By Brian Chou, OD, FAAO
I’ve told this story a number of times because it’s an exemplar of how to add value. It doesn’t always require much money to do this, but rather, ingenuity and time. Several years ago at an ophthalmic conference in Las Vegas, I took a taxi to a restaurant located on the Las Vegas Strip. It was a sweltering summer day, with the heat topping 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with the air conditioning going full blast in the taxi, it was uncomfortably hot. After sitting down, the cabbie asked me which restaurant I was going to and struck up a friendly conversation.
When reaching my destination, the cabbie took an organized pocket folder sitting on the front passenger seat which had pockets organized alphabetically. He pulled out a $10 coupon for the restaurant I was going to, and handed it to me, thanking me for the business and wishing me a good afternoon.
At that moment, it occurred to me that this cabbie was not sitting around in the taxi line twiddling his thumbs until his next passenger stepped in. From a stack of those free Las Vegas tourist magazine guides which he probably picked up from a hotel lobby, he clipped out valuable coupons and organized them into his pocket folder alphabetically. He would give them out to passengers matched accordingly to if they were going to a show or dinner engagement for which he had a coupon. What would his passengers do? Like me, they probably gave him a greater tip.
The lesson here is that everyone in an optometric practice can build value. The front staff can help in this regard by making patients feel like they won the lottery when they are assigned a coveted Saturday exam appointment. This can decrease the likelihood of the patient rescheduling, cancelling or no-showing. Building value can be as simple as your ancillary staff briefly explaining what each instrument used in preliminary measurements does rather than assuming that because they are returning patients they know the purpose of each. Or it can be your optician explaining the benefits of their Transitions lenses at dispensing, explaining how they protect eyes from UV light and make vision more comfortable by reducing glare and adapting to changing light conditions. Often these product benefits are not mentioned, especially when the patient’s vision plan covers Transitions, which unfortunately can erode the perceived value of what they are getting.
Virtually every point in the optometric practice is an opportunity to build value. It can even extend to enhancing patient adherence to treatment. Rather than paternalistically commanding, “Replace your contact lenses every two weeks,” you can build value by completing the statement by adding, “…because doing so will ensure that your eyes stay comfortable and don’t get unusually red.”
Adding value doesn’t have to cost significantly more or take much more time. But your patients’ assessment of value is why they can leave one practice feeling more fulfilled than another practice, even though the exact same instruments, examination techniques, diagnosis and treatments were rendered. Surely, there are more creative ways to build value. If a Las Vegas cabbie can do it, can’t everyone in an optometric practice do the same?
How do you build value for your patients? How do you show patients the added value of the services and products you provide?
Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, is a partner with EyeLux Optometry in San Diego, Calif. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org.