Raise your hand if you remember needing a pattern to edge lenses. How about heat-treating glass lenses? If you didn’t raise your hand, no worries: we have come a long way these last twenty years. As with any industry, change is inevitable and necessary; the optical industry is no different. In order to keep up, however, the classroom must also change to meet the industry standards.
In 2018, we must compete with google opticians: consumers for whom the internet is their industry expert. Twenty years ago, we could tell a customer about a product and they wouldn’t have a clue what we were talking about, nor would they know where to find the information. Now? As soon as you mention a product name, frame, or even price, they are showing you the prices you can get online.
How do we stay ahead? How do we prepare our students to succeed in a world of competing information?
One way is to not lose sight of the importance of human interaction. In the classroom, I stress the importance of professionalism: being able to conduct yourself with integrity and accountability, and to communicate effectively. It is these simple concepts that will guarantee repeat business. People need eye care, but not everyone needs to walk into your business, so the human component becomes a skill and tool to continually improve upon.
Equally important in the field of opticianry is the ability to analyze a patient’s prescription. Opticians should be proficient at analyzing, interpreting and completing the eyewear needs of the patient. If we produce the type of opticians who just point to the frame board and tell the patient to look over there, then we are not any different from the internet and not setting ourselves apart from the rest. I teach my students how to uncover the patient's needs by interviewing in order to explain and demonstrate the benefits and features appropriate and available for each.
Consumers today are increasingly knowledgeable, and as opticians you must create a climate that ensures you are well educated and knowledgeable in your career, no matter how fast the industry changes.