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Why changing your optometry practice isn't a bad thing

10/16/2018

Change is scary, risky and very necessary.  Changing anything from small policies to major remodels can be very tense. But it is worth some degree of discomfort to give a jolt of energy to a business that may need just that. Take some time to evaluate the physical look of your office and your media presence. Then think about the staff, the roles they play and the general level of morale in the office. Finally, what might you change about the procedures, policies and schedules.

Take a series of pictures. Start from the street, then to the sidewalk outside, the first things patients see when they come through the door. Then take pictures of each of the pre-test and exam rooms, the frame displays and dispense area. View this series of pictures as critically as you can.

You will see some flaws that are very easily corrected. Remove everything from countertops and dispense tables. Remove all the existing marketing materials, analyze these for what is relevant and what needs updating. Sometimes just removing clutter and outdated signage elevates the mood in the office. If you want to take it further, try some of the following to change things up.

Facelift

  • Painting can add a little cheer without a lot of expense
  • Furniture. If you are not ready to purchase new furniture, consider removing cabinets, tower displays, anything that takes up floor space.
  • Clean and organize all displays
  • Sort and display the frames by brand and within the brands (‘Vendorizing’)
  • Be sure the children’s section looks inviting - fun and colorful
  • Remove stale inventory
  • Introduce a new frame line - prominently display and build a marketing plan around it

Marketing:

  • Review your marketing plan and materials and align them with the image you want to portray
  • Evaluate the website and the instore marketing materials
  • Have a product show around the new frames and sunglasses
  • Consider having a Grand Re-opening event, enlist your frame vendors and representatives to participate

Patient Care

How would you describe the patient experience? Everything is important, from the first look at the website, to the appointment process, the greeting upon arrival, throughout the exam and all the way through to receiving their eyewear.  One thing many practices overlook is having technicians talk the patient through the process. This includes explaining each of the procedures they will be doing, why it is done and what they will experience, before performing the test or procedure.  This includes the optometrist performing the exam.


Staff

Evaluate your staff from your point of view as well as theirs. How would you describe the work experience for the staff? Do they feel challenged? Supported? Appreciated? If not, there are actions you can take to make a change in the atmosphere of the practice.

Get feedback with a completely anonymous survey. Ask about what issues are causing stress, what are the positive aspects of the job:

  • Do they feel that there are enough continuing education and career enhancement opportunities?
  • Are they offered enough information about products and services?
  • Ask if they are happy with the dress code, would they prefer to go to scrubs (or away from scrubs)
  • Ask what incentives are important to them, with specific suggestions that you are willing to provide.
    • For instance, have them rate in order of importance:
  • Salary
  • PTO
  • Schedule consistency
  • Flexibility with schedule
  • Educational offerings
  • Advancement opportunities

Take the information from the survey and formulate a new plan going forward. Create a plan for changes that are reasonable for your business. This plan should also include a request for renewed commitment from the staff.

Change the emphasis for performance reviews, making pleasant attitude more heavily weighted than sales metrics. Concern for fellow team members, although harder to measure, is critically important to observe and reward.

Have a staff meeting to introduce these changes, making sure they know that the motivation for these changes is to improve the work experience and, as a result, the patient experience.

Outreach

A great way to reenergize the appointment book is to reach out to your neighboring merchants and employers in your area. Let them know that you accept their vision plan and you welcome their business.

Participate in community activities, health fairs, festivals, etc. Provide a basket for raffles at holiday fairs at nursing homes, including eyeglass accessories that are branded with your practice information and gift certificates.

Schedules

Do you offer convenient hours for your patients? There should be at least one day with extended hours and/or a short shift on Saturday mornings. This may give you more flexibility to add hours for some staff members and these slots will usually fill very quickly. Or if the opposite is true, and you have very extended hours, but you are not filling the appointment book efficiently, then condensing the hours makes more sense.

Owners

How can you improve your own general work experience? This is not only about the staff and patients, but your sense of contentment with where you work as well. Complete the survey mentioned earlier right along with your staff. It may be an eye opener to think about how you feel about going to the office every day. Would adding a new associate, part-time or fulltime, improve your comfort level, work load or income?

Determine which of these actions will give you the most positive impact. If you want to make gradual changes, take the plan one step at a time. If you want dramatic change, implement several components. Either way, be sure to set a date to implement each item that you believe will bring positive change to your practice. And make it happen!

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Pat Basile

Optical Management Consultant

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AUTHOR

IDOC Optometry - Color Bar
Patricia Basile

Patricia Basile

Pat Basile has extensive experience in customer service, management and laboratory operations in the optical field. Licensed in Connecticut and certified by the ABO and NCLE, she has worked in both the large chain stores and in private practices. This gives her a unique perspective in knowing the competition and how best to survive the competitive era that we find ourselves in. She firmly believes that the consumer is much better served at the small, independent and caring optical practice, where they deliver more personal attention to the details that are so important to ensure that a great eye exam is followed by providing excellent eyewear. Pat will listen to your concerns, help you identify those things that can be done to bring your practice to the next level. Some of these things may include setting goals, training optical staff, inventory control and product mix.