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John Marvin

Why Do So Many ECPs Ignore the Power of Personal Touch?

Remember: your convenience is never as important as investing personally in relationships.

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IN THIS TIME OF digital communication it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important aspects of interaction — the personal touch.

In a month when stores are filled with expressions of affection, would those of us in a serious relationship send a digital Valentine’s Day card? (If you don’t understand the problem with this, let me save you some heartache, don’t do it.) There are occasions when only something personal will connect in a way that matters.

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For years there has been a push to move practice owners into the digital age with websites, Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts. Practices have discarded traditional recall cards and embraced digital patient communication platforms. Now with preprogramed software, thousands of emails and text messages can be sent to communicate with patients.

I love this new digital age and all it gives us the ability to do. However, now and again, I am reminded of the power of the personal touch. I’ve recently had two experiences that emphasized this.

The first occurred with my wife. We decided to plan a long weekend to celebrate her birthday where we could enjoy some sun and sand. While by the resort pool, her phone rang. She didn’t recognize the number, but decided to answer it anyway. I watched as her curiosity turned into a smile. She said, “Thank you, thank you very much, that means a lot to me,” then hung up. She told me it was her eye doctor just calling to wish her a happy birthday.

You should know that my wife is two, maybe three, years past due in her annual eye exam, but that didn’t matter. Calling his patients on their birthday is important to him. He could have his digital communication program automatically send out a birthday email, but it just isn’t the same. It’s the time and commitment that lets his patients know he cares. It tells his patients that they have a relationship to him, not just a file or a spot on his schedule.

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The second is when I recently purchased some eyewear from one of our network doctors. I was told they would be ready for pick up in about a week and they would notify me when it was ready. About five days later, they left a voicemail letting me know I could pick them up when it was convenient. Up to this point, the experience was pretty conventional. However, what happened next is impressive.

A couple of days after picking up the glasses, I received a handwritten thank you from the young lady who dispensed them. It was personal and even contained a comment regarding a topic we had casually discussed. Wow! I was impressed. Then a few days later, the doctor called to make sure I was pleased with the product and service. A phone call from the doctor after a handwritten thank you note from the optician, after a personal call to let me know my eyewear was ready? That is impressive.

All of that could have been automated — it would have been far more convenient for them and, arguably for me — but, in this instance, convenience is not as important as investing personally in the relationship. There is power in the personal touch.

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

All You Have to Do Is Try One More Time

Failure only happens if you give up.

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THOMAS EDISON ONCE SAID, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always trying just one more time.”

It is completely in our control. All we have to do is try one more time. If that doesn’t work, then try one more time. You create your own new beginning.

We often see failure as final, devastating, humiliating and sometimes even a fatal blow to our dreams. Succumbing to this point of view, or dare I say, belief, is an outward demonstration of weakness. Imagine the NBA without

Michael Jordan. Well there would have not been a Michael Jordan if he had believed that failure was devastating and final. In his own words, MJ said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.

Twenty-six times I’ve been asked to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

We see the awards, the recognition and notoriety of successful people like Michael Jordan but don’t realize that for every accomplishment recognized, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of failure.

It is the fear of failure that keeps most people from even trying to accomplish or be successful. Wayne Gretzky, the NHL player nicknamed “The Great One” and considered by many to be the greatest professional hockey player of all time, said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” The fear of missing a shot robs us of the success we can have.

What makes this so important is that success in whatever we pursue is not something that might happen, but with understanding that all we have to do is not give up, we can make success a certainty.

So, what holds us back? This little word “fear”.

Fear of some things is good. It protects us. We don’t text and drive for fear of accidents. We don’t put ourselves in harmful circumstances. I live in southeast Texas. When the national hurricane center warns of an impending storm, many who live along the coast evacuate for higher ground due to fear of a dangerous storm. These are all rational fears.

Then there is emotional fear. Fear of speaking in front of a crowd or fear of being rejected when asking the Homecoming Queen on a date. These are less rational and more emotional.

The fear of failure is an emotional fear. We are afraid that we will be embarrassed if we say we are going to do something and are not successful. We are afraid of what others might think and we’ll suffer a loss of self-esteem. Our insecurities take prominence in our imagined world.

Fear of failure is the behavioral reaction we have when we fill our minds with all of the bad things that will happen if we simply try. It’s paralyzing. We think, nothing ventured nothing lost. When in reality, nothing ventured is nothing gained.

This mindset is deceiving and limits our own potential. We live our lives defensively while others, who take risks, enjoy achievement and success. Sure, some fail, but failure is only a reality when one gives up and quits trying. Barry Bonds, the MLB player with the record for home runs at 762, struck out 1,539 times, more than twice his number of home runs. Bonds knew that each time at the plate was a new beginning and the only way to fail is to stop trying.

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John Marvin

Introducing Amazon Eyecare and Eyewear

Relax, it’s not happening … yet. But there is a lot we could learn from the company’s use of behavioral data.

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IN MY EXPERIENCE, the most frequent Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that eye doctors use are: 1) How much is today’s deposit? And 2) How many appointments are on the books for tomorrow?

It may seem simplistic, but many people reading this article will agree, it’s a ritual many eye doctors go through at the end of every work day. It’s a good start, but far from enough to perform with a competitive edge.

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We live in a marketplace driven by data. In our industry, there are courses at major conferences to teach ECPs the KPIs they should measure and manage and how often. Our practice management software can produce countless reports. It can be overwhelming, not to mention time consuming, to keep up with all of the information being produced.

But in eyecare and eyewear’s ever-changing environment, the effective use of data will be the difference between success and irrelevance. We must move from transactional data to behavioral data.

For decades, we’ve used transactional data —measuring what happened in the past — instead of using that data to tell us what we need to do to increase sales and service delivery tomorrow. But with a profession populated in large measure with small independent business people, it is difficult to build, much less afford the type of data systems needed to compete in today’s marketplace.

At a conference I recently attended, the question was posed, “What if you woke this morning to read that Amazon had announced they are going to invest big in the delivery of eyecare services and eyewear before the end of 2019, what would you do?” It is a very good, and not wholly unreasonable, question.

I think the reason people fear Amazon’s entry into our profession is that we know how good they are at competing. We know how much we like using them and how intimidating they are to anyone who has to compete with them … just ask Walmart.

Amazon’s real power is their use of both transactional and behavioral data. Have you ever purchased something from Amazon and for the next two weeks, everywhere you go on the web there are ads associated with what you just purchased? They studied purchasing behaviors and know that a majority of people who buy X will also buy Y if given the opportunity. They are using historical data to predict future purchasing.

With an online analytic program for the independent ECP, we could begin to understand what happened in the past and think about how to use that to impact the future. For example, if you knew a significant percentage of patients who purchased two or four boxes of contact lenses at exam purchased additional boxes within six months, then you could communicate with those patients right when they are most likely to repurchase.

However, this requires new capabilities in data collection, new tools and software for analyzing this information, and most importantly, a new way of thinking about the information being created in our businesses.

The future is not coming, it is here and those who are willing to think differently today will be the ones who will be relevant tomorrow.

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John Marvin

Sometimes Pulling the Goalie is the Best Decision to Make

Three examples of when and how you should go on the offensive.

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MALCOLM GLADWELL IS ONE of my favorite authors. You may be familiar with his best-selling books David and Goliath, The Outliers, Blink and The Tipping Point.

In a recent episode of his podcast Revisionist History, Gladwell discusses his only rule for living: Pull the Goalie.

Hockey fans will know the meaning of this term. In some instances, a hockey coach may “pull the goalie” during a game to provide a sixth attacker and create an offensive advantage. However, when a coach chooses to do this, and under what circumstances, is controversial since it can make them defensively vulnerable.

It’s an allegory for the science of decision making. Deciding when to act or not act is something ECPs do all the time. And, as in hockey, those decisions can be second guessed and criticized by others.

I want to highlight three examples of when a business owner should decide to “pull the goalie” to create an advantage.

Hiring staff. If you are like most, you are constantly trying to determine if you have enough staff, should hire more, or let someone go. There are countless opinions about this. Most owners, like hockey coaches, are conservative in their decisions. If we think five staff members is the right number, we may try to operate with four. It is, after all, less expensive. We tell ourselves, “I would rather have four excellent people and pay them well than five who are mediocre.” But then one of our four all-stars leaves. Now we have three all-stars having a difficult time delivering the quality of service and care we expect. Everyone is frustrated, so we decide to hire someone. The first person with any optical or optometry background is hired whether or not they are the best fit. Now if we had pulled the goalie early and hired a fifth person, we could still have delivered the high level of service and taken the time to interview and hire an additional person. It is a dangerous cycle. The staff is shorthanded, which frustrates everyone and the result is a greater risk of additional turnover.

Correcting a problem. Reluctance to do so is the result of three stages:

1) Denial, where we attempt to convince ourselves we don’t have a problem. We rationalize, justify and procrastinate. Like in hockey, we tell ourselves, “We are only down one goal, we can still win.” The longer we stay in this state the worse our problems become.

2) Attempting to minimize the effect of the problem, since it is less disruptive than doing what is necessary to solve it. We move a difficult person into another position, we attempt to work out the delivery issues with the supplier to avoid changing vendors. We spend a lot of energy trying to avoid making a decision.

3) Accepting reality and recognizing we should have pulled the goalie early and avoided the problem all together.

Embracing innovation. Too many ECPs are waiting out the clock and hoping for the best. They believe that somehow, someway, all of the competition, innovation, changes in reimbursement, and demanding consumers will just go away. It will go back to the way “it used to be.” This is a dangerous place to find yourself. The competition just gets stronger. What used to be a secure and predictable practice begins to lose ground. Other services and providers are offering more and charging less. The industry itself is fighting to stay relevant. The best advice when you find yourself in this situation is to pull the goalie early and go on the offensive. Attend meetings, conferences, visit innovators, learn about the consumer. Fight to grow, build and win.

The good news is that many won’t and that gives you the advantage.

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