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The Two Burning Questions Every Practice Owner Must Answer About Their Employees

Survey says 70 percent are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

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TWO BURNING QUESTIONS should be on the mind of every practice owner and manager. The first: Are my employees engaged? The second: How can I better engage them?

Gallup found that 70 percent of employees are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. This affects morale, productivity and customer service, and can ultimately impact quality of care.

Fortunately, research indicates that it doesn’t require extensive capital investment or time to boost employee engagement. I’ve heard this from employees in the polling I do for my optometry employee development workshops.

Most staff members aren’t primarily in their roles for financial reasons. I ask conference participants why they work where they do and each time, “exposure to a variety of roles” is the most cited reason. This rang true for 48 percent of the more than five dozen employees who responded in Nova Scotia. It was the top pick by a 21-point margin.

My workshop encourages employees to seek opportunities in their current roles that allow for greater personal fulfillment and professional development, while generating increased value for the overall practice.

 This goal overlap produces results. According to Blessing White’s 2017 Employee Engagement Report, in organizations with the highest levels of engagement, 88 percent of employees agree their work is more than just a job. It also found that engaged employees stay for what they’re able to give, while disengaged employees stay simply for what they get … compensation.

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I’ve heard dozens of business-savvy ideas from staffs about how their practice could be improved. These include: engaging patients during their wait times, giving the waiting room a fresh coat of paint, setting up social media accounts, implementing regular staff meetings, and emailing patients their appointment reminders.

In many cases, these ideas can impact efficiency, enhance customer service, and bring in new patients. When attendees leave my workshop, they’re empowered to bring these ideas back and initiate them.

To ensure this motivation carries through to action, ODs should consider two things:

First, does your practice create opportunities for new ideas to be shared? It will be difficult to harness the insights of your team without meetings or a culture of sharing. Second, is your staff incentivized to contribute ideas? Is it clear that bringing forward a new revenue-generating idea will result in a reward? Do they know they will be recognized, encouraged and thanked for their ideas?

Undeniably, financial compensation drives motivation, but my research also shows optometry employees crave “more stimulation and personal satisfaction.” Nearly a third of my workshop respondents in Regina, SK, listed the latter as their top choice for what they want more of in their role.

A raise won’t necessarily drive productivity. But an incentive program that encourages teamwork and the pursuit of excellence — like a bonus for each exam booked beyond a quota — can couple financial compensation with business results in a stimulating way.

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 Engagement can begin with something as straightforward as seeking employees’ views on customer service or software. Employees want to engage. All optometrists need to do is ensure their practice’s environment is ripe for engagement.

Pauline Blachford consults with ODs on reducing un-booked appointments, increasing sales, and improving staff engagement and productivity. She is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences and events, and writes regularly for a variety of industry publications. Visit her at paulineblachford.com

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Six Ways to Make Your Patient Experience Memorable

It’s all about hitting them in the feels.

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WHEN YOU THINK OF memorable experiences you tend to remember the times that you felt something. Creating a memorable patient experience is no different! Here are some ways to be memorable:

Active Listening

Pay attention to the patient from the moment they call for an appointment. Train your staff to take notes during this initial touch point and ask questions to understand what type of experience they are seeking. Once the patient is in your exam chair, you’ll have a “blueprint” of their expectations and can address the pain points that brought them in. Face them when they are talking and maintain eye contact.

Doctor Driven Dispensing

Whether you’re an owner or employee, doctor driven dispensing creates a memorable experience and drives loyalty through patient education of products. The clinical findings from the examination should be aligned with all the products you recommend and prescribe. You are the authoritative voice and experienced professional of the office; educate patients on why you are recommending a product and how it’s different from online retailers.

Storytelling

Storytelling can be an influential connector to your patients because it’s an emotional driver and memorable moments are created by emotions. It makes the patient experience a human experience. Be authentic.
Letting them know that your family member has the same issues with progressive lenses and what specific product you prescribed to solve it creates more value for your office than competing on price.

Market Memories

Online retailers like Warby Parker will donate a pair of glasses. It creates a memorable experience for the patient because they know that their purchase will help others. Whether it’s a local charity event or mission trip, your office can do the same. Use your email database and social media platforms to educate your patients about your involvement in the community.

Follow Up

The patient experience does not end with the exam. Making a follow up call to a patient can make a lasting impression and has more impact than you think in developing the critical doctor/patient relationship. Set reminders in your EMR system to have your staff follow up one week, one month or six months on progressive adaptation or overall satisfaction with service or products. Document personal information — job information, children’s names, etc. — in their chart and mention it in your next exam.

Be Unique

Your unique style makes you memorable. Humor is a memorable factor. Don’t be afraid to have a different approach to patient care; humor will make you likeable and approachable to new patients. You want patients to feel comfortable; being funny is one way to do it. Your personality, humor, empathy, and attention to detail are your signature to the world.
It speaks volumes; use it to create a memorable experience that no one can mimic because your “you” is unique.

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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 their 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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Robert Bell

Don’t Just Ask Questions, Actually Listen to the Answers

Sounds simple, but many don’t do it when trying to sell eyewear.

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A LONG TIME AGO, I overheard a conversation between two people:

Person 1: “Ugh, I just wish there was a magic potion you could drink to lose weight!”

Person 2: “There is. It’s called water.”

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Makes me laugh, every time, because of its sheer simplicity. Anytime I put myself on a weight loss plan, drinking lots of water a day is on the regimen. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The not so simple part is actually doing it. To drink all that water per day (… hold on, I gotta go refill my water bottle…) isn’t easy. It is, however, very doable.

Well, it’s the same thing with selling.

There isn’t a magic potion for selling (trust me, I’ve drunk a lot of red wine just to be sure) but there is a magic wand. Know what it is? Listening. I mean really listening! The best salespeople I ever meet, in any industry, are always, hands-down, the best listeners. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The hard part is doing it. I’ll share with you how to make that easier.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from one of my first clients, Dr. Robert Ratzlaff of RealEyes in Taos, NM. About a month after his EyeCoach training, he told me I had made him a better doctor. Hmm, strange I thought. I’m not a doctor nor did I attend optometry school.

“Doctor, how the hell did I do that?”

“By making me a better listener.”

“Ah, and how did I make you a better listener?”

“By teaching me to ask better questions. It forces me to listen to the answers.”

It forces me to listen to the answers.

If you’ve read my sales columns before, you know I’m all about the questions. The more questions, the better. The questions I ask have a “share with me” or a “tell me” element to them. Meaning, with each question I ask, I could have “Tell me” or “Share with me” as a preface. It implies we’re on the same team. It says, “Look, I’m not trying to persuade you, I’m trying to find out exactly how I can help you.”

“Tell me… when you’re reviewing your children’s homework, do you notice you’re moving the paper further away to read it?”

“Share with me… what’s happening with your eyes and vision when you’re at your daughter’s soccer games in the late afternoon? Just how harsh is that sun?”

“Tell me… how often is the baby grabbing the glasses off your face?”

“Share with me… how often are you rubbing your eyes and exactly what part of the day do you start to feel most fatigued?”

Wait for the answers. Don’t interrupt them, ever! When they’re done responding, ask another question until you have all the information you require to help them purchase all the eyewear they need.

I tend to nod my head up and down while they’re responding. Why? For me, it actually feels good and reminds me that I’m an active participant in this conversation. For them, it shows them I’m being an active listener and I care about what they’re talking about.

Listening. What a concept!

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