Creating a Welcoming Culture in Your Optometric Practice

By Masoud Nafey, OD October 31, 2016

Independent optometrists are often looking for a competitive edge to help drive patients to our front door. However, that is only part of the challenge we face in private practice. Once patients actually make it to the door, we have to find ways to keep them coming back annually. One overlooked draw for patients to stay loyal to a practice is a welcoming culture. It plays a critical role in practice growth and patient retention. Here are some ideas to help you create a more welcoming culture for your practice.

Show patients you are human.
We don’t usually think about this as we spend our entire career caring and treating other human beings. However, connecting with patients on a personal level can play a positive role in your practice’s growth. You can achieve this by posting some personal details on your business webpage and business’ social media accounts. Using your best discretion, post about your family, your involvement with the community, your donations to local schools, or even some activities you love. It will help build a personal connection. You can do the same for your staff and management team. Make sure you stay away from politics and hot topics, like social issues. After all, you run a medical practice caring for patients, not a law firm.

Have a presence on the web.
Make sure you have a website that isn’t from the dinosaur ages, with some digital images and state-of the-art graphics. Don’t know how to do this? Don’t worry—there are companies out there that will happily create your website for you. Also, create a business account on Facebook and even Instagram and post weekly or bi-weekly, if possible. You can also create a listserv for your existing patients for internal marketing materials. This will be a great avenue to educate your patients regarding the importance of annual eye exams and inform them of any promotional offers your practice is offering. In today’s world, you must ensure your office is on Yelp, Google and other business-review sites. More importantly, have a presence on these sites. Dedicate one or a few of your staff members to regularly pull up these sites so they can respond to reviews, both positive and negative. Some practices even make a business card specifically to promote their patients to post positive reviews on their business webpages. However, be smart about it—train your staff to only hand these cards to happy patients after they pick up the new glasses they are in love with.

Offer referral promos or hold promotional events.
The best source of referrals is from word of mouth. Some practices have found it extremely rewarding to promote referral discounts for their existing patients. For example, perhaps offer your existing patients a $10 credit towards their next glasses purchase for every new patient referral they bring to your practice. This can easily be tracked on practice management software.

Also, it will behoove your practice revenue if you have semi-annual frame or trunk shows. Work with your frame reps to schedule these types of promotional events on your slower or lower revenue-generating months of the year. Once you pick a date, market the promotional event both internally and externally. Email your existing patients and post about it on your website and Facebook business page. Another great method to promote your practice is by having a presence in community events. Reserve a booth at local school events or local church, mosque, temple events—get to know people of your community so they can get to know you, as a person and potentially as their optometrist.

Build trust in your practice.
As I see it, patients will return to your office if you build your trust with them. They walk into our offices expecting to receive quality care and be approached by a knowledgeable team. Patients expect honesty and access to various patient education tools and resources. In order to build this trust, you need to have the right team—welcoming, people-loving folks who have a smile on their face, wonderful body language, and a positive tone of voice. Believe it or not, our patients look for these traits and if these expectations aren’t met, your practice growth and patient retention is at risk. Just as optimistic words regarding your practice is the most effective driving force for new patient referrals, destructive words can be harmful to your practice. Even worse, negative online reviews are available for everyone to see once they search your business on the web. More now than ever, online reviews are having a growing impact on practice growth and patient retention.

How do you create a welcoming culture in your office? 

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