There’s no “right way” to run an optometry practice. Everyone has their own style, their own flair, their own way of doing things. But there are a few best practices that can help almost any practitioner build a successful office. In an IDOC blog post, Neil Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, shared his top three suggestions to help his peers succeed in the industry.
“Customer service is king when it comes to practice building,” Gailmard remarks. It’s regarded by many as the most important piece of a successful practice. Perception can make or break your practice, and patients’ perception of a practice is shaped by staff interaction. While many ODs believe they understand the importance, most don’t “go far enough.”
Gailmard believes that good customer service begins with the pricing. If you charge more, you simply have more room in your margins to make exceptions and go the extra mile for patients. Office policies are another piece of the customer service puzzle that allow space to go the extra mile. Designing policies around patient needs isn’t easy, but Gailmard says “that is what builds highly successful practices.” The thought behind policies is to set a standard but letting a customer “get what they want” gives that patient no choice but to share their positive experience.
These two pieces become part of the practice culture, another important factor in customer service. Culture stems from leaders in the office: doctors, owners, and managers. They must not only say they want to provide great service, they must believe in that principle and show it in their actions.
While it’s not everything, increasing the number of patients seen per day is an obvious way to increase practice success. Dr. Gailmard shared how he calculates his patients per day and offered a few ways to increase your metric:
- Be flexible – if you have several appointments booked in advanced, add slots to accommodate more patients per day. If you’re not, reducing your number of doctor days per week can help you stay busy when you are in-practice and add days off or days to work on management.
- Delegate – you can see more patients by hiring additional technicians to take over more exam procedures or teaching the tech to scribe.
- Review your confirmation procedure – no shows and last-minute cancellations are disruptions to productivity and can be more common if you pre-appoint. Be sure your confirmation procedure is operating as intended.
- Increase patient demand – word-of-mouth referrals, adding vision plans, and increasing marketing efforts are 3 ways to help add demand.
Dr. Gailmard explained that one question can help increase practice success. The technician simply asks, “are you planning on getting new glasses today?” along with the basic patient history questions. This question may seem obvious, but Gailmard says most patients end up saying yes even though they didn’t cite it as a reason for the visit. He clarified, “One of the most important things we can do to build the practice is be sure to address the main reason a person comes to see us.”
By using these three tips, your practice can start transforming into the successful business you envisioned. For more tips, visit Optometric Management’s Tip of the Week archive.