In a world where anything can be shipped directly to your patients, does stocking contact lens boxes actually serve your patients? How does it fit in today’s customer journey?
I titled my article “Is it right for your patients” for a reason. Before you can determine whether stocking lenses is practical from an income or improvement perspective, you must establish whether it matters to your patients. Do patients prefer to receive lenses directly from your practice, or does simply shipping to their house result in the same kind of experience and satisfaction?
Let’s look at some standard metrics for the patient experience to compare both options from the patient’s perspective:
Speed of Delivery
If you don’t think customers care about the speed of product delivery, consider how many things you’ve ordered from Amazon and completely ignored the option to accept a longer delivery time. Amazon and Walmart are in a full-on war to deliver their products as quickly as possible—and for good reason. Eighty-five percent of consumers say they’ll look for other options when delivery speeds are too slow for a product they want.
Like customers in any other industry, your patients want their contacts as quickly as possible. If they can choose between waiting a few days for their order to be delivered or walking out of your practice with their lenses in hand, they’ll choose the latter. With a stock lens, delivery is instantaneous—while shipping can take anywhere from two to seven days, depending on various external factors.
In this scenario, it might be easier to think of the opposite: inconvenience. Is one option more inconvenient than the other? When it comes to buying daily lenses, direct shipping might have a slight edge—it’s a lot of lenses to haul all the way to the parking lot. But what happens when patients run out of lenses?
You see your contact-wearing patients yearly (hopefully). Your daily-lens patients receive 360 lenses when they buy an annual supply, which leaves them five days short of a year’s worth of contacts. They need to get in again right at the one year mark, or they’ll pretty much run out of contacts.
When patients run out of contact at home, you might have trials on hand while they wait on their next set of dailies—enough to hold them over until their shipment arrives. But every time you do this, you lose trials that could’ve been used to fit another patient. By stocking lenses, you have an ample supply to sell to patients when they need them most.
As an added bonus, when you sell your stocked lenses in a patient’s time of need, you have a more motivated buyer. Motivated customers are even more likely to convert—so stocking lenses overall wins on convenience.
An argument could be made that by delivering contact lenses directly to a patient’s door, you’re adhering to a more modern trend. This is true—if the two options are “return to the doctor’s office to pick up your lenses” and “have your lenses shipped directly to your house.” Also consider that it’s practically a requirement to offer free shipping, since 66% of American consumers want free shipping on online orders.
All in all, is shipping lenses more modern—and better—than simply giving patients their contacts in the office? Generally speaking, contact lenses are directly delivered via a non-descriptive cardboard box unless you’re using a service like MARLO. Comparatively, the only way you’d make a worse presentation to patients in the office is if you just chucked cardboard boxes at them on their way out the door.
In fact, I’d argue that you can actually present contacts better in the office. Modernize and personalize the presentation by having branded bags and properly handing them to the patient. You can even add a few goodies or practice merch to the bag to make it more fun. In that case, when you’re comparing direct shipping to stocked lenses, a branded bag is better for both the customer journey and brand awareness.
And The Winner Is…
From a customer journey and experience perspective, I would judge that as 2.5/3 in favor of providing patients with stock lenses while they’re in your office. They get their lenses faster; the whole process is more convenient; and there’s better opportunity for increasing brand awareness.
Now, I’m not discounting the fact that people love shopping from the convenience of their own home—but if patients are in your office, they’re not in the comfort of their own homes anyway. They’re receiving care at their appointment, and you have the ability to exceed expectations and provide a better, more personal experience than a virtual store. Shopping online is associated with having things shipped to your home—but in your office, patients can receive what they want directly.
In my next article, we’ll take a look at how you can make stocking lenses more profitable for your practice.