Ask INVISION: February 2015

Calling patients boosts your business

Our practice growth has stalled. What’s a quick, low-cost suggestion for getting back on the growth path?

Start burning up those phone lines, says Bob Levoy, author of 201 Secrets Of A High-Performance Optometric Practice. Have a staff member call 25 randomly selected “inactive” patients who haven’t been back for two or three years and say, very simply: “In reviewing our records, I see that you have not had a comprehensive eye examination since (date). I’m calling to see if you would like to make an appointment at this time.” That’s all you need to say, says Levoy. No long explanation, no sales pitch, no scare tactics. You’ll be surprised by how many clients had lost track of time, or had been waiting for you to call them. (By the way, when someone does make an appointment — through this or any other method — don’t forget to ask if there’s anyone else in the family who needs an eye exam, too.) Once you finish your first 25 patients, we’re confident you’ll see the value in calling another 25, then another 25, then another ...

This year, our goal is better customer care. But people don’t seem to be getting the message. Have any ideas we can try?

One way to reinforce service is to acknowledge and reward it during staff meetings. Mary Hollis Stuck (now at Eye Associates of Cayce/West Columbia in South Carolina) says that when she worked as manager of The Eye Doctors in Tampa, FL, her boss, Dr. Sam Teske, would take a few minutes in each staff meeting to acknowledge anyone who had been singled out by customers for exceptional service. For example: “Suzy was super helpful with explaining my insurance at the front desk.” Everyone would clap, then the owner would hold out a handful of envelopes and invite the staff member to select one. (Envelopes contained $20 gift cards to local restaurants, book stores, or gas stations.) Give it a try. It will make everybody feel good about providing great service.

I realize I’m not always a personality-plus person. How can I get my customers to like me more?

Rick Segel, author of the Retail Business Kit for Dummies, says it best: “I don’t care how good your prices or products are. If I don’t like you, I’m not doing business with you.”

This is tough talk for those who feel their people skills need a little honing. In his crash course on getting people to like you, Segel says the most important thing is “harnessing the power of a compliment.” One of INVISION’s favorite tactics is to praise the eyewear your customers are wearing. It’s not just a good way to greet a potential buyer, it also provides a lead-in to a sales pitch. But don’t forget to offer a word of praise on other possessions like jewelry, clothing and handbags.

Segel cautions that compliments on physical appearance could could cause problems in this age of frequent sexual harassment lawsuits. But a flattering comment about a new makeover or hairstyle is safe. Even safer: Praise a customer’s personality. If a customer has made your day with his outgoing qualities, let him know. (“Gosh, I haven’t had so much fun serving anybody in a long time!”)

One last winning approach is to offer a kind word on a customer’s choice of jewelry during a sales presentation. Segel likens this use of praise to being served by a top-notch waiter in a fine restaurant. When he says, “An excellent choice of entrée, sir!” doesn’t that make you feel good? It sure does. Especially when you’re with someone else and trying to make a good impression.

Change your title to make yourself stand out.

How can I spice up my job title?

If you’re an entrepreneur, you could definitely do with a cool job title, says Scott Ginsberg, author of The Power of Approachability. “This is a perfect way to show customers that you are That Guy,” he says. “For example, I always write ‘Author/Speaker/That Guy With The Nametag’ on my materials. Because that’s what I do! And people love it.” For an eyecare business owner, some that might work would be “Head Visionary,” “Sight Facilitator” or even, taking a cue from Ginsberg, “Owner/Optician/That Guy With the Cool Eyewear.” Whatever you do, Ginsberg says: “Get creative. Find a way to make your designator stand out.”

What would happen to my store if I died unexpectedly?

Assuming you have a living will, it would go to your designated heir(s). If you don’t, state law (“intestate succession” statutes) usually takes charge of your estate. “Each state has precise laws about who gets what when there is no will, and there are differences among the states,” writes Norman M. Boone, a renowned financial adviser. “In California, for example, the spouse inherits all the deceased spouse’s community property, but the separate property is shared with the children. In New Jersey, your spouse gets the first $50,000 of your estate and one-half of the rest; your children get everything else. If the children are minors in either state, then the court appoints someone to manage their property (your business!). The children receive their inheritance at age 18. For singles, the assets are parceled out to relatives in an order determined by state law. Usually children, parents and then siblings are first in line. Friends, lovers or charities are left out.”

Without a will, there is always a chance the estate will be fought over by the above claimants, a process which can drag out and potentially ruin a business. Don’t like those prospects? What are you waiting for? Write that will!