A new practice has opened across the road from mine. Their prices are much lower than mine. They do a lot of advertising highlighting their low costs. I am worried that this will negatively affect my business. What should I do?
I experienced the same when I owned my own independent practice. This is how I and my business partners dealt with low-cost competition.
We didn’t spend any time thinking about the low-cost competition. Every moment spent thinking about somebody else’s business means a moment less spent thinking about your own business.
We did not lower our prices. This leads to a race to the bottom. We did not advertise on the basis of cost. We advertised on the basis of good service and good value for money. After a while, we realised we didn’t need to pay for advertising as word-of-mouth was doing a very good job of promoting our practice,
Low prices often mean inferior products, a reduction in levels of service, cutting corners, and a high volume of through flow of patients.
We never said a bad word about the low-cost competition. Even when patients and/or suppliers were negative about the low-cost practice we remained neutral in what we said. Bad-mouthing others was not our style.
We made sure that everyone who came into the practice, phoned the practice, or connected using e-communication systems was treated in a professional, friendly and helpful way. We took our time to help people. We greeted everyone with a smile even when they phoned and we treated patients and suppliers with respect.
One business phrase that sums up our approach was to ‘communicate the value proposition and then deliver on it.’ Here value means benefit.
A value proposition is a statement that identifies clear, measurable, and demonstrable benefits consumers get when buying a particular product or service. It should convince consumers that this product or service is better than others on the market. This proposition can lead to a competitive advantage when consumers pick that particular product or service over other competitors because they perceive greater value.
We tailored our examination times to suit the patient. Our standard examination time was 30 mins but we would make this longer for patients who needed longer; older people, nervous children, and people who had difficulty hearing.
We offered advanced varifocals (office lenses) and soft varifocal contact lenses.
We offered patients well-made frames. We recommended advanced lenses and coatings only when we thought the patient would benefit. We took great care in fitting the frames, measuring the inter-pupillary distance, bifocal segment heights, and progressive lens measurements.
We fitted young children with daily disposable soft contact lenses for sports, dance, and gymnastics.
We were happy to see people for frame adjustments and treated patients who weren’t getting on with a new prescription with courtesy and respect. We did everything we could to fix a problem. If we made a mistake we admitted it.
If we said we’d phone someone back we phoned back. We delivered and fitted spectacles to patients’ houses. We examined people in their own homes if required.
We never once worried about the competition. We had new patients and a lot of repeat business. We built a successful practice.