Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Building greater children's practice

A customer told me he wanted to build a greater children's business. I asked "Why do you want to?!"

Here are some of the reasons he cited:
1. They don't take much time in the testing room (compared to someone in their late 70s)
2. Many independant opticians shun young children as a major optical group gives children free eyecare and eyewear - "It's too difficult to compete!" they sigh.
3. Children bring their parents - look after the children right and the parents will also become your patients.
4. He remembers his first pair of glasss when he was 8 and so he knows what children go through - he hopes to help children with their first experience. Now there's the hook for a PR piece in the local paper....

But "How do I do it?!" he asked me.

As I looked around there was nothing that served children apart from a few frames on the wall.

1. The first place I looked at was his door and he had sufficient access for pushchairs - you don't want parents to fight to get in the door.

2. There wasn't a fun place as separate from the rest of the practice. In fact the practice was fine for an adult but would be the most boring place for a child. Face it. If a child is bored then frames are going to come off the walls before you know it and parents are going to become fried. A low cost way of making a designated space in which children will feel at home is by placing a brightly coloured rug in a corner.

3. As most parents try their utmost to keep children well-behaved I suggested in this area that he made some toys and books or colouring stuff available. He'll have to keep them clean and santitary too so I suggested having some gentle and safe disinfecting wipes that one of his staff could clean with from time to time.

4. Parents may become stressed if their children are playing them up (sugar levels too low or too high + fatigue + boredom = parent nightmare!) I suggested he encourage his reception staff to help, befriend and distract the children - this will be very much appreciated and will increase referrals at the school gates. Importantly staff will need the right attitude - if the children are viewed as a nuisance there is no point.

5. He would need to consider clean and functioning baby changing facilities (quick research has found these) equipped with nappies of various sizes and wipes. And....er... adequate bins for offending articles.

6. Stock - now here's an interesting one. If you want to build the business against other consumer options available to them in the market then he could consider some private ranges in order to make an impact and get parents through the door (here's one he may consider that can provide impactive POS materials right on the trend). He could still have the value ranges that will be necessary but better to have something to shout about. How few practices I see with only a very small and often poor quality ranges in - no wonder parents go automatically to Specsavers! (Anyone who follows that link will be surprised at the on-line cost.)

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