The idea of retaining existing patients rather than constantly chasing new patients isn’t a new thing. It was back in 1990 when Harvard Business School published the results of research into the patient lifecycle. And here’s what they found:
“In industry after industry, the high cost of acquiring customers renders many customer relationships unprofitable during their early years. Only in later years, when the cost of serving loyal customers falls and the volume of their purchases rises, do relationships generate big returns. The bottom line: increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.”
Obviously, that’s an eye-opening statistic and one that any business needs to take notice of.
In this article, we’ll look at patient retention strategies for optometrists, including why patient retention matters and how you can keep more of your existing patients coming back for more.
Why patient retention is important
Well, given the startling statistics above, we’ve already covered this to a certain extent. Increasing profits is what every business wants. However, there’s more to patient retention than just your profits.
What businesses need is stability and smooth cash flow and you don’t get either of those if you spend your time constantly chasing new patients to keep your business going. Using that model, if you had a poor month and brought in only low-quality leads or fewer leads than usual, then you would expect to have far less income and low or possibly no profits at all.
While no company’s accounts look like a beautifully straight line consistently going upward, it’s not healthy for a business to have huge peaks and troughs of variable income. If you can’t guarantee that you’ll at least be able to meet your bills and pay yourself and your staff each month, then your business isn’t in a good position.
Of course, you don’t want to stop trying to gain new patients – you do need both for a successful optometry practice – but what smooths out your income peaks and troughs is to ensure that your existing patients come back to you again and again.
It’s also far less stressful and time-intensive to ensure you retain your existing patients than to spend all your time trying to find new ones. And it’s far cheaper to keep your current patients than it is to attract new ones.
Patient retention strategies to consider in your small business
There are a number of things you can do to increase your patient retention and encourage your existing patients to buy from you again. Read on for our tips on patient retention strategies for optometrists.
1) Provide an exceptional patient experience
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll have the only optometry practice in the area and, naturally, that means people have a choice in which one they attend. While you can’t get rid of the competition, you can ensure that your patients have an exceptional experience from start to finish with you.
That means ensuring that every contact they have with your company is top-notch, whether it’s a simple phone call, booking an appointment, attending your practice, or finding you online.
Patient experience matters more than ever now, and people’s standards are high. Rather than compete on price and run a race to the bottom, compete on sheer excellence.
Not only will your customers feel valued, but they’ll be far more likely to come back to you and stick with you.
2) Deliver on promises
Really, this is part of the patient experience. You’ll have heard the saying, “Under promise and over deliver.”
Firstly, whatever you’re promising to do, it’s important that you keep your word and deliver what you said. You want to have a reputation for being professional, honest, and reliable, and delivering on your promises is the way to do it.
But it’s even better if you surprise and delight your patients by delivering even just a little bit more than they thought they were getting. For example, perhaps you offer delivery of new glasses within ten days, but you make sure your patients really get them within seven days. Or maybe you could include a free glasses cleaner kit and a spare case with each new pair of glasses that people don’t know they’re getting. It doesn’t have to be huge or cost a lot of money, or even any money, as long as it’s an added extra that makes customers happy.
If you go above and beyond, your patients aren’t going to check out the competition at all. They’re going to stay with you.
3) Reward loyalty
Extending point two further, you could choose to offer special discounts for long-term patients, or you could set up an official loyalty scheme to keep people coming back.
You’ll have seen loyalty cards for grocery stores and shops like Starbucks where customers collect points as they shop to earn discounts on their shopping later or get a free coffee. A similar scheme could work well for your optometry practice, where regular patients can perhaps get a free eye test after a certain length of time.
Whatever you decide to offer, base it on knowing your patients and what makes them tick. You’ll keep more patients if your rewards fit in with what they want.
4) Optimize for your patient journey
If you haven’t yet looked at your audience and created your patient personas, now is the time to do it. You need to know your audience inside out, including how they find you, so that you can go through the patient journey and ensure it is as effective as possible.
Take a look at your website and test every aspect of it. Make sure every link works, every button works, and that your contact details are front and center. Check that your copy is clear and it’s easy for customers to find what they want and to book. Consider adding live chat to your website so patients can get answers to their questions there and then. It makes for a smooth and easy patient experience if they don’t have to go anywhere else or call you to get everything they need.
Check out your onboarding process when you get a new patient too. Is that as smooth and easy for you and the patient as it can be? Do you have all paperwork to hand without having to go and get it? Is everything set up for a pleasant and straightforward appointment?
Finally, look at your sales funnel from start to finish. Look at how patients find you and what they do next. Ensure that you have the right content at every stage of the sales funnel to encourage people through to making a buying decision.
It’s a good idea to do this exercise at least once a year to see where you can make improvements for a better patient experience and a frictionless patient journey.
5) Personalize your messaging
People take more notice of marketing messages when they see their own names included. It automatically makes us stop and pay attention. For that reason alone, it’s worth personalizing your messaging, but there is more to it than that.
Going back to providing a quality patient experience, you can personalize your messaging to give a better experience. While you can do this manually, it’s much easier to segment your mailing list and use automation to send targeted offers and discounts to particular people. People also enjoy receiving a small gift or a discount when it’s their birthday.
Personalizing your messaging is an excellent way to make people feel special and encourage them to be loyal to your practice.
6) Be available and interact through chat, email, and text
We have already talked about using live chat on your website. This is not only good for your patients, but it can save you time too. You can set up your chatbot to answer basic questions, such as your opening hours, so that your team doesn’t have to keep picking up the phone as much to do this.
It’s important to be available to your patients so that it’s easy for them to contact you. People now expect to be able to reach companies in a variety of ways, including phone, chat, email, and text, but also via their social media platforms. You may get questions on Facebook or your other social platforms, and it’s important to pay attention to these and to be responsive.
Again, this is another part of a good patient experience. If you can be available to talk to potential patients and existing ones, you’re more likely to bring in new patients and keep existing ones.
7) Ask for feedback
Asking for feedback is a great way to find out what your patients think of you and your optometry practice.
You can find out what they like and what they’d like to improve. You can also get ideas for new services or different ways of doing things from listening to your patients.
This is a great way to get to know your audience and you can find out what rewards will work to help you keep your patients coming back.
8) Analyze data
With website analytics, statistics from your social media platforms, and your marketing metrics, you’re fully equipped to analyze your data and see what you can learn from it.
You can find out where people find you online, which helps you focus on the right social platforms. You can also see how your sales process is performing and if there are any places where you begin to lose potential new patients.
Your data can inform every aspect of your marketing and show you where improvements are possible in your practice.
It’s vital to keep a regular eye on your data and to make positive changes from what it tells you.
Keeping things fresh and responsive in your practice also contributes to your patient retention rates.
9) Be transparent
Even in the best optometry practices, sometimes things go wrong, or changes need to be made.
Rather than trying to hide that or pretend it isn’t happening, it’s much better to be honest with your patients and keep them up to date.
People generally respond very well to up-front, clear information and a quick and honest apology if there’s an issue. While you can’t win them all, you can often defuse a poor review or a complaint simply by being transparent and offering to put things right.
10) Use software to simplify things
When you’re busy running your optometry practice, it can be hard to stay on top of patient retention, but help is on hand.
With the right software, you can take a number of tasks off your plate and leave them to the software or some element of automation to take care of.
Chatbots can help you with patient contact and save you time answering queries, you can use segmentation and autoresponders on your email marketing to send timely, personalized offers to the right people, and so much more.
Why not schedule a demo of Surefire Local’s business intelligence marketing software and see how we can help your optometry practice retain more patients?
Our business intelligence marketing software gives you one quick login to access your dashboard and you can control the whole of your marketing from there. You don’t have to pay for or log in and out of multiple platforms. Everything is there at your fingertips.
You can manage your content and ensure you have the right copy at every stage of your sales funnel, and you can manage your email marketing too.
Take care of requesting and replying to reviews right from our intuitive dashboard and you can manage and reply to patients on your Google Business Profile.
Make it easy on yourself and let our software help you keep in constant contact with your patients for an excellent patient experience that helps you with your patient retention.