With a new year under way, it is a great time to regroup and think about what we would like to accomplish in our practices. For many of us, this could be that we want to increase our revenue, but how can we do that? One way is to increase the number of patients we are seeing, but another way to do that is to increase the revenue per patient, or increase what each patient in our office is spending.
I could fill a year’s worth of columns talking about different ways to do that (and I will throughout the year!) but how we communicate the importance of what we want our patients to do while they are in our office plays a significant role in increasing our revenue. At first glance, this sounds easy. We want patients to get new glasses, and this should be a simple transfer from the exam room to optician. Besides, who wouldn’t want a new pair of glasses with every bell and whistle available? Well, by measuring your capture rate (the number of glasses sold per comprehensive exam), as well as any other metric you are measuring and tracking (non-glare lenses, transitions, premium progressive, second pair sales), you will see that it isn’t always a slam dunk.
How can we make this easier for our patients and our optical staff, and increase all of these metrics? How can we show the patients the value of a good pair of glasses that checks off all the boxes? How can we truly connect with our patients to change the perception from selling to fulfilling a treatment plan that someone feels they can’t live without?
Differentiating Between Features and Benefits
My favorite way to dive into this is talking about features versus benefits. On the outside, these terms may sound the same, or very similar, but understanding the difference between them (and being able to properly craft a message using them) can be extremely valuable to your optical performance and overall business success.
First, defining these is essential to understanding how they impact our sales. Features are the technical or descriptive aspects of a product. For example, anti-reflective lenses eliminate reflections of light from the front and back of the lenses. These are features of the lenses. The benefits are what actually matters to our patients/customers, and how this makes their lives better. Anti-reflective lenses allow people to see you, not that annoying glare. Features tell a patient WHAT, and benefits tell a patient WHY.
Here are two examples of conversations that could happen in any of our opticals today. Which one would likely result in a better “buy-in”, a patient absolutely needing that lens?
“Sally, one option for your lenses is an anti-reflective coating, which is a thin layer applied to the surface of your lenses to allow more light to pass through your lenses, and reduce the amount of glare.”
“Mary, Dr. Stewart tells me you are working from home these days and you’re spending most of your day on Zoom. I know when I’ve been on Zoom all I do is look at myself in the camera. You, too? Ha! What really drove me crazy is that all I could see in my glasses was a reflection- and I’m sure that’s what everyone else saw too. The great thing is there is a lens now that takes away the glare, so it’s not distracting, and everyone can see you and make eye contact, as best we can in this digital world. I can’t wait for you to pick up your new glasses with these new lenses!”
Which patient is more likely to say yes to the additional cost of a non-glare lens?
We all are very well-versed in the features of our lenses, and can go into robot mode rattling off what we think is best for the patient. But if we can make a connection with our patient, and communicate the why behind our recommendation, and why our patients’ lives will be better because of it, who can say no to that? We all know why anti-reflective lenses are best for our patients, but our patients need to know why this matters to them. A benefit explains why they should care about the technical features. Patients are looking to solve problems, and they need you to make a connection between the features and how it will impact them directly.
Anyone who has heard me speak knows I love to give homework assignments. This topic lends itself well to a staff meeting or team-building exercise. Having staff understand the difference between features and benefits is extremely important. Everyone can give an example of a real world product that they bought because they had an emotional connection to the benefits (great after the holiday season!) Did they buy that product because of the technical aspects, or because it solved a problem for them or made them feel a certain way? Next, start listening some common phrases you use in the office that patients may not be familiar with, and how can we change our communication from strict features to adding in benefits. Some ideas are photochromic lenses, progressive lenses, polarized sunglasses, multifocal contact lenses and dry eye treatments. This is a great exercise for doctors to do for exam room communication too, and one I do for myself often!
By being cognizant of the way we present options in the exam room and optical, we will not only have better patient compliance, but increase patient satisfaction, staff performance and happiness, and increased overall revenue. When you focus on connections, the rest falls into place.
Yours in success-
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD