Q & A with Jessica Chi from Victoria
Why was it important to you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
Contact lenses are my passion. I have been wearing contact lenses since I was 13 years old and they have made such an impact on my life—in terms of confidence, convenience and performance—as I was very active in school.
Contact lens patients, I believe, are the most loyal patients. They return more regularly, especially in the initial fitting process, and they are often the source of word of mouth referral.
What did you do to address your challenge?
I was fortunate enough to land a job in one of the leading contact lens practices in Australia. The practice owner, Richard Lindsay, already had a successful contact lens practice when I joined.
I also work at In2Eyes, a busy suburban practice with a strong Asian clientele. Here I have helped to develop the orthokeratology side of the business, generating approximately 90 patients in the first year.
My enthusiasm for contact lenses is what drives my success. My patients, my colleagues, my referral sources, they all know how genuinely enthusiastic I am about contact lenses. I always ensure that I am abreast of the latest contact lens developments by attending regular continuing education events, conferences, reading contact lens journals and so on.
What systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
As above, attending regular conferences and meetings, as well as presenting at some is great for networking and building a profile. I have a good working relationship with local ophthalmologists and other optometrists and this helps to generate more referrals.
At In2Eyes, offering orthokeratology was a way to provide more comprehensive services. I firmly believe that orthokeratology is the safest and most effective way to control myopia progression and as a practice with many children with Asian origin, having orthokeratology was a no-brainer.
Having up-to-date websites and information is important for the decision making for patients and parents of patients committing to contact lenses of any type.
What resulted from your actions?
A very busy appointment book and a strong following of contact lens patients and referrals who regularly continue to refer.
What does this change mean for you, your business and your patients?
Being able to provide the most comprehensive service helps to retain patients. If they feel they are receiving the best possible service they are less likely to go elsewhere.
The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way did you differentiate yourself from competitors?
Providing the best possible service is essential. In this day and age patients are savvier and are finding other ways to access their consumables. Trying to compete on a commodity level is almost impossible unless you are a multinational company. Whilst you can shop around for a better price for commodities, however, services vary significantly across any market. Ensuring that the patient is completely informed and completely satisfied at all times will drive loyalty.
How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?
At Richard Lindsay and Associates we are fortunate enough to have many good referral sources. Maintaining these referral sources is important. We ensure we write thank you letters once the patient management is achieved. As mentioned before, having up to date websites also helps make the practice easily accessible to people.
How do you go about retaining patients and reducing drop-outs?
I like to address problems before they become problems. Patients are not going to return to you to tell you that they have stopped wearing their contact lenses, they will simply stop wearing them. They may return a few years later and say that spectacles were just easier, however by then you have already lost them.
If a patient returns for review and they report that their contact lenses are comfortable, I may ask when they begin to notice their contact lenses. Patients will often perceive end of day dryness as normal. If the patient is presbyopic or pre-presbyopic I always discuss presbyopic contact lens options. I’m beginning to do this at earlier ages even if the patient is asymptomatic, as an educated patient will know that there are options which may keep them in contact lenses longer, prompting them to return rather than to simply cease wearing their lenses.
Having a pleasant experience will bring patients back. When I see my patients for review often it doesn’t feel like an appointment, it almost feels like a catch up with an old friend. Remembering little things about patients will bring loyalty. Whilst you have many patients, they only have one optometrist so make them feel like they are your only patient.
I also spend a lot of time educating patients, telling them of the newest developments, yet reminding them of the importance of continued care. Thus, when they are due for their review, they can come in and we can discuss whether their lens type or lens-care needs to be upgraded.
What kind of mindset did you need to have to ensure success?
There is a lot of negativity surrounding the future of contact lenses and optometry. With online sales and more competitive pricing, optometrists in Australia are often loath to spend time educating and prescribing patients with contact lenses. However, contact lenses are a very important part of optometric practice. Whilst it is nice when patients purchase their lenses off you, I do not ever make the patient feel pressured. Once you do this, you have lost the patient forever.
Being as up to date as possible with the latest contact lens technology advances is essential, but knowing the latest information is not enough. Just because you know it doesn’t mean your patients know you know it. Talk to them, educate them, make them want to come back to see you.
What were the most important factors that contributed to your business success?
I was very fortunate to have a great mentor like Richard Lindsay. He had already set up an excellent contact lens practice and reputation. When I first began, I was able to ride on his coat-tails. I have since built my own reputation as someone who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about contact lenses and that has gained me respect throughout optometry and contact lens industry but most importantly with my patients.