Most businesses have polices that employees are required to follow. In general, office policies are a good idea. Policies provide structure for how to conduct business and create consistency around processes and operations. But in a service-based industry, well intended but rigidly executed office policies can become an obstacle to providing great customer service.
When you take a close look at office policies, it becomes clear that many of these policies are intended to protect the business. In fact, some policies are created as a response to issues that negatively impact the practice. I once heard a practice owner complain about an uptick of returns recently and responded by posting “No Refunds” signs in her optical. This is a perfect example of a policy that solely serves to protect the interests of the business without considering the paying customer (patient). As a consumer, why shouldn't you be allowed a refund if you are dissatisfied with a product or service?
Why even have policies?
I’ve heard from owners and managers who have been asked by the staff, “Why even have policies if we’re not going to enforce them?” Policies establish guidelines, but they can still be flexible. In fact, I suggest having an easy to remember “office motto” that supersedes written policies. For example, “Always make the patient happy” or “Let the patient win”. As long as employees are not allowing for anything that is illegal or unethical, empowering the staff to bend office policies on an individual basis to satisfy the office motto actually simplifies the decision making process when special requests or circumstances arise that require a deviation from a policy. What’s more important to your long-term success, happy patients or rigidly enforced policies?
If you’re concerned staff will abuse this newfound freedom, establish some guidelines. Consider allowing employees to make on-the-spot decisions that align with the office motto for any issue that will not cost the practice more than X dollars. When employees are no longer bound by strictly enforced policies but are free to act in the patient’s best interest, people are less likely to request refunds or make unreasonable demands when they sense you are trying to help them. If there’s uncertainty over whether an exception can be made to a policy, the employee can grab a manager (or you) for guidance. However, keep in mind that “taking to long to resolve an issue” is commonly listed as a top reason for customer dissatisfaction.
What if we can’t violate the policy?
Obviously you can’t satisfy everyone’s request. Sometimes you have to stand by a policy. A good approach in this case is to say no without saying no. For example, “I’m sorry Mr. Smith, but we do require full payment before we can place the order. But here’s what we can do. We’ll fill out all the paperwork and have the order ready to go as soon as you call us with a credit card number”.
In summary, it’s a bad policy to lean heavily on the phrase, “That’s our policy!”
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Let me suggest that... Read more
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Their answers were insightful.... Read more
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Promoting a new associate OD through your social media channels is an effective strategy in... Read more
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Practice owners feel the squeeze in multiple... Read more
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My feeling is we have an outright shortage of... Read more
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I had a consult with an Office Manager who... Read more
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FFCRA... Read more
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Maybe you’ve experienced some unpleasant events in your practice that you didn’t have a policy to cover, or you team is large enough that you vacation policy isn’t working anymore. Maybe you have never liked you scheduling and time management policy but do not know how to go about changing it.... Read more
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Careful frame and lens purchasing habits are needed in an unpredictable time.
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Multiple Pairs:... Read more
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Continuing Education is so important to your practice – your team can learn something new, you can expand the experience in your practice and it’s a great way to keep your team engaged. However, how do you determine payment for your employees during this time?
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It is demonstrably true that if you have a passion for a product, your enthusiasm is actually very difficult to contain. Getting behind a product is almost inevitable if you are a satisfied customer yourself.
Are you... Read more
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First – What can you do before... Read more
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Sunday is our day! Every Sunday we follow the same plan. We have been taking the same steps for so long that MY husband can do it on his own. I’m so proud!! We wake up bright and early, go downstairs into the kitchen and take a full inventory of the pantry, refrigerator and freezer and... Read more
Instagram can have a real impact on growing awareness for your independently owned optometry practice in your community.
It’s primarily a visual medium where you can tell your independent brand story through images and videos, and it’s a very popular daily... Read more
Why do I have to do what you’re asking me to do?
If an employee of yours asked that, your response would likely be harsh.
What do you mean why do you have to do it? You’re an employee here. I sign your paycheck. You have to do it because I told you to do it!
In... Read more
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Social media, online reviews and a well-performing website are all great tools in a good marketing plan for an optometrist in private practice, but the most successful practices understand that delivering remarkable service to their patients is the cornerstone of their marketing... Read more
If you are or have been responsible for managing people, you have been there. An employee whom you like and has done great work in the past is struggling in their role. Maybe they are more combative than usual with their peers or aren’t getting their work done effectively. Perhaps you have... Read more
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Whether I am advising a client or writing this blog, my primary objective is to give business owners actionable items that, if taken will positively impact them personally or improve their business in some tangible way.
The advice you receive, the articles you read, the software you... Read more
I have to admit something – I have been falling into Busy-ness Syndrome, where I feel like I am too busy with my responsibilities to do anything I perceive to be “extra”. That could be anything from an uncomfortable conversation to tending to obligations. Busy-ness Syndrome is not... Read more
This article assumes you’ve done your part in establishing value for the products and services you offer. If you fail to do this, then price inevitably becomes a factor as people will wonder if they can get what they need less expensively from another source. But let’s assume you’ve made a... Read more
How many private pay opportunities do you have each day?
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A good marketing plan for your optometry practice should include opportunities to meet people in your community, face to face. Time spent engaging in the right kind of community involvement for the practice is a valuable investment in building your brand.
While promoting your... Read more
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If you have not already done so, embrace package pricing. It brings simplicity and potential for additional revenues.
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Several years ago, I met with a financial advisor. I had been out of school a few years, and a friend suggested I speak with his father over lunch about debt management and financial planning. I thought I already had this under control, but why turn down a free lunch?
After some... Read more
Cost of Goods is the highest expense category for many – if not most – independent practices. And most owners feel like they’re spending too much or just don’t know – how does my Cost of Goods (COGS) compare to other practices?
I’ve heard practice management lecturers say that... Read more
Why am I the best option for my patients’ eyewear purchase?
Selection? Value? Convenience? Quality? Price? Expertise?
What messages am I sending in my marketing and interactions with them that makes the case that I am their best option?
There are three critical... Read more
Can you complete that sentence?
In one of my presentations titled “The Science of Selling: The Psychology Behind Why People Buy” I ask the audience this very question. This usually gets a mixed reaction of affirmative heads nods and looks of... Read more
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Sometimes, creating a policy for your practice can present more challenges than you expect. Meal Periods tends to be one of them. There are benefits and drawbacks to both style of meal period – Paid and Unpaid.
Unpaid Meal... Read more
Before you read this article, take three seconds and Google the name of your practice.
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In HR, documentation makes the world go ‘round. I talk about it in every consultation I have with our members. However, it isn’t because I like to hoard documents on my computer or pieces of paper on my desk (Although, my desk and computer might tell a different story). It... Read more
Establish guardrails. Employees should be permitted to make some of their own decisions, but there needs to be clarity on the boundaries. Micromanagement restricts employees. Boundaries empower them. A good example would be allowing your employees to use up to $200 to resolve... Read more
As an Optical Management Consultant, I often hear:
“I know what the numbers are, I need to know how to make them better.”
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My least favorite phrase to hear was “Michelle called out today”. It almost sucked the air out of the room. I had already planned out the whole day, for myself and the team. Before hearing that, I probably had a project in place, hopeful to progress in some way.... Read more
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It’s that time of year – practices are evaluating what went right – and wrong – in 2018 and setting goals for 2019. And with goals comes the age-old question: what should you do about a bonus plan next year?
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“I have never had to hire like this before!”
“I’m embarrassed to say, my longest-term employee has only been with me 9 months.”
“I never used to have this... Read more
They closed the gym in my office building for renovations and it won’t reopen until January. That has no relevance here except for me to tell you that it has me really annoyed. I had a plan! I was going to be proactive! I was going to start my New Years Resolutions early! I was going to... Read more
Change is scary, risky and very necessary. Changing anything from small policies to major remodels can be very tense. But it is worth some degree of discomfort to give a jolt of energy to a business that may need just that. Take some time to... Read more
How do you create efficiencies in a high-cost, low-margin retail environment? That was the question I was going to answer.
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An independently owned optometry practice in the United States is a small business, and most marketing experts agree that your marketing budget as a small business should be anywhere from 1% to as much as 10% of your gross revenue, depending on where the practice is located and how much local... Read more
Doctor, I see floaters in my vision. I think I have a retinal detachment!
I don’t need an exam because I did a screening online.
I put a moist teabag on my eye so it would heal faster.
I know I can’t have glaucoma because I smoke pot every... Read more
Many practice owners will struggle for to grow their revenues and profits – and therefore their incomes – from a cold start. Others may buy a healthy, existing practice or see fast growth. Whatever the case, achieving even a modicum of success can bring its own set of questions and... Read more
If you’ve ever sweated making payroll or wondered how you could possibly scrounge up enough cash to pay your distributor bill on time or just found it hard to pay yourself, you know the... Read more
The new reality is that many of our patients are shopping online for everything before they make a purchase. A second reality that you may not be aware of is that for some people online ordering is not as easy as the advocates for this model would have you... Read more
A handbook could be the most important document you create for your business. Here are the top 3 reasons why:
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I can’t afford to hire is a common refrain in consulting with the independent optometrist. And, it’s true! If you don’t have any expectation that your employees will produce for you, and by extension, pay their own salaries. It’s all in how you frame your fear, and structure pay incentives and... Read more
Warby Parker, big box, shopping malls, oh my! While some private practice ODs respond to local commercial competitors with (typically irrational) fears of a mass exodus of patients leaving their practice for the cheap prices and convenience of a low-cost retailer, other respond with a... Read more
If you own or manage an optometric practice, you’ve probably observed that online reviews have become ubiquitous in American consumer marketing. An independent optometric practice is now likely to manage its reputation across several online profiles, including the Google listing for the... Read more
Here’s a not-too-controversial observation: everyone would like to earn more income. As practice owners, your income is a function of the revenues your businesses bring in and the expenses you have to pay.
So, if you want to increase your income, should you be going over your... Read more
Good marketing for an independently owned optometric practice isn’t one size fits all, especially now when there are multiple generations with unique mindsets, characteristics, values and eye care needs in the United States.
Let’s say that as an independent Optometrist, you’ve decided to add new eyewear products into the mix at your practice, and now you’d like to market these products to existing and prospective patients.
I’d like to share an incredible customer service experience I had recently.
I was dissatisfied with the protein drink I had been using, since it had a slightly chalky taste and a higher sugar content than I wanted. I spoke with a friend of mine who suggested that I try a new protein... Read more
During his TedxTalk, Scott Hess recalled his first job out of college and a reaction from his boss. He said, “I was told that my performance was strong but that my appearance was a problem. I was upset… I thought I looked awesome. I couldn’t understand why this older boss of mine was making a... Read more
The Inevitable Plateau - “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress”
I spoke with an OD yesterday who was struggling to make a shift in the way they dispense contact lenses in their practice. The... Read more
I once suggested to a doctor struggling with employee motivation that he give his staff more positive feedback about the things they were doing well. Not his exact words, but his response was along the lines of, “I’m paying them to do a job, why should I have to stroke their... Read more
Picking up a new pair of glasses is exciting for the patient, the anticipation of new, clear lenses and updated beautiful frames. Celebrate with them, make a special event out of it. Prepare... Read more
A practice owner with a cash crunch recently pushed back on the advice I was giving – to defer some compensation for a quarterly distribution – with this statement: “I thought I was supposed to pay myself first!”
When I started working as a department manager in a large retail company, I joined a high traffic location in a mall and it was the highest volume store in the district. Despite that, I walked into a manager’s nightmare. The departments I was responsible for were experiencing double... Read more
Numbers don’t lie. A fact I am reminded of every time I step on the scale. Those ten little digits twixt naught and nine are our friends. And, like any good friend, we may not always like what they say, but they always tell us the truth.
I haven’t always been... Read more
I was named in a lawsuit once. Fortunately, I was the doctor who found the problem – not the one who misdiagnosed it. Nothing really came of this on my end, but I still recall the moments of terror that gripped my body every time a letter showed up from the legal firm handling the case.... Read more
Starting a solo optometry practice can be a daunting task, especially considering most optometrists do not graduate optometry school with a strong grasp of the business aspects of running a private practice. There are many things you need to do prior to your grand opening, but the work doesn’t... Read more
Office Managers are responsible for setting the expectations for all office employees. The optical staff is a unique situation because the patient experience is easily measured. Good communication and clear goals will go a long way to improve patient satisfaction in this very... Read more
Google and social media have changed the ways we look for information, discover area service providers and research options for health care, and as a result, many Optometrists who own a practice now question which tactics are the most effective to increase brand awareness, number of... Read more
The Science of Selling
Have you ever made what you considered an iron clad case for why a patient should purchase a certain product or service from you, only to have them walk out without ever making the purchase? As clinical professionals, we can be very logical in our approach with... Read more
Your optometry practice is incredibly valuable to you. “Well, Nathan” – you may say – “of course it is!” But have you ever thought of why it’s valuable?
You spend most days pouring your blood sweat and tears into it: hours and hours of patient care, planning,... Read more
The internet isn’t usually a popular topic in conversations I have with owners and staff members of optometric practices. Dealing with reviews and competition from web-based retailers along with the challenge of creating and maintaining a website and good social media marketing may have many... Read more
Optometrists in private practice sometimes fail to offer a clear reason why someone should choose them for their vision care over competitors - on their websites or in other marketing collateral – sometimes when you try to market to everyone, you fail to capture... Read more
When working with small business owners to create marketing plans and strategies, I run across the following scenario far too often: “Hey, I’m not sure how to log in to my Google listing. My office manager used to handle that for me, and she’s not on the team anymore... Read more
“You might as well ask me to describe the essence of music, or the color of starlight.”
Did you make any New Year Resolutions? Well, I did. I do every year, and in keeping with my obsession with goals and metrics that I have professed here repeatedly, I write them down... Read more
For starters, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I just play one as a practice management consultant. It’s been my observation that whenever human beings come together in an environment where they are required to work together and interact, inevitably some tension and conflict will arise.... Read more
Your schedule has gotten busier and you’ve hired an associate OD. While you would like to keep the associate’s schedule filled most of the time, it’s not uncommon for an associate to have some gaps in his or her schedule – at least in the beginning. This often leads to some resentment by the... Read more
Before anyone panics, I am not suggesting that most practices go out and spend $80,000 or $100,000 on a COO tomorrow, or that your manager is due a large raise for 2018. I typically only recommend that type of role for multi-location practices grossing over $2M-$3M per year: practices... Read more
Sometimes it’s not the inventory you choose to carry or the reps you choose to indulge. It’s not the pricing or the shipping or the cadence of your reorders. As we head into the tail end of the holiday season, I can’t help but think of the process of opening presents.
Everyone has... Read more
Texting is an incredibly tempting mode of communication for marketing-minded businesses competing for the attention of consumers, primarily because the open rates on a text from businesses to consumers are incredibly high (98%) compared to other forms of communication (email is around 20%,... Read more
“How many frames do I need?” “How many frames should I carry?” “How much stock should I have in inventory?” It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, at least 1/3 of my consultations start the same way. I’m going to make this all very, very easy for... Read more
If you are in a competitive area, you’ve already learned that marketing is a necessity to attract brand new patients to your practice. It’s easy to confuse marketing tactics – sending email, creating Facebook posts and advertising in a community magazine, for instance –... Read more
A practice owner pulled me aside at our most recent conference in Denver to start thinking of an exit plan. I always ask two questions when these discussions come up:
“How long do you see yourself continuing to own your practice?”
“How is your retirement savings coming... Read more
A consumer-centric culture with a focus on customer service is becoming increasingly important for brick & mortar businesses. While I do believe most practice owners strive to deliver on great service, it requires a team effort. I often hear owners tell me they want to be known in their... Read more
With all the talk of private equity roll-ups and regional alliances, many practice owners are concerned that if they aren’t a large, multi-office, multi-doctor practice, they don’t have a future in independent optometry.
Is that... Read more
One of the interesting mysteries that I get to unravel in many practices is the mystery of tight cash flow. Sometimes it’s obvious – a small practice with low profitability, for instance. But other times it’s not.
First off, what is tight cash flow? Here’s my simple definition:... Read more
Doctor: Would you like to order your contacts today, Mrs. Smith?
Mrs. Smith: That’s OK. I’ll just take the prescription and get them online.
What happened here? You just did a thorough, high-tech eye exam... Read more
For practices looking to grow, there are basically two paths: see more patients or generate more revenue per patient. Ideally, a practice will do both. One thing I consistently hear from ODs is that it’s hard to generate high revenue from contact lens patients. Even when selling annual... Read more
Can you find 20 or 30 minutes a week to hold a staff meeting? You might be surprised at the impact that it has on your optometry practice.
Your staff is your most valuable business asset. Your investment in optometry marketing, technology, office design, etc. will fail to deliver an... Read more
The very phrase can cause irritation, anxiety and bewilderment in the minds of owners who understand that they should somehow be participating in the conversations across the various social media platforms – but which ones are the best for optometry practice... Read more
While there is more than one way to achieve success, there are a few common traits that successful independent optometry practice owners have in common.
They refuse to accept the status quo. While others remain stagnant, ignore trends, and complain about the... Read more