Optical Business Management Mistakes to Avoid
Optical business management is an intricate process where precision, professionalism, and customer care intersect. Optical practices are more than just places where customers get their eyewear; they are centers of vision care where patients rely on top-notch service and high-quality products. Successfully managing an optical practice is no small feat, and it involves a delicate balance of business acumen and customer service.
Critical aspects of optical business management that, when overlooked or mismanaged, can lead to inefficiencies, poor customer experiences, and financial setbacks. From a lack of strategic planning to inadequate staff management, we'll explore the common pitfalls that optical practices encounter, and discuss ways to overcome them. By understanding these challenges and learning how to navigate them effectively, you put your optical practice in the best possible position to succeed. Let's begin our journey towards achieving optical business management excellence.
Lack of Strategic Planning
As an optical business owner, it is critical that you have a plan of attack for how you will manage your business that considers both the short and long term. You should have a vision for where you see your practice five, or even ten years from now, and establish the key metrics you will use to measure growth towards that goal. Without goals for your practice and a means to measure against them, it is extraordinarily difficult to grow your practice in an organized manner. Growing an optical business is not as simple as pressing a button. It is a struggle to realize your business's potential if you do not plan for, measure, and monitor growth.
Inadequate Financial Management
Many opticals struggle with optimizing their financial processes, which can contribute to lower revenue and an overall lack of financial productivity. This starts with budgeting and financial planning. Make sure your business has a plan for its expenses in any given quarter and has the funds on hand to cover those investments.
Conducting regular financial analysis is a massive component of managing a healthy business. Your business should run regular reports on financial performance, including cash flow, revenue, and growth both month-over-month and year-over-year. Regularly running these reports not only enables you to evaluate performance in a given month, but provides the opportunity to identify trends over time, and make strategic adjustments accordingly.
Remember the role that your software plays in your financial analysis and evaluation of your practice’s performance. Your reports should update automatically inside of your practice management software solution. Real-time reports save your business time and guarantee you have access to the most accurate information at all times.
Keep in mind, if you want accurate information in your reports (and to track particular data points or specific metrics like margin), the information entering your system has to be accurate. Ensure that the data you are putting into reports is clean, or the output will not be useful.
Strong management of cash flow is critical for any optical business, and it is a place where most struggle. Without adequate cash flow, your business may struggle to keep its operations running smoothly. To better manage your optical's cash flow look to your billing and collection process and improve your inventory management. Improvements to your billing and collection process will put money in your pocket faster. Focus on inventory management to make sure you invest in the right pieces at the right time and avoid spending money on product that does not sell.
Ignoring Technological Advancements
Any optical business should strive to provide the most high-tech, high-quality solutions for its patients. Failure to embrace modern optical technology can cause your business to fall behind its competitors and potentially lose business to organizations that place higher priority on the latest tech.
Ensure you conduct regular research into the latest technology your practice can use to its benefit, from retinal imaging to improvements in lens technology. Although this technology can be expensive up-front, it can be extraordinarily valuable long term by positioning your business as an industry leader that is willing to invest in the best for its patients.
On that note, consider new treatments that could help boost your profit margins and add new revenue streams. Many optical practices are starting to venture into cosmetic procedures like botox, microneedling, and red light therapy. Although it is likely contrary to what your business has offered previously, consider the potential growth that expanding your service offerings can deliver.
This applies not only to the equipment you use, like retinal imaging machines and phoropters, but to your software as well. If you are looking to grow your business, streamlining your workflows and making your operations as smooth and scalable as possible should be a top priority. Investing in a high-quality software solution can optimize your operations, making your day-to-day smoother and providing a better experience for your patients via tools like integrated communications. With technology powering your processes, your staff members will have more time to focus on patients and make their experience as enjoyable as possible.
In the optical business, much like in any other business, those who resist change are going to fall behind. In addition to monitoring the latest equipment and software, keep an eye on larger market trends. If you notice a shift towards doing business a certain way, or towards certain specific product or service offerings, that is likely for good reason. Just because the market is doing something doesn’t mean that it is necessarily a good fit for your business, but we encourage all business owners to keep a keen eye on their competition. Your business will benefit from your knowledge- even if it is contrasting your offerings in relation to your competitors.
Not Having Standardized Office Policies and Procedures
An optical business without standardized policies and procedures is likely struggling mightily to achieve high-level efficiency and accuracy. Implementing office-wide best practices can provide your office with firm footing in tricky situations and ensure consistent performance. One example of a standardized process improvement a practice can make would be reviewing insurance benefits verbally before an exam. This can reduce miscommunications for clients who are not mindful of their benefits. Additionally, having return policies and procedures clearly outlined on receipts can be extraordinarily helpful when patients contest a charge or try and return frames outside of their warranty. Lastly, checking in on patient adoption of new glasses and contact lenses after their dispense will provide greater customer satisfaction and can reduce the cost of remakes by catching them more quickly.
We’d be remiss to ignore the value of streamlined payments when highlighting the impact of standardized processes for opticals. A credit card system that is integrated with your EMR can assist mightily with over or under-charging patients, and increase your efficiency in your end-of-day reporting. In addition, an integrated credit card system can help with fraud prevention, increase sales, and provide timely remittance. Learn more about the benefits of an integrated payments tool here!
Ineffective Marketing and Branding
Marketing and branding is an oft-overlooked aspect of running a successful optical. Although you may perceive your business in a certain way, are you aware of what your customer base and target market think of your business?
Remember, your business often makes its first impression on potential customers online. If your business has a lackluster online presence, such as an uninspiring website or a lack of reviews, you may scare people away before they even step through the doors.
Focus on creating a unique identity for your business. What makes your business special? Why should someone go to your business instead of a competitor? If you struggle to answer these questions, a robust evaluation of your operations, and what you do well is needed. Your website should be professional, easy-to-use, and communicate the unique identity you have established for your business.
Do not be afraid to experiment with paid advertising, social media, and content development. If your business does not put itself out there, its website is likely to be difficult to find unless someone is explicitly searching for it.
Reviews and reputation management are another critical component of building your brand’s image. Do not be shy to ask your patients for reviews, and be sure to respond to any negative reviews your practice receives. Having a strong portfolio of reviews demonstrates trustworthiness and excellence of care, better positioning your practice to win more new business.
One final note on how you market your business; you can spend as much as you want on marketing, but your business will be unlikely to realize its full potential without a team member closely monitoring the results and adding human touch to the process. Some people are very hesitant to interact with businesses exclusively online. Make sure there are touchpoints in your marketing where potential patients speak to someone, or at least see a friendly face. People buy people. Your practice can benefit immensely from doing something as simple as giving a potential patient a call, or sending them an email with a picture of the sender in the signature.
Neglecting Customer Service
The success of your business is often a reflection of how you treat your patients. If you treat your patients with anything but the best care, your odds of running a successful business plummet. Take every opportunity to ensure the patient experience is as smooth and as painless as possible.
Patient communications is a critical area where most opticals can improve. Strive to be present, but not persistent. Your patients will appreciate updates on when their glasses are ready, when they are due for an appointment, or a reminder to use up their benefits by the end of the year. However, there is a fine line between being helpful and being a nuisance. Make an effort to only communicate essential updates to your customers to be respectful of their time and attention.
Take customer reviews very seriously, and do not shrug off any negative reviews or feedback your practice may receive. If your business receives a bad review, do not be afraid to look in the mirror and ask why it happened. Additionally, do not hesitate to ask the patient how their experience could have been better. In all likelihood, you do not run a perfect business. There are always areas your business can improve upon, and your customers may recognize these areas before you do. Evaluate their feedback, and act on it to make sure the next person who walks through your doors has a better experience.
Lackluster Inventory Management
Optical businesses that are not properly tracking inventory are missing a major opportunity to improve their profitability and better serve their customers. Without proper insight into which products are selling, and which ones are not, you are not only missing out on the chance to maximize revenue, but to better position yourself with your customers. You do not want potential customers to walk into your business, look around, and then leave because they don’t see frames that they like.
Strong reporting infrastructure ensures your business has full visibility into what frames are your best sellers, giving you the chance to place these products in a prominent position in your store, and even in your advertising.
Tracking inventory by individual serial numbers is an excellent way to get more granular with your tracking and see more accurate results. If your business is not using this tracking method, we highly recommend you start as soon as possible!
Poor Staff Management
Without proper training and direction, you cannot expect your staff to serve your patients in a satisfactory way. Many opticals don’t place much emphasis on training and development. This is a big mistake. An investment in your team is an investment in the future of your business. Training your staff properly puts them in a better position to succeed, increasing the likelihood they will stay at your business long-term. High turnover rates are a massive challenge for many optical businesses. Investing in your team not only helps them not only onboard faster, but perform better, leading to higher employee satisfaction, and longer tenure for your employees. Leveraging an easy-to-use software solution in addition to robust training can also help employees ramp up more quickly.
Happy employees are productive employees. Do not neglect any feedback your team gives you in regard to any potential operational improvements. They have an intimate understanding of how your business functions, and their suggestions should be weighed heavily.
Running a successful optical business requires meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to excellence. Managing an optical business goes beyond just selling eyewear or conducting eye exams; it involves delivering top-tier vision care, ensuring customer satisfaction, and maintaining financial stability. Throughout this guide, we've explored the critical aspects of optical business management, shedding light on common challenges and providing insights on how to overcome them.
If you are looking for optical software that makes running your business easy, Eye Cloud Pro is the solution for you. Our mission is to ensure your practice has all the tools you need to optimize your operations, from inventory tracking to payment processing, to patient communication. We are an all-in-one solution that does not compromise on quality and is committed to serving your business. Schedule an introductory call to learn more about Eye Cloud Pro today.