal Stinchfield, founder of Promotional Marketing Insights, when he said: “A well-featured, high-value rebate can increase sales during a given period … by as much as 500 percent.”
Why don’t companies just reduce the price of the product instead of giving rebates? Here are a few of the reasonsii:
• The customer information given on the rebate form can be used in consumer data mining.
• Rebates are a temporary discount on an item to stimulate sales while allowing the actual price to stay fixed.
• Rebates permit selective discounts on some product lines without having a domino effect on all products.
• Most rebates are not instant rebates, so the company earns interest during the turnaround time.
• Manufacturers know that not all people will meet the criteria to receive the rebate, send in the rebate, or even cash the rebate check.
There are two terms that relate to rebates that we should know: breakage and slippage. Breakage (sometimes called the shoebox effect) is when the buyer does not mail the rebate coupon in to receive reimbursement. Slippage is when the consumer loses or forgets to cash the rebate check.
Even when the failure is the consumer’s own fault, they often blame the company offering the rebate. That can include us. When patients blame us it leads to distrust. Distrust always negatively impacts patients following our treatment plans when patients perceive we are trying to make money off of them rather than help them. We should always position ourselves and what the practice does as coming from a place of help for our patients.
So, what is our action plan? Digital instant rebates are preferred because the information is entered at the time of purchase. Mail-in rebates are more complicated. For these, we want to make it as easy as possible for our patients. Consider offering to help gather all the information needed and even give patients the envelope and stamp while they are in the office.
Rebates can be a helpful tool to increase product sales, but it needs to be managed well in our practices.