Tips for turning around a slow month
Even thriving practices sometimes come across slow stretches.
It’s an unavoidable part of business. What can make success is how you use that quiet spell. There are always opportunities to grow your business or to improve for the future. It’s easy to identify the window. You know a sluggish stint when you see it. But what can you do to make the most of it?
Making the most of a slow stretch
There are plenty of ways you can make a seemingly stagnant span productive. Whether you're updating your optical for a better capture rate or making sure patients are aware of unused benefits, you can always find something to better set up for success. To help you, we’re going to take a look at a few of the ways you can cash in on a cold stretch with business improvements. We'll break this up into three different sections:
- Engaging with patients.
- Around-the-office improvements.
- Planning for the future.
So, beginning with patient engagement, let’s take a look at the ways you can reap the benefits of apparently tepid time:
Engaging with patients
Let’s start with the different ways you can engage with patients to help keep relationships strong and ensure they’re coming in and using their vision plan benefits.
Dispensing follow-up calls
Every passive period follows a busy one. So how did all the eyewear you dispensed during that time turn out for your patients?
Down time is the perfect opportunity to build behaviors around dispensing follow-up calls. On any given day, it’s a great idea for your optical staff to call the patients who picked up their eyewear about 14 days ago. Pull up a list of recent transactions and start making your way through it! Call each patient to discuss how their new eyewear is working out for them. Are their frames correctly fitted? Are they adapting to their lenses alright? This sort of follow up tells your patients that you care about them and will strengthen their relationship with your office.
Also, these phone calls are great for reminding your patients to come back for adjustments and eyewear tuneups on a regular basis. Lastly, think of these as another chance to discuss those sunglasses or reading glasses or music glasses that your patient was thinking about but didn’t purchase last time they were in your office. If your team took all the necessary measurements and kept records, your patient can order those while still on the phone!
Pre-schedule patient appointments
Making plans to call up patients? Another box to check off is pre-scheduled appointments. This will help you ensure patients come in to use their benefits before they expire. Verify patients’ benefits and, if they have benefits to use, set an appointment to make sure they get what they’re paying for!
If patients have benefits they can use such an eye exam or new frames, call them to give them a heads up. Let them know: If you don’t schedule an appointment before this benefit expires, then you will lose it. FOMO is a powerful incentive! Plus, patients will appreciate that you’re making sure the benefits they pay for are getting used.
This will help you turn empty time into new appointments.
If you’re out-of-network with the plan, Anagram Access is the only tool that you can use to verify out-of-network benefits for any major plan that offers them. If you’re on panel, you can verify benefits through the vision plan or an in-network benefit verification tool.
Being productive around-the-office
There’s always plenty to do around the office. Whether you’re focusing on your optical, your front desk or elsewhere in the practice, you almost certainly have a to-do list. Now is the perfect time to start crossing things off. And if you don’t have a to-do list, then we have some ideas for you!
Practice front desk, sales and call scripts
Nearly every interaction with a patient is another opportunity to improve the chance they buy new eyewear from your optical. Training on those touch points will help your team refine their sales scripts and improve capture rates.
When patients call to schedule appointments how does your staff interact with them? And when they visit the optical is your team trained on each interaction? The initial welcome? The handoff from O.D. to optical? Each of these interactions can serve to strengthen your sales position.
The best way to make that possible is to write, roleplay and rewrite scripts. It’s a cliché, but practice really does make perfect. If you and your staff practice and use scripts, you can improve the chance that every interaction ends in a sale.
If you’re an out-of-network provider, make sure to read our out-of-network scripting tips! They help you explain how to talk about out-of-network benefits and, if you’re a Prosper user, we can also help you introduce these game-changing rebates to patients.
Audit your optical inventory
Keeping track of inventory at a busy optical can be hard. But when you come across a slow month, you have a perfect opportunity to count your inventory and ensure it is up to date in your EHR. Having an understanding of what is and isn’t in your inventory will help you make informed order decisions and make updates to your inventory that reflect patients’ buying preferences.
Set aside some time to physically count every frame in your office, both on display and in understock and compare that to the inventory in your EHR/PMS. If those numbers don’t match (and sometimes even if they do), dig deeper to understand where the discrepancies are and the reasons behind them. If your system says you have more frames than you do, it’s important to understand what’s missing and why. If your inventory system says that you have fewer frames in house than you actually do, then it’s time to update your inventory management processes. You can learn more with our partners at Frame Turn who can help you with exactly this portion of your business.
Setting your practice up for future success
How can you grow beyond what you're doing today? If you've crossed everything off your to-do list, then a slow month is the perfect time to think about where there are opportunities for future growth. Can you build out your marketing to acquire new patients? Maybe there's a speciality you're interested in exploring. Let's take a look at a couple different avenues to future success and how you can start making plans for them during downtime.
Marketing Your Practice
This is a huge topic, and we’ve already put some ideas together for you in previous Spyglass articles like this and this. It’s important to recognize that marketing your practice is vital to the long-term success of your business. Vision plans that you’re working with may be driving patients through your doors, but are they the right patients for your business? Do they purchase the products you want your patients to have or are they “just what my insurance covers” patients? Recognize that those patients, in today’s economic climate, may be a net loss for your practice given the rising costs of doing business.
Some quick questions to ask yourself at this time:
- Web presence.
- Is my website working and up to date?
- Are patients able to find me?
- Do they have a way to reach out?
- Online reputation.
- How are my reviews?
- Do I own the Google My Business listing for my practice?
- If I search "eye doctor near me" am I the top result?
- If not, why?
- Patient communication.
- When was the last time we reached out to patients we haven't seen in 18 months? 24 months? 30 months?
- What about patients scheduled for next month? Can we bring them in early?
- Local sponsorships and community engagement.
- Is my practice visible in the local community?
- Should I sponsor a little league team? This is especially beneficial for vision therapy or sports vision practices!
Building your specialty
Many ODs love seeing their patients for “regular” eye care without necessarily digging into specialization. Meanwhile, many others would love to build a specialty practice. Often, ECPs don’t have the time because they’re seeing a few dozen patients every day and can’t prioritize making the specialty happen. There’s no time like the present, especially if you find your appointment book lighter than usual.
Optometric scope of practice has increased dramatically over the last few years in just about every state, and many specialties create a loyal patient base and a significant referral opportunity from other providers in the area. If you already know the specialty you want to build, great! Let’s get started. If you’re unsure because there are so many options, that’s also great! Talk to your colleagues or ask some of the online OD groups (we recommend ODs on Finance and ODs on Facebook) who are all happy to help their contemporaries succeed!
Your slow stretch won’t stay slow forever!
There’s plenty to do during a sluggish spell. The important things are knowing how to fill the time with productive tasks and remembering that it won’t stay quiet forever! Eventually business will pick up. And when it does you can be confident knowing you took advantage of a stagnant stretch to ensure better business in the future!