True story: As a kid with myopia in the 1980’s, I had a succession of optometrists. The reason for this is that my mother’s employer’s insurance changed from one carrier to another frequently. As a result, the doctor who saw me two years before didn’t always accept the new insurance. Despite these changes, Mom got my prescription filled at the same optician each time. The optician was located in a small office in a shopping center near my house and his prices were the lowest around. My mother was able to get frames that both she and I liked for under $50. Yes, the quality was top notch and if adjustments were needed, which were rarely necessary, they were done free of charge.
Of course, in my case, Mom and I went back to the same optician because of price. However, you can’t just rely on price as a way to encourage people to return. If you want repeat business, try out some of these things…
One thing that helps with patient retention is making sure that the patient arrives on time for their scheduled appointments. Not too long ago, the best your staff could do was call people a few days before or have an automated system do the calling. Now there are systems that will allow patients to schedule appointments online based on available opening. Since patients can see what is available, they can make an appointment that best fits their schedule.
Take a Look at Your Waiting Room & Parking Situation
Have you sat in your waiting room lately? If not, you should. If you don’t like being there, think of how your patients feel. Are there enough magazines? Are the chairs comfortable? Are there enough outlets within reach so that people can charge their devices while they wait? Also, how is the parking situation in around your office? Is there enough free parking for patients and staff? If patients use paid parking, is there a way you can validate their parking or get discounts for patients? Whatever it takes to make it easier for patients to see you, be sure to try it.
Review Payment Options
Does your practice take credit cards? Accept payments via Apple Pay? What about PayPal? The more convenient it is for patients to pay you, the sooner they will pay you. As you know, it is better to be paid sooner than later.
Evaluate Office Hours
Not everyone can make it to your office between the hours of 9 to 5. That’s why it is good to have office hours between 12 to 8, to accommodate those who can’t get to your office earlier in the day. Having hours on Saturday helps, too. The easier it is for patients to see you, the better. They get the eye care they need at a time that works for them, which keeps them coming back.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Is every day a busy day? While it is good to see a high number of patients each week, if this high number means that patients are sitting in the waiting room twiddling their thumbs or just leaving after waiting for too long, you need to re-evaluate. Could you be seeing too many patients in a day? If so, spread the appointments out and consider express pickup and other solutions to streamline patient flow. Are there occasions when a staff member runs late or needs to leave early? If so, be sure to have a protocol in place where another staff member calls those who are scheduled to come in to see if they are able to reschedule. As much as possible, anticipate needs and meet them, don’t just react to them.
Focus on the Patient
Do you and your staff members have conversations about what happened on Game of Thrones or what happened at last night’s game when the patient is around? If so, stop. You and your staff can chat in the breakroom or after work. When the patient comes in, the focus is to be on his or her vision needs. That’s why the patient is in your office. Recapping last night’s must see TV can wait.
The focus should always be on the patient. Make sure your practice commits to that. If you don’t, the patient will focus on another practice.