Let's examine the most successful things your front office can do to improve dispensary sales.
Dispensing Solutions By Arthur De Gennaro and Aron M. Arkon
In the instant that a consumer identifies a need or want for a product or service, he or she becomes a shopper. A popular marketing concept describes the path to purchase (PTP) that shoppers take from the time they recognize their need until they decide to make a purchase. The good news is that, while on the PTP, shoppers will be open to receiving marketing messages.
In the case of an ophthalmology practice, however, shoppers are on two-separate-yet-related paths-one for their eyecare, and one for their eyewear. Because this is a concept that many ophthalmic practices overlook, let’s look at this phenomenon a little closer. Let’s start with the eye examination.
The primary goal of any marketing effort is to make your telephone ring. This justifies your efforts using social media, website, or other more traditional forms of advertising to drive new patient traffic to your office. It should not be surprising then that on the PTP for the eye examination, the shopper will almost always contact your practice via the telephone.
Therefore, the front-office (or call center) person answering the telephone must be extremely personable, well trained, and competent. They are the first customer-facing practice representatives that patients encounter. That first telephone interaction is critical because it can influence the subsequent contact patients will have with other staff members as they move through your office, with the final interaction being in your optical dispensary.
From a dispensary standpoint, it is important to keep in mind that once the patient has made the appointment, the PTP for the eye examination is completed.
The PTP for eyeglasses, however, is not over. The shopper has not yet become a buyer. This means that he or she will still be open to receiving marketing messages from you about your dispensary.
Let’s examine the most successful things your front office can do to improve dispensary sales. It almost goes without saying that the demeanor of the front-office staff is mission critical. Upbeat, empathetic staff members simply resonate better with ophthalmology patients, many of whom are anxious, in pain, and/or are hearing impaired.
Here are some areas to focus on:
Program Expectations. First, your front-desk staff can program patients’ expectation for the length of the visit. This timeframe includes the eye examination and, when appropriate, a visit to your dispensary. By requiring staff to do this, you will be programming patients to mentally budget enough time to access both services without being rushed.
Create Website Traffic. Front-desk staff can be instrumental in driving patients to your website. If you have a patient portal, patients can be encouraged to complete their paperwork online. Dispensary-bound patients can be directed to the optical tab of your website or whatever optical pages you have posted. There they can learn about what your dispensary has to offer (value propositions) and what sets you apart from your competition (competitive advantages).
Managed Vision-Care Benefits. By gathering information on the patient’s managed vision-care coverage, the front-desk staff member can precertify the patient’s benefits and even send them an explanation of benefits.
In this way the patient will know the benefit level in advance of the visit. It should be noted that the most successful practices have the ability to review vision benefit eligibility with patients while they are on the phone. This provides immediate benefit information for frame and lenses to the patient. This will save precious time on the visit day and provide the patient with an added level of personal service.
Current Eyeglasses. Front-desk staff can ask each patient to bring all of the eyewear they currently use, including sunglasses and spare pairs. This allows the ophthalmic assistants to evaluate the prescription accuracy and condition of each of these glasses. These analyses will provide you with valuable information regarding the physical condition of both frames and lenses, which you can use to make appropriate recommendations to patients for updating their eyewear. This includes prescriptions that are out of date, scratched lenses, and the “green metal frame” syndrome.
Current Promotion. Shoppers on the PTP for eyeglasses are very susceptible to offers that can save them money. That is why it is an effective technique for the front-desk staff to mention the dispensary’s current promotion to appropriate patients. The most successful practices will even direct patients to the optical pages of the practice’s website, where they can print out a valuable coupon.
Scripting. It is a fact of life that change is difficult to achieve. Scripting, however, is a time-honored technique that works. Essentially, you are encouraged to take the aforementioned ideas and use them to rescript your front-desk staff. Role-play the scripting with the staff until they are comfortable with using it.
If you do this work successfully, don’t be surprised if your dispensary sales increase by 10% to 15% next year.
Arthur De Gennaro is president of Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC, an ophthalmic practice management firm that specializes in optical dispensary issues. De Gennaro is the author of the book The Dispensing Ophthalmologist. He can be reached at 803/359-7887, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the company’s Web site,
Aron M. Arkon is a senior consultant with Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC.
Neither author has a financial interest relevant to the subject matter.