How do I…

Hello, to hello again

Managing director and co-founder of Kirk & Kirk, Jason Kirk, offers advice on the customer journey

Jason Kirk

Attracting a new customer to your practice can be hard enough, but retaining them can be even harder.

Loyal patients are so much more valuable than one-offs. Not only do they spend more money with you, but they are also ambassadors, encouraging their friends and colleagues to visit you too.

Keeping them

Nowadays, phrases like ‘the customer journey’ and ‘cost per acquisition’ are commonplace in business-savvy practices across the UK as they actively strive to retain their patients. Therefore, if they are new to you, then you might want to read on.

The customer journey starts way before a person walks into your practice. Unless you have the wherewithal to compete with the excellent, omnipresent advertising High Street multiples, you need to seek other means of getting your practice noticed at a local level.

Make sure that your practice has an online presence that reflects its unique business message. This should be kept simple, but effective. I will wager that thousands more people will visit a website than ask for a business card.

Facebook and Instagram accounts are two ways to connect with people.  Having a presence of these channels is essential for winning clients – this could be invaluable for developing new business.

"Experience is everything and your customer needs to enjoy their interaction with the practice and its team long before they first visit the practice - and long after they leave"

Into practice

Once a prospective new client is convinced that your practice looks modern, you have an exciting selection of frames and that you are professional, they will make an appointment. However, the journey does not stop there.

In today’s world, no one ‘waits’ for anything, so the customer experience needs to be seamless. The idea of a waiting area is an anathema to most people under the age of 40. To them, the idea of a receptionist also feels pretty dated too.

In reality, you only need two people to handle a patient – the optometrist to perform the eye test, and the dispensing optician to dispense, or what most people would call ‘sell.’

Let’s be more honest with our customers. The internet demands transparency and therefore we do not need to hide behind medical words to disguise the fact that an optical practice is a business. Let the customer know what is going on and let them enjoy the experience.

The journey   

Start the visit by showing an interest in your customer. Find out what they do, where they go, how many pairs of glasses they own and what their relationship with glasses is like. Assure them that, while they are having their eyes tested, you will select frames that meet their personal requirements. This adds an element of continuity, and when they return from the eye test, let them enjoy some interesting eyewear and inform them about why each frame meets their needs.

The same, single person should advise on frames and lenses. They should also finish the transaction so that each customer has the opportunity to build a relationship with one member of the practice team.

After a customer leaves, keep lines of communication open via email and text. This way of communicating is not considered intrusive nowadays and will be welcomed more than a phone call.

Once they have collected their frames they are gone. This is where your quest to get them back begins.

"A Facebook page and an Instagram account are two ways that people get informed about their purchases"

Retaining them

Ask every customer for their email address and add them to your mailing list. A quarterly newsletter is a great way for an opticians to keep their practice name in the consciousness of a customer and to remind them that you are their opticians.

Why not drop customers a line after a month to see how they are getting on with their new glasses? Or ask them if they want to pop in for a cup of coffee and an adjustment. It pays to keep them close.

With a bit of coaxing from you, they will follow the practice on Facebook and Instagram, and maybe even post a picture wearing their new glasses. As a result, you will be in ‘contact’ with them on social media, so that when the time comes for a new eye test, they do not think twice about where to go.

It sounds so easy because it is. Experience is everything and your customer needs to enjoy their interaction with the practice and its team long before they first visit the practice – and long after they leave.