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Handling Clients Who Seek Advice on Social Media, and More Questions for January

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What do you do with patients who contact you via social media or a messaging app seeking medical or other advice?

Refer them to your front desk, explaining that you can’t discuss such matters via this kind of channel. Or ask a member of staff to get in touch with them. It’s probably also generally a good idea not to accept patients’ friend requests. And for those new-generation customers who seem to think using a phone to call is physically painful, suggest they Like your business page and have them contact you via private message (look into how to share a Facebook Messenger code with customers).


An old boss said never ever apologize. Is that still the best policy to adopt when something goes wrong?

Optometric mistakes happen. And the ethical thing to do when they occur is to apologize, explain what went wrong and immediately lay out how you will make good on the error. For much of the last century, however, the fear of huge malpractice suits has stopped most healthcare professionals from doing any of those things. At the advice of their lawyers and insurers, they adopted a “deny and defend” mindset, which only further enraged patients. A string of multi-year studies by groups such as the Veterans Administration Hospital and University of Michigan have shown that a policy of providing a swift and sincere apology will usually result in far fewer and typically smaller lawsuits — it is the “arrogant, uncaring” doctor who is far more likely to be sued than the slightly error-prone but “goodhearted” one. The legal landscape has also shifted in the last decade and 36 states now have “apology laws” that prohibit certain statements of remorse or other evidence related to disclosure from being used to in a lawsuit. Most of these laws keep expressions of empathy and sympathy from being admissible in court, while a few protect admissions of fault. None of the words “I made a mistake. I’m sorry” could be used as evidence in Colorado for example. But the first sentence could land you in trouble in Indiana. It means you still need to take great care in formulating and expressing your apology, know what is permissible in your state and you would be well advised to consult an attorney to formulate the precise wording of any apologies that you may use. If you don’t have an updated policy to handle this issues, now is the time to get it done.


How can I make my practice more word-of-mouth-friendly?

You’re definitely on the right track by focusing on word of mouth to drive traffic. Brand expert and author Martin Lindstrom, who led a $3 million research study into the influence of friends’ recommendations says they are far more likely to be remembered than any other form of advertising. But as you’re no doubt finding, outstanding service aside, encouraging people to recommend your office to friends is not easy. Short-term incentives (essentially bribes such as “10 percent off your next purchase if you refer someone,” rarely do well, because people don’t like to “sell out” their friends). However, giving customers something they can share with their friends and enhance their “social capital” has shown to be effective, especially when you can identify the influencers in your community. In terms of strategy, word of mouth is so fluid it requires constant testing and experimenting: What stories to tell people about your store, what offers, what inside incentives will work? As for that outstanding service? Don’t claim to have it. Most people won’t believe you. And those who do believe you will expect more from your staff than they can possibly deliver. It’s a lose-lose proposition.


I want to introduce an incentive plan for my staff this year. What do you recommend? 

There are so many things to consider — monetary incentives versus spiffs, commission-only versus a mix of base and commission, the percentages to be paid on products with different margins and then your staff such as your support crew who don’t actually make direct sales— that we’re going to skip over the details and go big picture: Whatever you decide, keep these guiding principles in mind:

    • Don’t use incentive pay as a substitute for leadership. Build a team culture around productivity. Communicate your expectations to your team and hold them accountable.
    • Forecast the financial impact of any incentive payouts, and have a fallback plan in case the market changes.
    • Be wary of commission-only. Most of the successful plans we have heard involve a three-part bonus tied to the success of the individual, the team, and the store. Commission-only and even base-plus commission can encourage selfish behavior on the part of sales associates, and in some cases poison the entire atmosphere in the store.

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

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    Ask INVISION

    Promoting Healthy Competition and More Questions for Year’s End

    Also, proper staff gift-giving etiquette and getting the most out of staff trainers.

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    How do I tease out a prospective hire’s innate strengths and weaknesses during an interview?

    Marcus Buckingham, a leader of the strengths-based school of business management, suggests asking this question (and revisiting it periodically if you do hire the person): What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months? “Find out what the person was doing and why he or she enjoyed it so much,” he says, adding it’s key to keep in mind that a strength is not merely something someone is good at. “It might be something they aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something they find so intrinsically satisfying that they look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time.” The theory is that the best businesses are those that fully leverage the strengths (unbridled upside) of their employees as opposed to trying to fix up their weaknesses (never more than incremental gains).

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    How can I promote competition among staff without it turning my store into the setting of Lord Of The Flies?

    The key to fostering healthy competition, according to new research done by a team at Harvard Business School, lies in how you communicate the competition. When employees feel excited, they’re more likely to come up with creative solutions and new ways to better serve customers. When they feel anxious or worried they might lose their job or be publicly humiliated, they’re more likely to cut corners or sabotage one another. Leaders can generate excitement by highlighting the potential positive outcomes of competition (such as the recognition and rewards that await outstanding performers) rather than creating anxiety by singling out low performers (think of the steak knives scene in Glengarry Glen Ross).

    What is proper etiquette for gift-giving in the workplace?

    Your watchwords should be considerate, fair, and inclusive. Aim for gifts that can be shared and enjoyed by everyone such as food. (If people have diet restrictions, they can simply pass on the offering without making a big fuss.) If you do decide to give gifts to every staff member, steer clear of knick-knacks. Most people can barely see their desks as it is. The last thing they need is another coffee mug or pen-and-pencil set. Keep it clean. Do not consider gag gifts that rely on sexual innuendo or ethnic stereotypes to be funny. Do not give anything that could remotely be considered intimate. And be generous down the chain. Give your assistant or intern at least as nice a gift as the one you give your manager.

    I’d like to hire a trainer for my staff, but I’m worried about the return on investment?

    Our reason for existing at INVISION is to make ECPs better ECPs, and we believe professional trainers can help you enormously. To get your money’s worth, focus on two things: 1.) Hard skills. Overinvest in training that helps to increase ability versus motivation. Yes, it’s nice to have your staff leave a training session all fired up, but for lasting results that will give you that return on your investment, focus on small but vital aspects of your staff’s sales skills. It could be when to pause in a presentation or how many features to stress. Break tasks into discrete actions, practice within a low-risk environment and build in recovery strategies. 2.) This is just as important. Follow up. Bring in a trainer, but only if you yourself are willing to buy into their lessons and do ongoing training and reviews.

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    Ask INVISION

    When to Let That Questionable New Employee Go and More Questions for October

    Plus its all fun and games until someone gets drunk at the company holiday party … how to protect your business from potential trouble.

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    How do you know when a new employee can’t be saved? How much time should you give someone?

    When you have coached someone carefully and repeatedly, invested large amounts of energy and they show no signs of improvement, that’s a solid signal you probably need to act. The clincher comes when their co-workers start showing their frustration and stop trying to help the person. This is often at about the three- or four-month mark. A lot of bosses will let it drag on past that, but it’s really in everyone’s interest for both parties to pursue new opportunities.

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    I’m planning an end-of-year company party, but one concern is that somebody could get drunk, have a car accident, and I might get sued. Got any advice on protecting myself?

    These days, the Grinch must be a lawyer. Concerns about liability for alcohol-related incidents, sexual harassment, and workers’ compensation claims have led many companies to forgo holiday galas entirely. You don’t have to. But if you’re really afraid, lawyer Anil Khosla, writing in Inc. Magazine, suggests the following steps to reduce your liability: “1. To distance the business from the party, make it an entirely social event, don’t invite clients or vendors, and make sure employees know that attendance is voluntary. 2. Plan accordingly. Hold your gathering off-site, if possible. That may shift some of the potential liability to the hotel, restaurant, or caterer. If you must have an on-site party, hire an independent caterer. Don’t permit anyone from the company to serve alcohol and instruct bartenders to stop serving anyone who seems inebriated. Lawyers advise avoiding an open bar — or, at the very least, limiting it to the first hour. Also, close the bar at least one hour before the party ends. 3. Consider providing transportation to and from the event. Make sure that cabs will be available and appoint someone to suggest cab rides home for people who have had a few too many.”

    I haven’t got around to writing a will yet. What would happen to my business if I died unexpectedly?

    When there’s no will, state law (“interstate 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,” says Norman M. Boone, MBA, CFP, a nationally 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 (including your business), and then supervises their activities, which involves more intrusion and more expense. 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 (even domestic partners) 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!

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    Ask INVISION

    How to Get a Staff Member to Close a Sale and More Questions for September

    And your return policy may not be as ironclad as you think when it comes to minors.

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    I got really angry at a customer the other day and left a nasty message on their voicemail. So, OK, I’ve lost that client. But how can I keep this from happening again?

    We fully recommend business author Tony Schwartz’s Golden Rule of Triggers, which is “Whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t.” Instead, he says, take a deep breath, and “feel your feet” — a distraction tactic that allows you to pull your head out of the red mist.

    I have a no-return stipulation on all my eyewear. But somebody told me that if a minor buys, for example, a pair of fancy sunglasses from me, they have the right to return it for a full refund and I can’t do anything about it. Is this true?

    It is, in most states. And it’s something many merchants are unaware of. Basically, it comes down to what the law regards as “capacity to contract,” something minors are considered to lack but which is an essential element of any valid commercial agreement. The law doesn’t state, however, you must return the money immediately. You can insist Mom or Dad enforce the big-spending youngster’s right to disaffirmance in a court of law. Faced with such a prospect, the child or his parents are likely to come to an arrangement.

    My store is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Am I leaving sales on the table by not being open?

    Not necessarily. In fact, you may actually be improving business by giving your team some regular time off. Roger Beahm, professor of marketing at Wake Forest University School of Business, told radio station WFDD that you should first consider the “personal values” of your business. “We know that there’s a lot of businesses, for personal reasons, that like to keep their doors closed on Sunday, give their employees a day off for family, to go to church, and those kinds of things.” Employee happiness can translate into “efficiency, a high-quality product, and a loyal customer who keeps coming back.” Beahm says that work/life balance should lead to profit. “While they may be leaving money on the table in the short run, it’s probably assured that in the long run, they’re continuing to generate revenue because of the satisfaction level of both their employees and their customers.”

    I’ve got a woman on staff who adores eyewear and never fails to engage a customer in a lively discussion, but for the life of me I can’t teach her how to close the sale! Help!

    Failure to close is most often a combination of lack of basic skill and fear of being ‘pushy,’” says Kate Peterson of retail consultancy Performance Concepts. You can’t effectively teach ‘closing’ as a separate and disassociated thing, she says, but if your associate is good at engaging the customer, focus on teaching her how to make emotional connections between what they want and what the merchandise provides and to listen for signals that indicate it’s time to close. When it comes to more expensive fashion wear, remind her that most customers are often looking for permission to buy. “Providing good service means giving it to them by asking for the sale,” says Peterson. Finally, consider your commission structures. A motivated staff will use their time in the store as efficiently as they can, because it’s in their interest to make as many sales as possible.

    When people look in your window displays, how do you approach them without scaring them off?

    Open the conversation by asking their opinion on the display itself, says selling expert Dave Richardson. From there, you should be able to find out what they are specifically looking at and extend an invitation for them to come in and see it more closely (as well as a business card). Such boldness is well worth your effort, says Richardson. “Best-case scenario, you make a sale … worst-case scenario, someone new has your card.”

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