Leadership expert John C. Maxwell wrote a book called Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. In it, he points out the difference between communicating with people and connecting with them. Are you connecting with your patients? Your customers?

Today’s marketplace rewards those who connect with their customers. Those who merely communicate are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Then why doesn’t everyone connect with their customers? The reason is that it requires work, discipline, consistency and patience.

Here is the difference between connecting and communicating:

The new patient. A communicator answers the phone, schedules an appointment, explains the office policies on insurance, payment, and what will be needed for the appointment. We’ve all called businesses who rush through the phone greeting in a way that conveys you’re an unwanted interruption. Sometimes you are told, “Please hold” without any regard to whether this is acceptable to you. How does this make you feel? Do you feel important? Do you feel the business cares why you are calling?

A connector creates an immediate sense of warmth in that initial phone call, while conveying the necessary information, by taking their time and speaking at a friendly, enthusiastic pace. It may sound like a small difference, but it’s not. Imagine this is your first impression of the practice. One office connects, the other simply communicates.

Opticians and patients. The typical routine in optometry is after the “hand-off” to the optician, the patient selects their frames and lenses. A communicator takes the prescription and lets the patient know the frames they cannot have because of lens choice requirements. They go through the motions, but are detached from the patient’s preferences, likes, and most important, how they use their eyewear. They make patients feel like they need to decide quickly, and read through an assortment of lenses as if the patient fully understands not only the features of the options but also the benefits.  

A connector will cordially introduce themselves, asking the patient questions with sincerity to better understand them and what they hope to enjoy from their eyewear. Before any products are discussed, they want to know about the patient. They treat this as the first discussion of a long-term relationship, one that will be enjoyed for years. They make the patient feel at ease with the process. After an informative and pleasant discussion, the optician makes recommendations for both frames and lenses with explanations as to why and how the patient will benefit. All of this is done while giving the patient their undivided attention.

After the sale. Offices filled with communicators rarely consider doing anything other than waiting for the patient to return. They consider the transaction done and move on. Communicators consider each interaction as a one-time event. Recalls are left to automated phone calls, text messages and emails. They don’t consider the potential of the satisfied patient and the network of influence they have.

The connector could not be more different. They view what happens after the sale to be the real opportunity. They make a sincere effort to show the patient they appreciate their choosing the office by sending a hand-written thank you. They let them know their satisfaction with their eyewear is important by calling the customer two weeks after they pick it up. They ask for suggestions as to how the office can do better and really listen. Connectors personally call patients to remind them of their annual eye exam. They call on their birthday, wishing them well and letting them know how much they are appreciated.

There’s a term used for practices who consistently connect with their patients ... Successful.


This article originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of INVISION.

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