How can you thrive in today’s marketplace? A huge part of developing a successful practice is service. Service can take on many forms, but we all know when we are getting good service or bad service. Think of the last time you went to a restaurant. Was your service good or bad, and what were the criteria that influenced your answer? Think about that for a minute.

Typical answers might be attentiveness, time to be served, cheerful attitude, knowledgeable about the menu, helpful, checking your table frequently, suggesting menu items, telling you about their specials, and good answers to your questions.

Many of these same criteria are also important in an eye care practice.

For example, look at attentiveness. At the restaurant we want the wait staff to be cheerful, check on us to make sure the meal is going ok, the food is tasting good, etc. This applies to eye care practices as well. If a patient (Patient X) comes through your doors and is not greeted in a timely way, this could be the start of a service failure. The front desk is busy with phone calls so the patient sits down in the waiting room. (We would usually call this the reception area, but today it feels like a waiting room for Patient X). Then the doctor is running behind due to the previous patient’s late arrival, so the staff isn’t too worried about Patient X since they have other things going on, and besides they have had a busy day. When Patient X is finally finished with the exam, the opticians are already busy with other patients and walk-ins, and don’t take the time to talk to the new patient. Eventually Patient X has had enough and walks out the door, saying they will be back another day. Maybe they will come back another day, maybe they won’t.

According to a study by U.S. News and World Reports from 20 years ago, the top reason customers quit a business is due to an attitude of indifference by an employee of the company. The numbers from the study:

-67% leave due to an attitude of indifference on the part of an employee

-14% leave due to dissatisfaction with the product

-9% leave due to competition

Every business has “the big three” things to offer their customers: price, quality and service. (Common wisdom is you can only offer two of the three). If we look at the above three reasons, they basically ARE price, quality and service. An attitude of indifference is service, dissatisfaction with the product is quality, and competition is price. So basically the most important factor in retaining customers is service, and in third place is price. Is this what you would think, or would you think that price was more important?

The first thing on which every eye care practice should focus is customer service. Make sure your service is state of the art, proactive, and delivered to each and every patient. You will not only retain your current patient base, you will also gain new patients through the word of mouth advertising your happy patients freely provide.