By John Scibal, OD
The following is from a recent article in theguardian.com.
“A deadly disease is set to hit the shores of the US, UK and much of the rest of the northern hemisphere in the coming months. It will swamp our hospitals, lay millions low and by this time next year between 250,000 and 500,000 worldwide will be dead, thousands of them in the US and Britain.
Despite the best efforts of the medical profession, there’s no reliable cure, and no available vaccine offers effective protection for longer than a few months at a time.
If you’ve been paying attention to recent, terrifying headlines, you may assume the illness is the Ebola virus. Instead, the above description refers to seasonal flu – not swine or bird flu, but regular garden variety influenza.”
This is not an article about the ocular manifestations of the Ebola virus. While I am sure we are about to hear a lot about how this ravaging disease affects the eyes, this article is about growing your practice with logic – not emotion. Just like our fears about illness often bear little relation to our chances of falling victim to it, so do our decisions regarding management of our optometric practices. In other words, we are worrying about the wrong things!
Ebola vs Flu – Fees: Raising fees for your basic exam procedures, as well as lenses and frames, have a profound effect on your profitability. Why don’t more of us raise our fees? Because we hate to hear one person complain (Ebola), while we ignore the fact that the majority of patients simply don’t care (flu). Raising your fees across the board is the simplest and most effective way to increase your profits.
Ebola vs Flu – Remakes: “Dr. Smith, Mrs. Jones is still having trouble with her new progressives. This is the third time we’ve made them. What do you want us to do?” Such a conversation strikes fear into the hearts of many an OD. We do the math and quickly realize that we are in the “red zone” with this patient – another remake and you have officially lost money. My advice? Do the right thing by the patient. Realize that they don’t want to have problems with their glasses any more than you do. Put yourselves in their shoes, empathize with them, and attempt to solve their problem. Don’t worry about the short-term loss of money (Ebola), and make the patient happy. Remember, most of the patients love their glasses (Flu).
Ebola vs Flu – Refunds: What about the patient you cannot satisfy? Despite everything you do, you simply cannot please them. At some point, you may need to ask them “What can I do to make you happy?” If the answer is “refund”, then do it with a smile. Look at your P&L at the end of the year. In the grand scheme of things, refunds (Ebola) represent a very small expense. Most patients are satisfied, and paid in full (Flu).
Ebola vs Flu – Policies: Your optician breaks a frame while adjusting it. A patient wants a pair of trials but is past due for their exam. A patient broke a frame that is just out of warranty. Does your office have a policy for these? Did the patient read the policy? Did they sign it? Great. Now throw it away. Policies mean nothing at the moment of truth – when you have a patient who has a problem. The answer? Do the right thing. Give your staff authority to fix problems in the office with the patients’ best interest as the guiding principle. Creating policies as a knee-jerk reaction to every situation that comes into your office is a waste of time. Staff members often get over-protective of the practice, and spend too much time worrying about who is right and who is wrong. The only policy should be “do the right thing for the patient”. Granted, there are some patients that take advantage (Ebola), but most are reasonable and appreciate excellent customer service (Flu).
The list could go on and on. But the bottom line is to look at the big picture to maximize the value of your practice. The single most important factor for high net income is customer service. Make decisions based on logic and fact, rather than emotion, and you will be rewarded. (And oh yea, get your flu shot!)
Photo: Copyright: akaprinay / 123RF Stock Photo
Dr. John Scibal is the owner of Scibal Consulting, a company that is focused in both the Optometry Business Appraising and Optometry Management Consulting fields. Dr. Scibal is fully certified by the Institute of Business Appraisers (CBA). While working as a practicing optometrist for twenty-five years, Dr. Scibal developed one of the largest and most successful independent optometric practices in North Carolina. A veteran lecturer throughout the U.S., Dr. Scibal is also a prolific author who has written extensively on a wide-range of practice management topics.