1. Provide “WOW” service. Optical dispensing is a service business. Today’s dispensary patients expect superior treatment as a service standard, not the exception. “‘WOW” service requires prompt, courteous and personal attention from staff with highly specialized people skills. If staff members don’t have these skills, invest in training programs especially geared for that purpose. People who leave your office should start talking to others about the service they received. In recent research conducted by Jobson Research*, 80% of patients stated they were not impressed enough to recommend where they purchased to friends or family. What this means if you make the effort to impress or WOW your patients, you definitely have an edge over the competition. Most offices don’t even make the effort.
2. Give extraordinary guarantees. An extension to superior service is offering extraordinary guarantees: give patients 100% satisfaction on all products and services purchased in the dispensary, both verbally and in writing. Again, this should be a rule for all dispensaries, not an exception. One of the most powerful testimonies your practice can receive is when someone takes you up on your extraordinary guarantee and you deliver without hesitation. That is a story that will be told again and again.
3. Implement “mystery shopper” programs. To keep patient satisfaction and sales levels at their highest, use credentialed experts to phone and visit the dispensary under assumed identities. Through their impartial judgment, they can assess service and sales levels and provide recommendations. Most importantly, optometrists should notify sales staff of this program and develop it as part of their overall quality assurance and continuous quality improvement effort.
4. Price for profits. In the expanding scope of managed vision care programs as well as with the fee-for service consumers, pricing products and services by formula doesn’t work. Rather, pricing must be structured on perceived value and profit predictability, a margin established by the practice to account for all the costs associated with products, services, operating expenses and required profit.
5. Dispense second pairs. Dispensing customers multiple pairs of eyeglasses is the most significant area in which optometrists have the most to gain. All patients can benefit from an extra pair of eyeglasses in case of loss or special-use eyeglasses for sports, hobbies, reading, sun wear or evening wear. Once given a reason for a second pair, patients recognize that you are thinking of them and their needs. It is one thing to “care” for you patients, it is a complete other to demonstrate it through communication.
6. Educate your staff. Along with the reengineering of office functions, staff must be continually educated on systems related to the dispensary. This includes systems for sales, pricing, quality assurance, fabrication and collections. The fastest, most diplomatic way to develop these systems is to use experts who specialize in these services. Vendors can be a generous resource for staff training and education.