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John Marvin

Does Your Business Have “All the Bells and Whistles?”

Does your practice have ANY bells or whistles?




ACCORDING TO MERRIAM Webster, the idiom “all the bells and whistles” means “items or features that are useful or decorative but not essential.” At any trade show, you’ll hear the phrase associated with new gear.

Think about that definition: “Items or features that are useful or decorative but not essential.” So what is the real value of these bells and whistles? Based on the definition, they are nice to have but not essential. They differentiate the item from those without useful or decorative features. Does your practice have “all the bells and whistles?” Does your practice have any bells or whistles? What do you offer in your patient’s experience that differentiates it from any other purveyor of your goods and services?

You’ve likely not thought of your practice in these terms, but I guarantee your customers have. When they’re asked what eye doctor they recommend, what do you think they say? Do they suggest you with enthusiasm, explaining all of the items or features that are useful and appreciated but not essential? Or do they mechanically recommend you as one more option in a competitive marketplace?

Let’s take a look at some ‘bells and whistles’ that can help your business stand out and offer a difference that actually creates a preference among prospective patients or customers.


According to a study by the National Retail Federation and the IBM Institute for Business Value, the dominating criteria used by value-driven consumers is convenience. It is more important than price and product quality. How convenient is it to be your patient or customer?


Add features that make you more convenient than your competitors. Think about the reasons people who contact your practice don’t schedule an appointment or make a purchase after an exam. If you have difficulty, locate them and ask.


When was the last time you purchased a service and felt they were sincerely grateful that you chose them? Why was that? What ways can you show your authentic appreciation to your patients? Out of all the choices, they chose you. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Send them a handwritten note. Call them after they’ve picked up their eyewear to ensure they’re pleased with their purchase and the service they received. Tell them how much you value them and appreciate them trusting you with their vision. You can even leave a voicemail if they are not available.

Go the Extra Mile

In all the years I have been in optometric services, there have been many customers who’ve taken the time to contact me to detail a disappointing experience. But in all these years, I have not heard one complaint that originated in the exam lane. All of the dissatisfaction occurs with the retail experience; simply put— customer service.

In fact, I recently talked to a customer who spent over $2,000 on eyewear and one pair broke less than a month later. According to her, the office would not do anything because she had not purchased the additional $50 breakage warranty.


The staff was technically correct. Even though she had spent thousands in eyewear, she had not purchase a breakage warranty. But how would you feel if this was a new flat-screen TV? Or computer?

Create a culture that gives customers the benefit of the doubt. Go the extra mile and treat customers the way you would want to be treated. Believe it or not, that alone will make you stand out among the competition.

If you decide to offer convenience, express gratitude and go the extra mile, people will tell their friends that your practice has all the bells and whistles.

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 blog. You can email him at


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