Turn Patients from Shoppers to Customers With Education
By Johnna Dukes, ABOC, FNAO
Release Date: April, 2013
Expiration Date: February 6, 2018
completion of this program the participant should be able to:
- Understand why educating the patient is necessary to ensure the health of your practice.
- Identify the consequences of the uneducated patient.
- Learn the plan that ensures all employees are educated and can teach patients.
Johnna Dukes, ABOC, FNAO is currently the owner and operator of an optical boutique, with experience in both the private practice sector as well as the retail chain setting. She has a wide range of experience varying from optical support staff to dispensary management to practice ownership. She lives in Okoboji, Iowa.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course #SWJMI502-1.
The patient asks: "Why should I buy my
eyeglasses here when I can buy them over
the Internet for $9.95, $49 or $99?"
Have an answer?
Is the above scenario happening in your
office? Do you want to keep it from happening? The only way to ensure patients
will return again and again is to ensure
that you are providing your patient with
the proper education so they know what
they are purchasing, why it is important
for their particular needs, and what the
alternatives might be.
Think about it; most consumers know
that a Mercedes is a premium car,
right? Car companies invest heavily in
educating the customer. Yes, it costs a lot
of money but the auto industry markets
directly to the customer either through
television advertisements, magazine marketing or the pamphlets you pick up at
the dealership. We don't have enough
television commercials or 20-page full
color pamphlets about eyewear!
Essentially big industries market to and
educate their customers directly. The optical industry has been different because we expect the doctors and the opticians to be
marketing to and educating the patient
rather than it coming directly from the
various companies. Herein lies the question: Are you educating your patient
properly or is it possible your patient is
receiving mixed messages?
THE DANGER OF
Oftentimes optical professionals have a
hard time spending other people's money.
While presenting the options for the
patient's eyewear, the optical professional
is silently judging the patient and deciding
what to present based on what they think
the patient can afford. Is the optical professional so afraid of the patient saying
"no" or "wow, that is expensive"?
Choose the best products to suit the
patient's needs, rather than products that
will be "just good enough" or are "cheap
enough." The problem with letting price
be the driver is that the patient will no
longer come to the optical professional
for their product knowledge; they will
come in for products based on price
because they have never been taught differently. The optical professional hasn't
properly educated the patient on why
products have varying costs or even what
it is they are buying. Patients can get the
same cloudy information online.
The consumer today is squeezed
between your chance at an education
about great eyewear and the everyday
search online or the messages of two pairs
of glasses for $99 with a free exam. What
are they to believe?
When we don't take the time to educate
the patient on what they're buying and
why, the patient gets a mixed message on
the importance of price within the equation. When price becomes the factor that
defines eyewear and product selection, the
need for an optician becomes minimized.
When the patient comes in and says, "I
need an invisible bifocal," this is the
opportunity to take them by the hand and
walk them through the selection process,
always with the focus on meeting the
patient's needs first and foremost.
The patient often finds himself or herself
wandering through the dispensary trying
on every frame in sight and doing the
frame selection alone. This is a missed
opportunity and the perfect time to educate the patient on their options in terms
of frame materials, frame manufacturing
processes, frame shape, and proper sizing
and styling. For example, this is the time
when a patient who doesn't know anything about frame materials would choose
a monel-based frame over that of titanium
because the monel frame costs less, and
the uneducated patient would assume
both pairs have similar durability.
Take the time to ask the patient about
their needs and lifestyle, otherwise it is
virtually impossible to provide the proper
products to suit their needs.
Imagine a patient with a PD of 29/30
and more than a -6.00 prescription just
entered your office. The patient had
picked out a frame that has a 58 mm A
measurement at another office and is asking, "Can you adjust my glasses so they're
not so uncomfortable? They slide down
my nose." This is a recipe for an unhappy
patient. Just by knowing the factors of this
case we know we're going to have a thick
edge profile and likely a very heavy and
uncomfortable pair of eyewear. In fact, in
this frame, the previous office used a flat
front curve in what was a 6 or 8-base
plano fashion sunglass.
Now imagine taking the time to look at
the prescription and facial measurements.
Then imagine taking the patient by the
hand and walking with them through the
selection process. This allows a chance to
discuss the fact that we will be dealing with
weight and lens thickness issues, and that
we should proceed with a frame that has
acceptable decentration to minimize thickness and weight. We know these things;
share that knowledge with the patient.
Discuss activity level and the types of
things they do while wearing their eye-wear. This helps to further decide which
type of frame material best suits their
needs. For example let's say this same
patient is a young lady who plays varsity
basketball and wears her glasses while
competing. This is a perfect opportunity
to discuss durability and safety issues. Do
you think this patient would get this specialized information online for $49?
Step into the position of being the
"expert." If you don't, you are failing your
patients each and every day. Share your
knowledge with the patient even if you
think they won't understand what you are
saying. If you don't educate your patient,
they will assume you don't have any optical education. When you allow the patient
to pick his or her own products without
giving your advice or expertise, you are in
effect saying, "You know as much about
this as I do." It's doubtful any optical professional believes this, however, it is the
message you are giving to the patient.
When this is the mindset they have, it
makes it all that much easier for the
patient to go online and think they have enough knowledge to order their own
products without a consultation with an
optician. Think about what this does for
the optical profession as a whole. It's like
telling the public that it is not important
to rely on an optician to make the best
product for them. It is our job to do better as the patient deserves better.
Style consultants will tell you that customization is the key to making things fit
properly so why else would clothing manufacturers bother to make their clothing
in 15 different sizes? Let's use this same
mindset. Each patient has different needs,
and you need to present products based
on their specific needs. Think of it as
being the "optical tailor." The optical tailor
works to make products that fit exactly the
needs of the patient: no more "one-size-fits-all" dispensing. Here is an example of
a conversation you might consider using
in order to tailor the eyewear experience
to fit your patient.
|Asking the right questions and responding properly to the answers
give you the opportunity to become the expert rather than just the
order-taker. The educated optical professional drives the conversation,
asks appropriate questions and responds with recommendations
based on the information the patient has given.
PATIENT: Woman, 47, Rx about a +1.00
distance, +1.50 add
Optician: Tell me about your average day
in terms of how you use your eyes.
Patient: I get up and go to work. I use my
computer for about eight hours a day,
and then I go home and make dinner for
my family. I do like to read books on the
weekends when I have more time.
How are your current lenses working
I have a hard time because the area I use
to read in my current lenses is so small. I
feel like my eyes are tired all of the time.
It sounds like you do a lot of close work.
We can choose a lens for you that will
make it easier for you to read and have an
easier time when your vision needs are for
near tasks. Also, we should make sure to
choose a frame that will allow for enough
room to accommodate your progressive
Really? I didn't know that the frame size
mattered at all. I also didn't know that
there are options for the lenses I received.
I just always said that I need the no-line
bifocal, and this is what they gave me.
Has anyone ever discussed an anti-reflective coating with you?
I'm not sure what you mean by anti-reflective coating.
I'm sorry that no one has ever discussed
these with you, but for progressives or no-lines, there are currently dozens of progressive lenses on the market so we definitely
want to find the one that best meets your
needs. I want to know how you use your
eyes, then I'll know which lens will be the
best one for you.
Wow! I didn't know that there were so
many options. Which lens do you think
will be best for me?
Well, we should start by addressing your
eight hours of computer work per day. Tell
me about your workday and your computer;
is it a desktop or laptop? How high is the
screen if it's a desktop monitor?
I sit at my desk and all day, I answer
phones and update my company's data
base. The screen is a large one; I guess
the middle of it is straight ahead.
Let me tell you about a lens that might be
perfect for you while you're at work. It's
called a small environment or office lens,
and it's designed for people just like you.
The top portion of the lens is designed for
you to see your computer screen, and the
bottom of your lens is designed for you to
see the keyboard and paperwork, and it
comes with anti-reflective coating to combat the reflections from your computer
screen. Now, this lens isn't made for distance correction so it will be something
you put on when you are at your desk.
You'll need to switch glasses when you
drive home. Studies show that this small
environment lens helps reduce eye fatigue
especially while at work. In fact, you might
find that using them when reading for
extended periods of time will also be much
That sounds great! Are you saying I will
need two pairs of glasses?
Yes, I am suggesting that a second pair of
glasses will make you really comfortable.
How many pairs of shoes do you have?
You wouldn't wear flip-flops when jogging, would you?
I think I understand what you are saying.
I should wear the right glasses for what
Exactly. We should make a pair of glasses
for your work needs and another pair for
your everyday needs and also, how are you
protecting your eyes from the sun?
I don't have any sunglasses. I had the lenses
that get dark one time and I didn't like them. Do I really need sunglasses though?
Sun protection is so important. I don't care
if you get your glasses somewhere else, but
you do need to have them. Let me ask you
this, do you wear sunscreen?
I do wear sunscreen; I'm very careful
about never going outside without it.
And if you think I need sunglasses, I
would rather get them from you since
you know what I need.
OK, let me just describe how those lenses
that change have changed since you last
had them, then describe the protection
that polarized lenses provide and the filter
Asking the right questions and responding properly to the answers give you the
opportunity to become the expert rather
than just the order-taker. The educated
optical professional drives the conversation, asks appropriate questions and
responds with recommendations based
on the information the patient has given.
Here are some valid questions you might
consider using with every patient:
- How do you use your eyes every day?
- What are your hobbies?
- How active are you on a daily basis?
- Do you have any allergies to metal?
- How much computer work do you do
on a daily basis?
- What are you currently doing for sun
- How are your current glasses working
for you? Tell me what you don't like.
If you ask questions and let the information you gather guide your selection, you
will ensure a happy patient interaction as
well as ensuring that you are providing the
products best suited for the patient who is
directly in front of you. It's a win-win, right?
|Even though it seems the optical professional is being kind by not wanting the
patient to spend too much money, in fact, they are doing just the opposite
by not giving the patient the option to choose what they want for themselves.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Sit and listen to the interactions between
each optical professional and patient in
your practice. Are they driving the conversation or are they falling into the trap
of letting the overall price drive their recommendations?
Consider having staff meetings where
you discuss how you want to be treated
while shopping, and if you would want
the sales staff judging whether or not they
thought you could afford the item you are
considering buying. It doesn't feel good,
does it? In essence that is the very same
thing they are doing to the patient. Even
though it seems the optical professional is
being kind by not wanting the patient to
spend too much money, in fact, they are
doing just the opposite by not giving the
patient the option to choose what they
want for themselves.
Practice asking pertinent questions of each
and every patient as well as providing all the
options; then discuss the benefits of each
recommendation and let the patient choose
how they wish to proceed. Consider using
the table below to help you organize the
information given to the patient.
As you write down recommendations
along with the reason you chose that specific product, the patient is going to
understand that they are receiving a product based on their needs. It certainly isn't
a one-size-fits-all process. This creates the
trust between the optical professional and
the patient, which of course, is the reason
patients return again and again.
If the patient gets a product they only "sort
of" like versus feeling like you took the
time to get to know them and fulfill their
needs, you run the risk of losing that
patient to whomever can provide the glasses at a lower price. After all, if you don't
educate the patient and they go somewhere
else that does provide them education, the
patient will likely leave thinking your office
didn't know as much. Even if you do have
just as much education, if you don't pass
that along to the patient, how are they supposed to know? Don't leave yourself saying, "I don't understand why Jane left us to
go somewhere else."
Take each patient interaction seriously.
Don't underestimate that the patient has the
right to choose where they go—give them a
reason to choose you. Provide patients with
the personalized service and education to
know what it is they are purchasing, and why
it is important for them, and you can forever
put to rest the worry that your patients will
leave you for the Internet or another office.