By Samantha Ramcharran

The pandemic is still here, but it hasn’t stopped people from needing eyewear. Business has been non-stop with high demand for eye exams, contacts, and glasses. In a busy location like mine I learned some strategies to help me get through hectic times while managing COVID.

Make patients feel comfortable in your location. This is important for your reputation and it's critical now. People don’t hesitate to write reviews and tell family and friends about their experiences. Over-welcome guests and over-clean their surroundings. People are watching now more than ever since COVID. I learned increased hygiene awareness for every person. Instruments are wiped with alcohol in front of patients. Frames are disinfected after each person tries them on and stations are wiped down throughout the day. Over the course of the pandemic, I've noticed more contact lens wearers are aware of their hygiene and following appropriate disposal times. When people feel safe in your environment, they are more likely to shop, ask questions, and listen to what you have to say.

Always show the value for the price patients pay. If you work where pricing is flexible, celebrate promotions and insurance discounts so patients don’t need to “shop around.” Being transparent with pricing, insurance and promise time makes a significant difference with the patient experience. Hiding copays and failure to take the extra step of breaking down costs can cause unnecessary problems for you or your lab. You don’t want patients to come back asking for their bill to be explained or to talk to their insurance company after the fact and get a different price. Limit your chances of remakes and unhappy patients by being upfront and honest and they will come back to shop with you. Dedicating time during sales to illustrate final cost and savings and ensuring patients leave without having questions saves time in the long run.
Encourage multiple pairs to limit overall traffic. The sun is out and bright, so I encourage sunglasses as a second pair. Share insight as to why sunglasses are beneficial for healthy eyes. Ask your contact lens patients if they have back up glasses. You’d be surprised how many people don’t, then panic when the unexpected occurs. Inform them that having a back-up pair is a small investment to relax eyes from contacts, unpredictable eye infections or losing or breaking current glasses. Patients can fill their eyewear needs in one visit rather than multiple trips.

Capacity limits make it easier to manage traffic flow. Sometimes, if my staff is busy, someone might wait up to 20 minutes or more to be seen. I tell myself and my staff to stay focused, avoid feeling rushed and leave NO room for error. Treating patients without having them feel rushed makes them confident in their decisions. We can’t predict when someone will come back if they cannot see well, but if we spend time asking the right questions, it leaves less room for error and we understand what our patient wants. Even with limited staff it’s important to be mindful of everything patients need to know. Make sure your patients feel that it was worth the wait and they are getting incomparable value and service with the eyeglasses or contacts they purchase. Most understand wait times, but your approach after they’ve been waiting must make up for that lost time. Lastly, attitude makes ALL the difference. Stay engaged and enthusiastic about the products you offer. Take pride in what you do, and it will radiate through to your patients.