How’s this for a change – I’m going to talk about something you should be striving to get worse at (at least during the first step).
Can You Guess What Was In Decline While The Practice Was On The Incline?
Recently I was reviewing and analyzing practice metrics for about a half dozen different optometric practices when I noticed something. So I brought up another dozen or so practice metrics from the last couple of years. I noticed an unexpected correlation with improved practice growth and what I noticed was that a particular measure was getting worse. Sometimes substantially worse. And the worse things got, the better the overall performance of the practice was. Can you guess what was in decline while the practice was on the incline? I’ll give you a hint – it has to do with optical sales.
So Why The Change?
What I found was this: as sales percentages of polarization decreased, practice growth increased. First, let me be crystal clear here. I am a numbers-head to the point of fault. This was a highly biased convenience sample that was too small be useful for anything other than possible trend identification. And a possible trend is all that I found. But it got me thinking – what is going on here? Over the years I’ve actually noticed the opposite to be true, i.e. as the percentage of polarized sales increased (or remained high) the more successful a practice was likely to be. That made sense to me. Practices that have fine tuned their sales approaches and goals on things like polarized lenses usually have done similar planning for other lens enhancements, special tests and services, and so on. So why the change? It took a millennial to point out the obvious to me: digital devices. So simple but I was missing it. As the use of digital devices has increased, including use outdoors and in the sun, the negative impact polarization has on that experience has become an increasing problem.
Practices that anticipate these patient needs are exhibiting a symptom. A symptom of a culture that listens to patients and uses that interactions to form future patient encounters. These practices solve problems, sometimes before patients know a problem could even exist. This not a symptom of a disease, rather, it is symptom of a good sales process.
Do You Know What It Is?
I know what is probably already happening in the best practices out there seeing the decline in polarized sales. Do you know what it is? Above, I’ve given the information I can get from almost any practice that does a good job tracking important performance metrics. Stopping here is problematic because you have to know what are you going to do with this information. I think that this where most people fail with data. Data is a great tool if you understand how to use it. Most of the time we use data to replace decision making. After all, the data is telling us what is happening and what to do about it, right? Rarely. In this series of a billion blogs (let’s get real here, I’ll burn out on this topic after two more contributions, but just go with me on this for now) I am making one point. That point is: data should be used to diagnose problems and opportunities, not replace decision making about how to deal with those very problems and opportunities.
John McDaniel, OD, MLHR