Sept. 5, 2018
By Roger Mummert
Review of Optometric Business
It’s an old joke in our family. Whenever I pull into a mall, I moan, “Oh, where am I going to park?”
“Listen to you,” my wife says. “You’re such an old man!”
The joke has worn thin, but the issue remains timely: How consumers approach a retail business (and this includes an optometric practice) has a great deal to do with how readily and fully they patronize it–and how much time and money they spend there.
In eyecare, the patient experience often is discussed as if it begins at intake. Far from it. Try “being a patient” of your own practice, and begin by driving up to your practice, parking and walking inside.
In the movies, Jerry Maguire gets the girl at “hello.” But in eyecare, you need to start winning over your patients well before then.
Here are seven “impression points” of retailing that ODs can learn from. And many of them occur long before you say hello.
Show plenty of parking. As suburbs boomed in the past half century, the common site plan changed from a building on the street to a building at the rear of the property–with an expansive parking lot up front. Most ODs can’t move their building, but you can analyze what you have and maximize it. Can more spaces be created? Is your staff parking up front, or in the back so spaces for patients stay free? And that means you, too: Park your red Porsche back by the dumpster!
Make an outside positive impression. You may not notice it if you park behind your office, but your patients form impressions as they approach and enter your premises. Follow their steps: Is your sign clear and helpful? Is your sidewalk free of litter and stains? Have you put out flower boxes and a bench to differentiate your shop? Is your front window display uncluttered and inviting?
Make an inside positive impression. Designers call it “the landing zone.” It’s the first 5-10 feet as you enter a store–and here the senses take over. Do your patients sink into soft carpeting and feel cool air conditioning? Is their initial sight line appealing? Are they greeted with a smile and offered chilled lemon-flavored water, as if they are in a luxury hotel? If so, patients relax and engage.
Bottlenecks diminish casual visits. “Nobody goes there anymore,” Yogi Berra used to say. “It’s too crowded.” Do you have a bottleneck at reception? Fix it with more staff or a better system–or eliminate it by design. Mick Kling, OD, of San Diego, has no reception area. Just a greeting and coffee station, so that patients flow into an open and sunny showroom where they explore eyewear displays.
Crowded aisles scare people away. “The butt bump syndrome” is the phrase made famous by shopping analyst Paco Underhill. Women, if brushed on the derriere by another shopper in a crowded aisle, tend to drop merchandise and flee. Evaluate your optical dispensary and hallways; they tend to clog up over time with new instruments and old computers.
Be spotless! Some years ago, I interviewed the editor of a newsletter on great diners across America. “Clean ceilings and smiling waitresses,” he told me, when I asked how he can tell at a glance if a diner is good. “An owner who cleans the grease off the ceiling cares about his customers, and waitresses who smile and call you ‘Hon’ are going to keep hot coffee in your mug.” His point: You are in a service business; pay attention to small details. Optometry is healthcare, so being spotless (even on the ceiling) is paramount.
If ya got it, flaunt it! The line is by Max Bialystock in The Producers, and it came back to me when my wife was scheduled for cataract surgery. I pulled into the surgery center an hour before her appointment, only to find that early birds had beaten me to virtually every space. “Go ahead and say it!” my wife taunted, “Oooh, where am I going to parrrrrk?” I declined to play along, explained that squeezing into one of the few crooked spaces left by senior drivers scheduled for cataract surgery was a high-percentage invitation to door dings. So I dropped off my wife at the entrance and headed behind the building for an available staff spot. And there, just beyond the dumpster, it was: a spanking new, canary yellow Maserati.
“Oh, my!” I marveled. “This doctor is good!”
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Roger Mummert is Content Director for Review of Optometric Business. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.