Practice management advice from John Marvin

Want to boost your capture rate? Build trust. Listen carefully. Then recommend.

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of INVISION.

Last month, I wrote about the boys of summer and how baseball is a business of key statistics. Well, now it’s fall, we’re in the final stretch of the postseason, and only the teams with the best stats are still playing America’s pastime.

The practice of optometry also has key statistics to measure our strength, and one of these is office capture, or buy rate. This is the percentage of people who get an exam and go on to purchase prescription eyewear.

As in sports, there are “intangibles.” But what is the key factor that makes the difference between success and mediocrity when it comes to your capture rate? That’s our topic this month. Experts in achievement tell us it is what we do daily that determines success or failure. There are no grand gestures or gimmicks that produce high capture rates. The secret is basic activities done with excellence over and over again. Do them, and you’ll be batting .900.

The most important activity is the discussion the doctor has with the patient in the exam room. This conversation makes the difference between someone purchasing eyewear or not. It’s that simple. Here are three reasons why:

1. Patients trust their doctor. Patients trust the doctor until the doctor gives the patient reason not to trust him. Trust is a belief created through specific actions. It starts with the patient’s initial impression of you: how you present yourself, what you are wearing — I recommend a lab coat over professional business wear — and your personal grooming.

2. The confidence with which you communicate builds trust, too. Do you deliver your recommendations with conviction? Do you offer a thorough (but not mind-numbing) explanation of your reasons for the prescription? Make the complex simple through examples. Be warm and caring. Be intentional about identifying what creates trust and build these elements into your exam presentation. If people trust the doctor, they will take the action recommended by the doctor.

3. Listening and connecting are important. While you go through the eye exam several times a day, many times a week and hundreds of times a month, a patient has an eye exam only once every 12 to 18 months. A doctor “going through the motions” often misses the opportunity to connect. So slow down, communicate with passion and enthusiasm, and make the patient feel like his exam is the most important exam you will do all year.

Besides, before you can deliver your recommendations, you must listen to the patient. Hear the words and phrases your patient uses to express their need for help. Then use those terms to explain why and how what you are prescribing will help him solve his problems. You’ll connect with the patient, and your patient will connect with you.

People fill prescriptions. Think about the last time a physician wrote a medication prescription for you. You most likely went straight from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy and filled the Rx, right? It should be no different when you prescribe eyewear for a patient. You explain the importance of the prescription and how filling the prescription will improve his quality of life. Just as a physician does when prescribing an antibiotic, you tell your patient how this prescription will solve his problem. (And this is the point, of course, where you introduce your staff member who will help fill the prescription.)

Do these things daily, and do them with authority and conviction. Connect with your patients, and you’ll see a difference — not just in a higher capture rate, but in return visits, referrals and overall customer satisfaction.

With more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry, John D. Marvin writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. He is president of Texas State Optical, a member-owned cooperative of 120 independent, professional optometry practices. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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