Your Words Matter
The perceptions of your patients – your customers – are key elements in their buying decisions. As a full-service optometric business, you face a unique challenge in terms of those perceptions. People use different decision-making (purchasing) criteria in medical environments than they do in retail environments, and your practice probably has both. The presence of these two very different business models can cause a disconnect, a small hiccup in the purchasing process when a patient transitions from the exam room to dispensary.
You have the tools to smooth out that transition, and influence the patient’s decision by making some deliberate choices in your office dialogue. That is to say, the language we choose when we speak to our patients about the process of prescribing and filling their eye wear can either encourage or discourage them from making purchasing choices. There are several important elements that influence customer perceptions; in this article, we’re going to talk about “authority,” and how the doctor, and staff, can leverage authority as medical professionals to help their patients make the best decisions for their eye health solutions by using prescribing language.
Who’s in Charge?
Think for a moment if you would be more prone to listen to your doctor or a sales person. For most folks, it’s an easy answer. They believe their doctor is more likely to be their advocate, whereas a salesperson is a potential adversary – someone who is more interested in their money than their welfare. Your patients probably have a similar feeling about your dispensary versus your exam chair. When you’re speaking to them as their doctor, they are listening as they would to advice from someone they trust. They believe in your authority as an expert. When they step into your dispensary, they may lose that respect and begin to challenge your optician’s or sales staff’s recommendations, because their perception has shifted. They are no longer thinking about protecting their vision; they’re thinking about protecting their wallets. In their minds, your staff does not have the same authority as the doctor does.
Getting over this hurdle isn’t impossible. What you need to do is find ways to help your patients regard your dispensary team as an extension of your medical care, rather than separate retail personnel. You may think that’s a no-brainer, but your perceptions are not the ones that are being used to make purchase decisions. It’s absolutely critical that you understand your office’s dialogues; they can lay a terrific foundation for transferring your authority as the prescribing doctor to your team, as point of sale experts who are actively working to help the patient.
Leverage the Language of the Rx – Prescribe!
The language of the Rx, or prescribing language, is a commitment on the part of everyone in the practice, from doctor to front office, to speak to the patients in terms of prescribing. We want to help the patients understand that we are addressing their medical and / or vision needs professionally, for their welfare, then help them view your dispensary more like they would their pharmacy – as a necessary fulfillment of their medical and / or vision needs.
Using prescribing language can set the patient expectations properly, and boost the success of your dispensary sales team. PLUS, your patients end up with more of the great optical products they need to really give them comfortable, clear vision. That’s a win for everybody. Here are some language choices that support the authority of the doctor, and help to transfer it to the dispensary staff.
- Doctors do not “recommend” lenses and lens options; rather, they “prescribe” specific solutions to enhance vision, solve issues, and improve the quality of the patient’s lifestyle.
- Opticians do not “sell eye wear;” they “fill prescriptions.”
- Both the doctor(s) and the optician(s) are strategically aware of how the other is speaking to the patient. they are in agreement on the approach. Patients are treated to a seamless experience that meets their needs and they receive the best eye wear solutions.
- Patient dialogue is thoroughly evaluated, and deliberately scripted. It does not include words that create patient anxiety, including “allowance, covered, add-ons, out-of-pocket,” etc. Avoid billing and insurance language in the dispensary.
- Scripts are rehearsed. One of my favorite phrases is “practices that succeed are practices that practice.” If you want your presentations to your patients to be effective and professional, this is absolutely critical. Practice – a lot. Formulate appropriate responses to common objections, and help your team practice responding to challenging patients. You should always be open to refining your approach; evaluate and keep making adjustments until your whole team is humming in tune.
- Include an invitation in your scripting to return to the practice at any time, with savings for additional eye wear (sunglasses, a backup pair, a special occasion pair, a computer pair, etc.).
Be Your Patients’ Advocate
Of course, you want the best for your patients. Help them to perceive you as their trusted advocate, interested in the quality of their vision and their lives. You are in practice to help people, and your staff is actually there to support that effort. Shift your office language to a consistent, medical model approach, and help your patients select the very best options for their vision and eye health.