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John Marvin

Customer Experience Isn’t About Bells and Whistles But Simplicity and Convenience

Espresso bars, large screen TVs and foot massages just distract from what customers really want.

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ATTEND ANY CONFERENCE about retail these days, and you’ll hear the phrase “customer experience.” Well-intentioned speakers talk about creating a differentiating “customer experience.” They say people don’t buy glasses, contact lenses or exams, they buy a “customer experience.” All this talk of “experience” is trendy and meant to convey insight into what it takes to be successful. But what is it? How can we create or improve something we can’t define?

To provide an experience, some ODs add espresso bars, large screen TVs, foot massages or X-Box stations to offer this ubiquitous and ever-elusive “experience.” I submit that emphasizing ancillary activities to create an experience distracts from what customers really want. Yes, I said customers. Part of the problem has been our reluctance to discuss those who purchase our services and products as customers, preferring the term patients.

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Words matter. They convey a certain perspective to our employees and to ourselves. We associate patients with hospitals, clinics and health care institutions. The practice of optometry does have a significant clinical element, but it’s also a retail business selling prescription glasses and contacts. A full two-thirds of the revenue generated for the vast majority of optometry practices is from the retail side. Understanding the customer is critical to being successful. Taking customers for granted provides an opportunity for disruptors to give them what they want, how they want it. There are three keys to demystifying and creating a successful customer experience:

SIMPLICITY. Everyone is busy and bombarded with too much information. We wake up with digital assistance that tells us the news and weather and what our commute time will be. We are flooded with information. Then customers are overwhelmed with decisions when they schedule appointments: What insurance do you have? What is your group number? Which plan are you on? What is your deductible? What does your insurance cover? Followed by purchasing decisions… Do you want the best lenses, better lenses or good lenses? Do you want anti-glare? Lenses that protect from blue light? What is blue light? Do you want computer lenses? What are they? Do you want a protection plan for your glasses? What does the plan cover? And that is just for the first pair of prescription eyewear … what about multiple pairs? People crave simplicity. How can you provide it?

CONVENIENCE. People make purchase decisions based on convenience; not just of location, but also of experience. Amazon sold over $232 billion worth of goods and services in 2018 due to convenience. Open the browser, type www.amazon.com and voila, the retail world is at your fingertips. In most cases, it arrives the next day and the shipping is free. How convenient is it to shop with you?

PERSONABLE. You may be thinking, “Wow, I don’t know how I can compete,” but we can all be personable. One of the advantages of brick and mortar is social interaction with people. We like interaction that is meaningful and rewarding. We want attention and assistance. We love places that are welcoming and pleasant. This is an advantage optometry practices have that cannot be matched online. This is the game changer if you focus on customer service. Hire enough people to provide personable service; it is a worthwhile investment. Equip employees with the knowledge and confidence to make the experience simple and easy to understand. Make sure your delivery processes of services and products are designed with customer convenience in mind.

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Creating loyal customers who refer friends, family, and co-workers isn’t about espresso, movies or massages. It’s about giving customers what they want in a way that is simple, convenient and personable.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. You can email him at jdmarvin@tso.com.

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John Marvin

There is Power in Starting

Motivation comes from taking action, not the other way around.

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CAN YOU BELIEVE it is the beginning of a new decade? We are one month in, and it already seems to be moving faster than last year. That’s the way it is with time. It seems to move at an ever-increasing speed.

I’m sure that many of you took on this new year with plans to make changes, improvements and commitments that are already behind schedule. For some, it may be the result of putting off the actions needed to begin the change. Usually, it’s due to waiting for the right motivation or circumstance to take action. Conventional wisdom says that action follows motivation. Once someone has the desire and motivation, then they take action. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Those that don’t understand this spend days, weeks, months, and even years failing to act. They wait on that perfect set of circumstances to motivate them into taking action to make the change they desire.

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It is behavior that creates motivation. The most challenging part of beginning an exercise program is lacing up your shoes. If you have not established a routine in your life where you exercise regularly, you’ll find getting dressed and lacing up your shoes to be most challenging. You’ll wait until you “feel like exercising” before you lace up your shoes. If you just make the decision, take action, lace up your shoes and take a 30-minute walk when you have no motivation, you will discover that after a short period of time, you become motivated. Motivation follows taking action.

Now think about the improvements or changes you want to make in your business. Maybe it’s a staffing change; maybe it’s reassigning responsibilities or using new technology. You will be tempted to wait until conditions are best suited for making these changes. Maybe the difficulty in going through this process is what is keeping you from taking action.

Well, let me help you with two steps to lace up your shoes:

1. Be sure you know what it is you want to do and why you want to do it. To think this through, take the time to write it down with a full description of why it will be an improvement for your business. Many times a friend or colleague tells us what they did and why they are glad they made the change. They can talk about how it made such a difference for them and their patients. However, that is not you or your business. If you are going to take on the difficulty of change, you need to know for sure that this is important to you and why it will benefit your patients.

2. Next, set a date to begin. Not to accomplish the entire task, just to start. Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker, said, “you don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.” There is power in starting. Break down the task into steps and set a schedule of achieving the steps. Don’t worry about the potential consequences, you can work the issues out as you implement the change. Using my exercise analogy, you don’t have to begin by working out for two hours, six days a week. Start with 30 minutes, three times a week. In the beginning, it is not about the amount accomplished, but only that you start doing something.

These simple actions will create the motivation and support to achieve even more. Once you begin this cycle of continual improvement through taking action, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

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John Marvin

A Different Approach for Achieving Your Goals This Year

Only 3 percent of people will take the time and discipline to do this, but they’ll make more than 10 times the 97 percent who didn’t.

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MY FATHER TURNED 90 years old this past August. My relationship with him has changed over the years, but the older I’ve become, the more I appreciate learning from him. He is a voracious reader, and I enjoy hearing about the books he is reading. This past fall, he suggested I read a book he’d just finished and now I’d like to suggest that you do too. It’s called Goals by Brian Tracy.

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Everyone is familiar with the importance of setting goals. This time of year, we are inundated with resolutions and fresh starts. But based on studies, 25 percent of people who make New Year Resolutions don’t even keep them a full seven days. Sixty percent abandon them within six months. Why do we have such difficulty achieving goals?

I’d like to suggest a different approach for reaching your goals this year.

Decide on three things you want to achieve. You can choose one or two if you like, but no more than three. There is power and focus that comes from keeping the list small; it doesn’t allow for distractions. Take time to decide what it is you want. Pretend you have three wishes and be careful how you use them. Deciding what you want is the most challenging part of achieving your goals.

Write Them Down

Write a paragraph, describe it in detail and in the present tense; not “I’m going to …” but “I have” or “I am.” Take time to think through the impact of achieving the goal, be specific and detailed in your description. Writing down what you want to achieve is, in itself, powerful in its ability to help you focus. If you contemplate what the goal will do for you, your family or business, you may decide that it’s not a goal you have a burning desire to achieve. Knowing what you don’t want can be as important as knowing what you do. This only happens when you write down your goals in detail.

Make It Measurable

Describe what you want in terms that are measurable. Stating that you want to make more money is not measurable.

How much more? If you’re going to grow your business revenue, then set an exact percentage. Don’t compare it to the industry; set the amount you want to achieve. Determine whether you wish to increase your gross or your collections. Once completed, there will be no question as to whether or not you achieved your goal.

Set a Date

Setting a date is critical as it drives motivation and helps keep the focus on working daily to achieve your goal. Not only should a date be set for when you will reach your goal, but it should be broken down into months, weeks and days. Every big goal is achieved by reaching a series of daily goals. This gives you a plan. Record in your calendar your daily goal and the result. This daily exercise will keep you focused and provide a visual you can use for motivation.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but studies show that only 3 percent of the people who read this will take the time and discipline to put these simple steps into action. Studies also show that the 3 percent who do will make more than 10 times the money of the 97 percent who didn’t. What you experience in this new year is entirely up to you.

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John Marvin

Forget Opinions, Measure the Hard Facts and Data to Improve Your Business

In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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THERE’S A BUSINESS axiom that says if you want to improve something, measure it. The sheer act of quantifying an issue and then determining how to improve its outcome incrementally, will itself create improvement.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of continuous quality improvement, believed that management decisions should be made using facts and data; and that successful managers use that data to best understand customers and their ever-changing expectations of goods and services.

The contrast is making decisions based on opinion. I believe that this is done far too often by optometrists and managers in our industry and these are the reasons why:

It’s easy. What could be more comfortable than offering your opinion about patients’ preferences and behaviors? In some ways, it just makes sense. You spend all day, several days a week observing people in your practice. Naturally, your opinion is enough on which to base your decisions.

It’s popular. Everyone has an opinion. The dilemma is when team members’ views conflict with one another. Whose opinion is correct? Usually, it defaults to the person with the most authority. When this happens, you can diminish the perspective of others.

It’s cheap. Opinions are free. You don’t need to go to the expense of both time and money to gather facts and data. Why go to all of that time, effort and spend money when your opinion will do the job just fine? However, a decision based on belief and not facts can be the most expensive decision you’ve ever made.

Recently, I was working with a young optometrist to open his first practice, and as you can imagine, he was full of enthusiasm and confidence in his opinions. He had classmates that had started new practices. What could be so difficult?

Of course, he had an opinion about his location. He had already determined where he wanted to open his new office. When I pointed out some of the challenges this selection would create, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. It had everything he believed, in his opinion, that was critical to a successful location.

It was close to where he wanted to live. It was half the price of locations in areas with much higher traffic patterns, and there were no other optometrists within a five-mile area. In his opinion, this location was ideal.

I explained to him that selecting the right location is probably the most critical first step in building a successful practice. That he should consider the households in the area, the exposure that a site will provide his new office, and that is all a part of what you pay for in lease payments. Basing this decision on his opinion is an example of how expensive a wrong decision can be.

Another practice data area that is neglected is the retention of patients. We don’t measure the percentage of patients we saw a year ago that return in twelve months. Why would we? We are great at what we do, why wouldn’t they return?

After all, we sent them a postcard telling them it was time to come back for an appointment.

The office most successful at retaining patients that I know measures and reports to the team each week the percentage of recalled patients who booked an appointment. They have learned that success in this area requires a phone call to follow up on those who do not respond to their postcards, emails, and text messages. The OD/owner is proud that 87.3 percent of their recalled patients return for their annual exam and he is still working on improving this percentage.

Managing your business using facts and data is crucial. It takes the emotions, personal perspectives, and biases out of making improvements. In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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