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Tuesday / May 17.
HomemitwocentsPatient Communication Part III

Patient Communication Part III

Spectacle delivery is a crucial opportunity to cement your practice’s relationship with the patient, before you slip “out of sight, out of mind”… but there are pitfalls that could potentially alienate clients, if your communication procedures aren’t up to scratch.

In the first of this series of three articles I talked about the importance of good patient communication during initial contact with the patient and during the first appointment. In the second article I talked about patient handover to the dispenser and payment. This month I will review two more important steps in the patient journey: spectacle delivery and follow-up communication. Remember that these articles are not trying to describe the entire process in detail – an impossible task in 1,000 or even 10,000 words. Rather, they are an attempt to highlight some areas of the process that in my experience are not handled well be some practices.

Spectacle delivery

Last month we sent the patient home having paid a 50 per cent deposit on their made-to-order spectacles with a promise that they would be available for pick up and fitting within two weeks/10 working days. Today, the specs arrive in your practice from the lab. What is the first thing you do?

No, it is not telephone the patient! The first task is to check the specs against your order to the lab for:

Make your patient feel special – share their enthusiasm and excitement and give them your undivided attention

  • Correct lens type,
  • Correct prescription right and left eye,
  • Correct coatings,
  • Correctly and well fitted to the frame, with no scratches or chips and no frame damage.

It is not good enough to leave this check until the patient arrives or worse, leave it for the patient to check for faults. If there are issues with the lab work, you need to call the patient immediately and advise them of the likely delay. Do not wait for the frustrated patient to call you!

Assuming the specs pass initial inspection, you are now ready to contact the patient by whatever means the patient previously agreed to in their patient profile. I prefer to text the patient if possible, stating that their specs are available for pick up and giving a date and time for pick up. If the patient has a problem with the proposed appointment they can call and change it. The goal is to schedule spec deliveries in your quietest hours or when you have the best staff availability. It is not a good look if the patient has to wait 30 minutes just to pick up their specs.

The patient arrives and is greeted at the front desk. They are excited at the prospect of getting their new specs. Whether it is the new image the specs will provide or improved vision, or both, there is a significant degree of anticipation. Encourage your staff to share that enthusiasm. The positive energy generated will make the whole delivery process flow more comfortably and result in improved patient satisfaction.

At this point the dispenser takes over. Again, it is absolutely critical that the dispenser reviews in detail, the order that was placed by the patient and shows the patient that this is, in fact, what is being delivered.

There is a real danger in the delivery process that the patient can be alienated by what may appear to be a lack of attention. This appearance (or reality) is rapidly translated by the patient to mean “they have my business so now they don’t care”.

The sad truth is that this type of treatment has become the norm across many industries where their motto is “do nothing for the existing customer unless they complain. Instead, focus all your attention on getting new customers”. Have you been a customer of a particular insurance company for a number of years? Have you noticed how much they invest in attracting new business with special offers, discounts, etc.? Try calling the insurance company and telling them that you want some recognition if they wish to keep your business – a discount for example. You would be surprised by how often they will accede to your request.

Make your patient feel special – share their enthusiasm and excitement and give them your undivided attention. This type of treatment will pay you and your business back tenfold and significantly reduce the need for advertising for new patients to replace those that don’t return.

Follow-up Communication

Once the spectacle delivery has taken place and final payment has been made, many practices assume the next step is a recall letter in one, two or three years’ time. I am, however, of the firm belief that a follow-up call to the patient between three and four weeks after spectacle delivery is the next step.

Some will say this is just inviting trouble but the opposite is true because if there is a problem, you can address it before it results in a lost patient. Use that simple call to:

  1. Ask how they are adapting to their new glasses,
  2. Fix any issue they may be experiencing,
  3. Offer free adjustment and cleaning at the practice whenever they wish, for the life of the spectacles,
  4. Offer the satisfied patient the opportunity to make another purchase at a future date to complement their new specs – scriptable sunglasses for example,
  5. Remind the patient they can make an appointment at any time they or their family members have concerns about their vision,
  6. Remind the patient that you will send them a reminder notice when they are next due for a vision check in one/two/three years,
  7. Ask the patient’s permission to send them information about recent eye health developments and new products you have to offer.

Maintaining Contact

Under the typical scenario of a two-year recall, moving forward, you will have no contact with your patient for the next two years. During that time your competitors will barrage your patient with special offers and incentives on a near daily basis. Your patient would not be human if they didn’t pay some heed to all this advertising. And as for your practice – well, “out of sight out of mind” says it all.

In this modern world of constant communication, you need to be talking to your patient, letting them know you are there for them; that you have their eye health in mind and that you have products and technology to address all their eye care and eyewear needs.

While we are talking about regular communication with you patients, it is important to consider all the options for communication, especially since the cost of snail mail has jumped over 40 per cent. Text messaging is by far the most powerful for brief near term responses. Everyone under the age of 50 has a smart phone these days but that trend is rapidly moving to the older population too.

Down the track it will be time to send out the all-important recall letter… but that is an article all on its own and will be covered at a later date.

Michael Jacobs is a business consultant and columnist for mivision. He was the former Chief Executive Officer of Eyecare Plus for 10 years until early 2015.

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