As you may know, I am a huge fan of communication and spend a lot of time learning how to say things more efficiently and effectively, both in the exam room and in the office. I like to share these messages to my team as well, because we can all do a better job in communicating with each other and our patients. As with anything, what we say and do repeatedly becomes a habit, and breaking these habits can be difficult. I encourage you to spend some time out of your office or exam room, and just listen. What are the phrases and words you hear being said on the phone, at check in, at the optical and during pre-testing? Are things being said (unintentionally) that lead patients to respond or behave in a certain way? Oftentimes, we are unaware of what we say day to day, but the words we use can have a significant impact on how our practice operates and our revenue generation.
If you hear things repeatedly (from yourself or your staff), make your own “Least Favorite Things” list (or use mine!). This is a great staff meeting exercise in how we can all be better in communication with our patients and each other.
Without further ado, my “Least Favorite Things….”
DO YOU . . .
If you have children, this is a great illustration of how the phrase “do you” works in the office. If I were to ask my sons “do you want to clean up your room?”, I can guarantee how they will answer that question; if there is another choice, they will surely take that. If we ask our patients “do you want to look at glasses today?” they can quickly start thinking about all of the other things they need to do, places they need to be, and say the dreaded words, “I’ll come back another time.” Don’t ask a question you won’t like the answer to! Instead of asking “Do you want to look at glasses?” and inviting the answer of ‘no,’ ask a better question. Ask the patient what type of look they are going for, what colors they like, if there is something different they want to try. Who can say no to that?
HOW MANY BOXES
If there is a phrase that is like nails on a chalkboard for me, this is it. We have all had this happen in our office: we fit a patient with the newest in daily disposable contact lenses, and they love the comfort and vision and are so happy. We proudly walk the patient out to the front desk, mentally checking off that they are going to purchase the annual supply because . . why not? They are so happy! We turn them over to Sally at the front desk who says…how many boxes do you want to order? The patient stops short, thinks about it and says “Ummm, I’m not sure? One box?”
In just one question, our front desk can unintentionally cost our practice a significant amount of revenue, repeatedly. When faced with a choice, patients will likely choose the smallest option of contact lens boxes, because what else should they do?
We have banished this question in our office. The only question I like to hear when it comes to ordering contact lenses is, “Do you want your annual supply shipped home or to your office?” And, over the last two years, we have streamlined it even further! We now just say, “We will ship that year supply of contact lenses direct to your house, no charge!”
We all know annual supplies of contact lenses are best for our patients and for our practices. It is most cost-effective for the patient. They can utilize any vision plan discounts, annual supply discounts a practice may offer, free shipping, and take advantage of vendor rebates. For a practice, we know these patients are most likely to be compliant with their contact lenses, return annually to our offices, and not purchase contact lenses online during the year. Annual supply sales are also significantly less costly in staff time.
Patients are faced with so many choices, and don’t always feel that they have the information needed to make the best decision, so they will usually choose the smallest or least costly option, even though this may be more expensive for them over time.
OVERLY COMPLEX OPTICAL VERBIAGE
Our optical staff is an absolute wealth of knowledge; they are essential to providing our patients with the best products and care. However, we often forget that the average patient has zero idea what most of the things we say are, and we can often over-complicate things and cost ourselves a sale.
Let’s take a listen to a common optical transaction.
“Mary, your lenses will be a short corridor progressive, high index lens with an anti-reflective coating and Transitions lens.”
What does Mary think? She is not thinking, “Wow, that sounds amazing!” She is thinking, “All of that sounds expensive, and maybe I don’t want to get glasses after all.” Mary doesn’t know what any of those words mean, and instead of asking, she will likely just turn down the sale.
What is a better way of approaching this?
“Mary, I am so excited for you to see clearly with Dr. Stewart’s prescription. We customized your lenses for the frame you selected so you can see clearly at ALL distances! We made the lens as light and as thin as possible so you can wear them comfortably all day, and these lenses will also allow you to see better and look better – no reflections in pictures or on your Zoom calls! Even better, as soon as you walk outside, the lenses will start changing into sunglasses, and will turn clear when you walk inside. Like magic! I can’t wait for you to pick up your new glasses.”
Mary now can find value in what she is buying. She understands the benefits, versus the features of the lenses. Who can say no to that?
Ah, the word no. As a mom of two young boys, this word is unfortunately a frequent one in my vocabulary. How many of us bring that into the office, and unwittingly say no, where we could be saying yes? As I have talked about before, being able to turn a NO into a YES (or another answer) can be so powerful in your practice. Being an observer in your own practice can be enlightening – how many times do you hear ‘no’ at your front desk? How many times do you say ‘no’ to a patient in your chair?
I encourage a ‘Yes Day’ in your office; see if you can go a day without saying no to your patients. It may take some practice and creativity but can pay dividends in patient care and satisfaction.
Coming up with your own “least favorite things” list is a great way to improve communication, influence patient behavior and increase practice revenue. Feel free to use my list, add to it, or make your own!
Yours in success-
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD