Checks and Balances for Multi-Location Practices


Photo courtesy of EyeOne, Staunton, VA

Our days are all too often filled with putting out fires, seeing too many patients, and somewhere, in the brief few minutes left, thinking about running and growing our businesses. The bottom line is we fall into a routine that causes us to be too busy to make money. We actually take our eye off the ball and end up far from the desired outcomes we envisioned. Let's break this mold and set up a system that does not need us. Consider Trust but Verify and 15-minute Spot Checks.

Trust but verify is a very powerful strategy that successful businesses adopt. We know our staff is working hard and means well, but that does not guarantee that they are doing what we need when we need it. It's all part of the human condition, so we need a strategy to support our staff's ability to achieve success, both for you as well as for themselves.

Working with secret shoppers is one very cost effective way to accomplish this. Start by creating a checklist of services you'd like the secret shopper to check:

  1. How long did it take to be greeted?
  2. Did the receptionist smile and address you by name while making eye contact?
  3. Did they review your reasons for the visit?
  4. Did they answer your questions and address your concerns? What were the answers?
  5. Was the office neat and organized?
  6. Was the pretesting experience informative, and did you understand why and what was being done for you?
  7. Did the doctor explain any findings and provide you with a thorough understanding of what they were and how they would be addressed?
  8. Did the optical staff assist you with a selection of eyewear that you were satisfied with?
  9. Were your insurance plan's benefits explained, and did you get everything you were entitled to?
  10. How did they handle the frames? Did they grab them in a cluster?
  11. Did they explain the brand story and why a particular frame is of value?
  12. Did they explain your options for lenses and how they would impact your life?
  13. Did they explain your savings and thank you for the opportunity to take care of you?
  14. Did the staff explain all the after sales services available and make you feel comfortable recommending the practice to others?

All of us could make endless lists of what we expect...and we should. You and your staff will learn, grow and thrive from it. Use this information to firm up and re-educate your staff with consistent objective feedback and to assess your own policies and procedures. Then you will be helping your staff achieve success, both for you as well as for themselves.

Why not implement 15-minute spot checks? Spend 15 minutes a week and randomly call a patient on your own to ask them about their experience, or ask them in person.

When was the last time you or your staff actually asked a patient if they were happy with the services and products they received while still at your practice? Most of us avoid this for fear of a negative response. However, this philosophy makes you and your staff stronger not weaker. During those rare moments when you do get an unexpected response, sit down with your patient and address it before they leave.

Recently a patient came into a practice with his frames. He started by asking for an adjustment, and then went on to express how much he "hated" his glasses. Wow! How would your staff handle that? We quickly assured him that we did not want him to hate his glasses and that we would make him happy today. We discovered they were made 13 months ago and upon examination noted that the frame had been adjusted many times to the point of distortion. The truth is there was no way this frame would ever make him happy. The bow temples could not be adjusted, and they would always slip off because he works in landscaping and was always leaning over. The shame is he had been back several times, and all they did was bend the end pieces in a bit more to create the momentary feeling of being tighter. We quickly told him that we would like to change the frame and asked if he had the time for a free exchange. He was completely taken by surprise and quite appreciative. He then asked if he could come back with his wife to make the new selection. Of course, we agreed.

The bottom line is that we should not have sold him that frame to begin with, and there was no way he or his family were coming back to spend more money with us. Now, he and his family and friends will all become braggers for our practice.

Your job as a business owner is to understand that you must have checks and balances in place for everything, from how patients are greeted to whether or not the last box of frame returns went back and how much credit you received for it. This should be done on a regular basis for all of your locations. Never stop learning and testing your own systems and processes for inefficiencies. Never take them for granted. Always trust but verify!

The benefits are straightforward—locating and gathering evidence of trouble, providing customer insight, helping with decision making, and ultimately, increasing sales.


Jay Binkowitz, optometric business consultant, is chief executive officer and president of GPN, exclusive provider of The EDGE.




Evan Kestenbaum, MBA, is chief information officer of GPN, Exclusive Provider of The EDGE. Contact Jay and Evan directly at