Dispensary ABCs: Always be curious

April 15, 2010

A dispensing ophthalmologist is part of a large, highly competitive retail environment. Your retail competition uses research that you might be ignoring to woo patients away from your on-site optical shop.

Your retail competition, such as Sears, WalMart, and Lenscrafters, uses research-that you might be ignoring-in order to woo patients away from your on-site optical shop.

For example, did you know that research suggests patients usually take for granted the functional benefits of good acuity as commodities available from many sources?

When I take tours of customer facilities, most people think I am looking at the processes, instrumentation, and optical products. While I do take in all of this, I focus on the people who complete the process, use the instrumentation, and serve the patients. I get a good feel for the culture of the practice by seeing how people interact.

In this world of instant messaging, we need to realize that we are making and sending instant impressions. Perhaps it is not a science for everyone, yet most people participate in this pastime.

Do you want to be the dispensary with incredible merchandise that patients will pass up?

Patients seldom can assess the optical benefits of one spectacle lens technology over another in rational, objective ways because they lack the knowledge to do so. This does not mean that the functional aspects of optics are unimportant; it means that functional efficiency and effectiveness are not the main determinants of patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Relate to your patients

So what is important to potential optical customers? Year after year, industry research reveals that patients prefer independent practice eye physicians because of their perceived relationship with the physician.

What this means is that patients are relational. This means patients want to feel like you not only know their name, but that you also value their business.

Savvy ophthalmology practices build on this trait by hosting events that make optical patients feel appreciated. They understand the importance of relational selling and realize that optical customers buy where they feel appreciated.

Summer is an excellent time of year to host an optical event. According to industry research, demand for eye-care products and services typically rises about 10% above the monthly average during the summer months, driven by preparation for return to school.

Tried-and-true suggestions for planning and executing a successful optical event include:

One simple way to identify visually clinic patients needing assistance is with a fresh flower pinned to their lapel by the technician giving the patients their spectacle lenses prescription.

The good news is that the vast majority of patients want your dispensary to succeed, and most of them are willing to help by becoming loyal customers-if they don't feel ignored.