The Concierge Concept

Whether it’s competing with the optical around the corner, the big box on the other side of town, or an omnipresent online retailer, differentiation is the key. You can play on price…if you want to lose, that is. You can change your inventory mix…a good way to be somebody that the other guy is not. And, ever more popular, you can move beyond just great customer service to a strategy most common in high-end retail…concierge service.

That term is actually from the Latin word “conservus,” which means “fellow slave,” and became popular in France during the late 1600s. What goes around comes around, and concierge care is hot. Many ECPs think it sounds expensive and too exclusive for their brand of business. Others have integrated various aspects of into their business.

Tip: Look around at luxury retail and see how the concept can fit into your own format.

1690s… Concierge care became all the rage in France.

THE GROWTH

We’ve seen the concept at the lab level with quick turnaround micro-labs, some including concierge delivery. Contact lens companies have built on the concierge subscription model of home delivery success stories like Hello Fresh and Stitch Fix. And, of course, in concierge or boutique medical practices, you get dedicated/unlimited access to your provider…for a fee, that is.

For the past several years, the concierge concept has been gaining fans in optical as well. The point? You can definitely offer concierge-like care to your clients and patients. Instead of  it breaking the bank, as some had feared, most ECPs who’ve tried it say it’s a great way to build the bottom line. Because managed care goes out the window with this kind of client, you’re definitely looking at more revenue…and that’s before you’ve even filled an Rx.

In some ways, however, the concierge concept is really just good, old-fashioned care. The way it used to be. The difference, of course, is the pricetag. And, one plus for eyecare practices is that it can be offered as an option for patients. In other words, you don’t need to change what you’re doing. Instead, you’re just adding another level of care.

THE VERSIONS

There are several versions already in practice. Literally.

For some ECPs, an individual greets the guest at the door and escorts/assists them throughout their experience…even into the exam room. In most, however, a dedicated optician manages their eyewear purchasing experience, often beginning by presented the seated client with a tray holding a curated selection of frames thought to be the best in terms of shape and color for the individual.

So, what changes would you have to make in order to move into the concierge model? First, find out if your patients would find this of interest. How? Just ask or survey them. Then ask yourself if there’s an untapped market out there of people who aren’t currently your customers. Will that demographic come to your location? Is it convenient and attractive enough? And that brings up the big gamechanger. Do you have the right look and feel? What small touches can you make to upgrade the impression you make? What small steps can you take with staff to move toward this higher level of service? And, are you willing to extend hours if necessary to attract this new clientele?

These are just a few of the points to consider if you’re thinking about becoming more of a concierge practice. Have you moved in that direction? If so, tell us what you’ve done and share in the conversation on Facebook here.

Erinn Morgan