By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

What are the most common complaints from consumers about their experiences in optical shops? According to an article in Consumers’ Checkbook in April 2020, “complaints usually relate to second-rate customer service—rude salespeople, long waits, indifferent advice—and high prices.” The article continues, “But many things can go wrong when buying glasses: Lenses can be positioned wrong or be defective. Opticians and optometrists must understand a slew of complex matters including matching your lenses to your eyes, fitting frames to your face (the contour of your nose is critical) and knowing what to recommend for people who need big corrections.” Sitejabber posted reviews of an optical that has both online and brick and mortar venues. There were a number of positive reviews, but of 70 recent negative reviews, 31 cited poor product quality and 39 cited poor customer service for an overall rating of 2.8 stars for both in-person and online services.

Let’s look at customer service. Vanilla Forums provides a customer community platform to organizations that want to improve customer service. Here are their “5 Habits of Good Customer Service Teams” – Engage, Don’t Sell; Be Quick; Know Your Stuff; Offer a Personalized Approach; Stay Positive. The foundation for those five habits is knowledge and training. An optician who is confident in their knowledge of interpreting prescriptions and determining patient needs can engage patients efficiently with a personalized, positive approach. Likewise with quality. A knowledgeable optician can determine the right materials to match patient needs, analyze a problem, and rectify it. Someone without those skills may become defensive, and default to costly remakes without addressing the real issue.

Requirements for the designation of ‘optician’ vary widely across the U.S. Less than half of states require opticians to have a license, and even within that group, requirements differ considerably. How, then, can we ensure a consistent, minimal competency level to ensure that every patient in every state receives great service and quality optical products? The Opticians Association of America (OAA) has a plan.

In 2019, the OAA announced the National Optician Initiative. The program’s goal is to establish a national level of competency and consistency, using the American Board of Opticianry Practical Exam (ABOP) and the National Contact Lens Examiners Practical Examination (NCLEP) as the standard. These exams are offered several times a year at testing sites around the country. Prior to taking the practical exams, the ABO and NCLE Basic Exams are offered in a remotely proctored format for easy access. With successful completion of the practical exams, participants are awarded the PRO, Professional Registered Optician designation, which would recognize all opticians across the country through uniform testing for competency, regardless of state licensure status.

Give your staff the knowledge and confidence they need to earn loyal patients by guiding them through the certification process. Learn more about PRO designation and optician training with our CE, The State of Opticianry, at