Whether anyone has thought about it or talked about it, every practice has a gatekeeper.
This person is the optical bouncer. He or she either allows someone to be made known to the office decision maker or immediately files the information in the front desk trash can.
It is an extremely important position, yet it is rarely considered. This position not only keeps your schedule running on time, but also can actually be a source of revenue!
In the typical office, no one has officially been given the job description of gatekeeper. It just seems to happen by accident. Intentional management approaches should leave nothing to chance. Yet even in highly structured commercial retail settings, this position is ignored.
Since no one has technically been given this title or role, there is no one to monitor effectiveness in this area. I would encourage each office to assign an official gatekeeper and provide training. This person can not only keep the day flowing, but can also be an important part of the practice’s future. A transformation of thought must happen first with the gatekeeper. The employee must begin viewing every person who walks through the door as an OPPORTUNITY not an ANNOYANCE.
The employee must begin viewing every person who walks through the door as an OPPORTUNITY not an ANNOYANCE.
Every business-to-business representative who walks through the door has also walked through 200 other doors just like yours each year. The rep may be an encyclopedia of information.
Granted, not every B2B representative or company has value, so the gatekeeper must learn to be discerning and ask a number of questions before the business card goes straight to the trash can. I understand that many who walk through the door may simply be a nuisance. But we don’t lock the front door simply because a patient is annoying. Instead we put on a smile and recognize the opportunity. We must realize the same opportunity in the other people who walk through our doors as well.
I cannot tell you how many times a business owner has told me, “I wish I had met you years ago.” I usually reply, “I tried, but your gatekeeper threw my information in the trash.”
One of the particular owners who expressed this sentiment later sold me his practice when he was struggling. His very gatekeeper, who threw away my information, became my employee. And with a little incentive and training, she became an awesome gatekeeper.
She would brief me each day with the business cards of those who had stopped. Her comments would be, “I think this guy has a better deal for our website,” “I heard that the factory in town is switching insurance, do we want to be a provider?” or “This rep said that XYZ office might be closing soon and selling records.” Such information has massive value. The words of my stellar gatekeeper often helped us save money or increase revenue. She thrived in her new job while still keeping a handle on my schedule.
Instead of constantly slamming a gate with abandon, she now acted more like a spotter in the eagle’s nest. Her job was now about noticing subtle winds of change and spotting things before our competition. Getting credentialed ahead of our competition for the local factory’s new plan was one of the largest ways she contributed to our increase in revenue through intentional gatekeeping.
Gatekeepers need to be aware of the requirements of the job. They also need to be given the tools to do their job successfully. Arm them with questions like:
“What makes you different from the other frame or lens companies?”
“What are you hearing out there on the road?” “Where is the optical frame, lens or insurance market going?”
“What are the complaints you are hearing?"
With a little intentional management, the gatekeeper can be an extremely effective office growth tool.
Mark Clark is the optical manager at The Eye Care Center in Paducah, KY. He is a former Pearle Vision franchise owner, laboratory manager, frame procurement manager and territory sales consultant. A version of this article originally appeared at DailyOptician. DailyOptician features unique perspectives from passionate opticians and inspiring brands.
This article is an online extra for INVISION.
A version of this article originally appeared at DailyOptician. DailyOptician features unique perspectives from passionate opticians and inspiring brands.