The Transportation Security Association has unveiled a new “TSA Pre √” program to help frequent travelers quickly pass through the airport security screening line. Once vetted by the TSA and determined not to be a security risk, these select passengers can enter a special line and, to save time, do not need to take off their shoes or remove their computers from their bags. As a frequent traveler, I immediately signed up for this service.

For me, there is definite value in saving a few minutes and reducing the stress associated with traveling. To both the airlines and the TSA, my frequent travels essentially would categorize me as a good returning customer.

Do you have similar frequent flyers at your practice? Or, more accurately, do you have regular patients who could benefit from (and appreciate) any special services you might be able to offer?

The VIP Status
Start by having a conversation with your staff. Ask them to evaluate your current patients and answer the question, “If you could clone any of our patients, who would it be?,” and ask why. Through this process, you will not only learn about your patients, but also find out what characteristics your staff most appreciates.

You will find that staff responses typically will be anecdotal: “Mrs. Jones is a great patient and I wish we had more just like her. She’s super friendly, shows up on time for her appointments, is always complimentary, sends us lots of new patients, is a cheerleader for the practice, pays her bills on time, doesn’t have any insurance discrepancies we need to deal with, is compliant and likes to learn about new products or services.”

What did you learn from this conversation? You now have a list of attributes to help create your VIP list. In the above example, consider placing Mrs. Jones on the list of patients who should receive updates on new products. Then, when you get information on a toric, colored, daily disposable photochromic multifocal (I can dream, can’t I?), Mrs. Jones will be the first to know.

Another suggestion is to create a list of patients who consistently arrive on time. You can offer these patients “prime time” slots—those that are customarily in high demand and are scheduled first.

Marketing the VIP Program
Once you have organized your VIP program, start marketing it to all your patients. Remember the TSA philosophy: It is most beneficial when more, not fewer, people are on board; the more people that join the VIP program, the more expeditious the entire experience will be. Consider implementing a referral system. Let all of your patients know that VIP service exists and is available to those who pay their bills on time, show high levels of compliance, refer others, etc. Market these services via email blasts, recall reminders, on-hold messages, social media sites and statement stuffers.

Ask your staff to generate excitement around the program. For example, if you know a new product will be coming to the practice soon, give your staff the OK to discuss it with your patients. They can help build anticipation: “Did you know that our practice will be one of the first in the area to get a new type of contact lens? Initially, it will only be available to our VIP patients, as we will have a very limited supply. Would you like to join our VIP program? I can put you on our list.” Follow this introduction with an outline of the program’s benefits and the eligibility requirements.

Keep in mind that this concept is not meant to discriminate against non-VIP patients. Rather, it’s designed to reward those who have been most appreciative of your efforts to support them.