By Mathew Guy Musladin B.S., ABOM

The golden rule in retail has been the saying, "The customer is always right." What does that mean to us? Does the customer know all there is to know about optics? Does the customer know how a bridge should fit or how to adjust a temple? Probably not. The goal is to make the customer feel good about themselves and consequently good about the whole dispensing experience. That means feeling good about you! So, how does that confidence come into being. Should your client see that ABO certificate on the wall and be awed by your knowledge? Doubtful.

Invariably you will encounter a particular customer who wants a certain frame style that in no way fits their facial structure or the Rx. The bridge isn't even close to matching the contour of the patient's nose, the temples are way too short, the "B" measurement is too deep for a smaller round head, and the like, are all common issues. Yet, customers are insistent on getting a particular style and won't take any advice to the contrary. This is where an understanding of how the brain works can be of benefit to anyone in this difficult circumstance.

There are many theories related to how the human brain functions. The right hemisphere versus left hemisphere theory discusses dominance of various mental and physical activities. For instance, speech is thought of as left hemisphere "oriented", while tone of voice is considered a right hemisphere function. Also, the various "lobes" have been "mapped" to certain extents. For example, the occipital lobe is the part of the brain that images visual input.

There is another theory of how the brain operates. It is called the Triune theory. It is concerned with layers instead of lobes. The innermost "layer" is the so-called reptilian or "Lizard" brain. It is encompassed by the limbic system, which is surrounded by the third layer, the neo-cortex. The limbic system is commonly called the "mammal" brain, and the neo-cortex is considered the seat of higher thought or reason. But what about that "Lizard brain?" It is the core of a typical brain and is common in structure to vertebrates as primitive as reptiles, thus "Lizard brain." It is associated with survival, and it is instinctually reactive. As such, it is fear- based, and it creates tension. Two states of tension are prevalent: the anxious state and the curious state. The anxious state creates a bias toward negative reactions. The fight or flight response is the predominant impulse, and we don't want customers to be defensive or even worse, to walk out of your dispensary! However, the curious state seeks a cause-and-effect solution instead of reacting. This facilitates moving from our instinctual, lower level thinking to higher order limbic and cortex thinking. The Lizard brain can be consciously controlled. The choice becomes reactive versus responsive, moving an anxious client toward the curious state and increasing the probability of a successful sale.

Back to that insistent customer. That person is in survival mode and wants a particular frame style in order to feel good and secure about life. The Lizard brain needs to be satisfied, otherwise defensiveness will most likely occur. What to do? The goal is to engage the customer in ways that can foster empathy and understanding. Asking, "Why do you like this frame style?" or "How does this frame make you feel?" lessens anxiety and promotes cooperation. The customer now feels that you are on their side.

It is very easy for us to get into our own Lizard brains. We are, after all, the experts. How dare anyone challenge that! This needs to be recognized within each of us. We simply deal with it by pausing for a couple of seconds. That is all it takes. Those two seconds automatically allow our higher level thinking to influence the situation. This is called reflection. It allows a response rather than a hasty reaction.

Engaging our own higher level thinking frees us from the defense response. The brain is allowed to form questions for insight into the customer's needs and to gain cooperation. We can then appeal to the customer's feelings (limbic system) and use reason (the neo-cortex) to move the customer to higher level thinking and a more successful sale!