We are in a new age of consumerism. This new consumer desires nothing more than transparency and control of their health care spend. We really can't blame them as health care costs are rapidly becoming the second biggest spend the household behind the mortgage. Our consumer is naturally going to shop, compare and make choices based on what is most important to them.

Welcome to the concept that the world is "flat." "Flat" meaning, all things being transparent because of the internet, competition for products and services have been reduced to the lowest common denominator. Sadly, it also means that what we once valued as sacred, such as frames and lenses have to some extent become a commodity in the eyes of the consuming public. There are simply too many choices and options for the general public not to believe our frames and lenses should cost as much as they do. Naturally, they are going to shop on-line to make sure they are getting good value - not necessarily the "best" value, but not getting ripped off either.

This is where the battle for the PD comes into play. We are attempting to hang on to the last ounce of control of the consumer. (Notice I do not call them patients because when they are in the dispensary they don't act like it.) The consumer/patient will ask for their PD and Rx and in return we may bristle up and get defensive and think to ourselves all manner of negative thoughts about their intentions. Our response depends on how secure the office is in themselves and the value they deliver. Some will give it freely with a sincere warning of the pitfalls of buying online. Others will charge the consumer/patient and introduce a bit of disappointment into the relationship. Finally, some offices will dig in their heels and make it very uncomfortable for them to get the card with their measurements.

Are you losing the war over this one battle?

Think of the last conversation you had where it ended with you feeling like you are not appreciated, valued, or like you were confronted. Now apply that feeling to a time where that happened with a place of business. Are you going back? Chances are, no.

Our consumer/patient is bound to shop online. The internet has changed the way we all are buying products and services. Whether we are just price shopping, looking around for on-line advice, or comparing brands to one another, we cannot deny that the internet is playing a bigger role in the consumer experience. It was bound to come to Optical sooner or later. They may even buy a pair or two online over the next year or two. Big deal. You still have their eyecare business, right? Not if the last memory of doing business with your practice is the "fight" over their PD. Not only will you lose the sale of eyewear, the practice will lose a patient. Forever.

There are simply too many choices for them to go.

Instead, freely had over the Rx and PD and invite them back into the office when their glasses come in. You'll adjust them for them and make sure that their experience is the best it can be with what they bought. Naturally, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, evaluate what they bought, understand why they bought it, and find out what the online experience was like. Most importantly, ask them why they bought on-line and not from you. Use this information to build your own value proposition.

Lastly, never lose the war. When your patient/consumer reaches a certain age, they will need you. Your value will significantly increase in their eyes and what you offer will no longer be viewed as a commodity. Don't blow the opportunity for a lifetime of care over a PD battle today.

Michael Karlsrud, M.Ed., is the principle consultant of The Karlsrud Company, a leading training and development company serving organizations throughout the United States. He also is CEO of K-Calls, a contact center that provides communication solutions to the optical industry's suppliers and doctors. You can hear Michael as the host of The Vision Council's On The Road Sales Coach, or read articles in LabAdvisor magazine and The 20/20 Opticians Handbook.