It’s a well-worn axiom that it costs more to obtain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Yet, despite the ubiquitous nature of this shred of wisdom, most everybody takes existing customers for granted.
How so, you ask? In a bunch of ways. By creating special promotions for new customers (patients, if you prefer), with no comparable incentive for existing ones. By keeping patients on hold to ask the doctor a question, instead of trying to help them immediately. Or by relegating them to some lengthy phone message about your practice while they wait to talk to a human.
Nowhere is this more evident than on Facebook. Everybody has a Facebook page, and everybody’s objective is to get as many “likes” as possible, as though one achieves a coveted status when one gets into the quadruple digits.
You know what the ever-popular “they” say? “They” say that most marketing budgets are 90% directed at obtaining new customers and only 10% at retaining existing ones. Yet it’s been proved time and again (by “they”) that an existing customer will more readily increase their purchasing, remain loyal, and refer others to one’s business than new customers.
For optical, this is a particularly touchy situation, as patient/customer erosion—in the wake of big box and online retailing—plagues the independent channel of this industry. This one is a no-brainer—if you want to keep your patients (customers) from going elsewhere, treat them as if you value them.
THREE DECADES On June 19, 1982, I entered the optical business as the editor of a now long-forgotten publication called Optical Index. On the Wednesday of June 21, two days old in optical, I ambled up to Boston to attend my first-ever AOA Annual Meeting. For someone who didn’t wear glasses, had never been to an eye doctor, or had even a remote understanding of the field, I was overwhelmed. Candidly, at the end of my first day at the meeting I didn’t think I would last, a sentiment I shared that evening over drinks with my old college chum, Marc Ferrara, who was in Boston working toward his PhD. It’s been 30 years and I must admit that the optical business is in my blood. I count many good friends among its citizenry. Many thanks to the professions, the people, and the industry that have so dramatically shaped my life.