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John Marvin

Making the Case for Being Open on Saturdays

Saturday availability is more important now than before due to the growth of both online refractions and ecommerce.

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“What is popular isn’t always right and what is right, isn’t always popular.” – Unknown

THIS MONTH I present my case for the importance of optometry practices being open on Saturdays. I know it isn’t popular but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do, especially if you own your own business.

Two-thirds of a private practice optometrist’s income comes from retail sales. Historically, the largest retail day of the week is Saturday. Independent ECPs benefit greatly from being open on Saturdays, but this isn’t the primary reason for being open. The primary reason is convenience for your patients and customers. This is particularly true if your practice is in a suburban area.

I know this because I live in a suburb. If you leave your home each day and commute to work, Saturdays is most often the only day of the week that you have for elective doctor appointments and a list of other activities that don’t justify taking a half-day off of work.

We know from experience and more importantly, research, that the number one attribute important to consumers picking a new eye doctor is convenience. People seeking a new eye doctor will not drive past two or three optometry practices to have an appointment at an office which is considered less convenient. It may not be right or fair, but it is true.

For thousands of families living in suburban areas, Saturday is one of the only days they can schedule an exam without taking off from work. You need these customers to help build your practice. Patients who schedule on Saturday will also refer people for whom a Saturday appointment is most convenient.

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This has been true for decades but what has made Saturday availability more important now than before is the growth of both online refractions and ecommerce. If ODs do not open their practices on Saturdays, many patients see ecommerce as a more convenient way to purchase eyewear. Once a person has a good experience purchasing online, it will be difficult to get them back.

If a doctor starting a new practice decides they don’t want to work on Saturday, they are telling prospective customers that their own convenience is more important than the patient’s.

A question I often get, especially from new practice owners, about being open on Saturday is, “Do I have to be open all day or can I just be open half a day?” My answer: That is the wrong question. This is a service profession. When you decide to open a business, you make the decision to serve others. There is a lot of talk in our profession about marketing. Many talking about this are actually referring to advertising or promotions. Marketing is comprised of four “Ps”: Price, Product, Place and Promotion. So when they talk of marketing, they are actually ignoring three-fourths of what comprises marketing. The delivery of services is just as important as promotion or advertising.

My father, who was a family practice doctor, was told by a wise professor in medical school, “A successful family doctor will be one who practices the three ‘As’: Ability, Affability (bedside manner); and Availability, meaning when the customer needs you, you’re available. An optometry practice that’s closed on Saturdays is ignoring a critical marketing function and limits the practice to being technically proficient and having a pleasing staff, but not available when needed.

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 [email protected]

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