EASY STEPS TO MORE EYECARE, EYEWEAR AND PATIENT SATISFACTION
By Linda Conlin, ABOC, NCLEC
Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:
- Enhance the patient experience by understanding the modern consumer.
- Understand how Sunbit's Buy Now, Pay Later option benefits the optical practice and patient.
- Understand how Sunbit brings simplicity to in-store financing.
Optical patients have many choices for their eyewear needs, making the customer experience essential in decision-making and purchasing process. They want a seamless experience with personal attention from someone they trust while feeling in control of the interaction. Often, pricing is an uncomfortable part of that interaction. Technology is enabling new financing options that patients and ECPs both love, helping patients get the vision care and eyewear they need when they need it. The Sunbit buy now pay later option takes away the discomfort of the cost conversation by allowing the patient to select an easy way to pay with quick approval. This enhances the experience by empowering the patient and enabling the optician to provide the best products. The result is a lasting, positive patient experience and loyalty to the practice.
Linda Conlin, ABOC, NCLEC is the Managing Editor for 2020 Magazine Pro to Pro. With more than 40 years’ experience in the optical industry, she has held various positions as an optician and in management, is a past Chair of the Connecticut Board of Examiners for Opticians, taught opticians at the college level, and created a program for continuing education for opticians. For more than 20 years, she has authored ABO/NCLE accredited courses and lectured at national and state venues.
This course has been approved for 1 Hour, Non-Ophthalmic continuing education credit by the ABO. Course Number: SWJHI019
Optical patients have many choices for their eyewear needs, making the customer experience essential in the decision-making and purchasing process. They want a seamless experience with personal attention from someone they trust while feeling in control of the interaction. Often, pricing is an uncomfortable part of that interaction. Technology is enabling new financing options that patients and eyecare practitioners (ECPs) both love, helping patients get the vision care and eyewear they need when they need it. The Sunbit Buy Now, Pay Later option takes away the discomfort of the cost conversation by allowing the patient to select an easy way to pay with quick approval.
This enhances the experience by empowering the patient and enabling the optician to provide the best products. The result is a lasting, positive patient experience and loyalty to the practice.
UNDERSTANDING THE MODERN CONSUMER
During the past decade, the world of eyecare changed dramatically, not just for practitioners but for their patients. Consumers have a host of options for purchasing eyeglasses and sunglasses. They will do business with a provider who makes them feel comfortable while satisfying their eyecare needs and wants at prices they personally can manage. It is the time of the more sophisticated consumer in the eyewear field. Buy Now, Pay Later is a short-term financing tool that offers patients options to make payments over a specified period. Patients are empowered to purchase what they want when they want it without compromise.
The eyewear consumer is knowledgeable, and before they walk through the door to make an instore purchase, they have already compared products and prices across multiple channels. They enter the practice with solid notions of what they want, and most importantly, they want it now, if not yesterday. When purchasing eyewear, they look at the clock, not the calendar. Time is the new currency for patients.
That is why practice owners keen on providing the best service find ways to make the most use of every minute of the day. One way: simplifying the checkout process, maximizing time for both patient and practice staff in two ways.
For the ECP change brings discomfort, which slows the transition to new ways of doing business. According to Laura Kreofsky, VP, strategy, at Pivot Point Consulting, “The retail health care revolution poses an existential challenge to traditional providers, many of which have been slow both to embrace digital technologies and acknowledge the growing expectations of health care consumers for choice, affordability and personalization.” All is not lost, as Kreofsky explains: “By developing consumer-focused strategies that include the deployment of virtual care services and user-friendly technologies and ongoing support, traditional health care providers can protect their revenue streams while strengthening patient loyalty. The good news for providers is they also can deploy technologies and develop strategies to retain patients by meeting their needs for a superior experience.”
It is a bit ironic that one of the “newest” ways of satisfying patients’ expectations comes with the rebirth of a once-popular retail strategy: Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), modified of course to meet the demands of the 21st century patient.
Too often, practitioners, as with many business providers, talk about a purchase driven by common sense. The patient should ask, “What are the best eyecare products for my needs?” And there is the dreaded question for all retailers from consumers: “Are you giving me the lowest price for this product?” Study after study has shown that reason plays a small role in most purchasing decisions.
Emotion, more than logic, drives purchasing decisions. It isn’t about which product at what price. It’s the experience the consumer feels. By offering personalized and human experiences, the practice’s staff reaches patients on an emotional level. A well-tuned staff generates an atmosphere of trust where the patient feels comfortable asking questions and expressing concerns. The patient feels a connection. This connection and trust minimize the importance of price and offering BNPL frees the patient to fall in love with a beautiful pair of eyewear and sunglasses without worrying about affording them.
There’s an additional benefit to this technique, one you never witness, but it will help your practice grow. When patients receive personal interaction and develop a bond with the practice, they happily tell their family and friends where they got their new eyewear. More importantly, they tell their acquaintances about how simple and comfortable the process was.
Knowing revenue ultimately reflects customer satisfaction, ECPs rank customer satisfaction as the most critical business metric for the second year in a row. Capture rates come in second, with 43 percent of respondents in a Sunbit research survey saying they are currently concerned or very concerned about capture rates. The top two metrics are related: Patients are more likely to be satisfied if they walk out with the eyewear they need and are able to see, but cost is the number one barrier to capture rates.
Many sectors of the U.S. economy have used this precise process to enable consumers to buy the product they need quickly. Think of automobiles. How many Americans can shell out $35,000 for a new car? Most cannot. That is why dealerships have gone into various programs that make the acquisition more financially comfortable for the consumer. You might say, “Well, eyewear doesn’t cost nearly as much.” True. Think then of appliances. People spend thousands on washers, dryers, refrigerators and ovens. Most have not saved for the expenditure, but they need them. So stores arrange programs that lower the impact of the price, enabling the consumer to buy the product they need and want. Besides, isn’t eyewear more important than a car or an appliance, both of which are worthless if you cannot see well enough to use them?
Essentially our eyewear patients are looking for the same comfortable financing flexibility offered by other sectors of the economy. In 2020, 44 percent of consumers said a BNPL service is somewhat or very important in determining how much they spend. Consumers want fast and easy access to financing. They want you to listen, then have a mutually beneficial dialogue. Consumers want a genuine transparent purchase process that shares their values.
HOW DOES BNPL BUILD BUSINESS?
Your patient fell in love with a luxury frame and needs glare and blue light protection in a premium lens, but the cost is outside of her budget. How can you avoid that patient’s disappointment while helping her achieve the best vision with a style she’ll want to wear? BNPL is a short-term financing tool that offers consumers options to make payments over a specified time. BNPL helps patients find value in premium products and multiple pairs. The buy-now-and-pay-later option reframes how a patient sees the cost of the transaction. It frees them to go with the preferred option, making closing the sale easier for the optician and patient. Let’s see why.
While eyecare has played an integral role in the health care field for more than two centuries, its services and products are ignored, for example, with health insurance plans. According to Versant Health, vision care usually is one of the least accessible health care benefits with employee subsidized insurance. It is often presented as an ancillary service in health care plans. The lack of a strong third-party payer in the eyecare field adds to the friction of purchasing. Consumers today are keenly aware of the costs associated with vision care and will seek ways to mitigate them. Nearly every optician has encountered the patient who says, “I only want what is covered.” But the truth is, no one really wants only what is covered by their insurance. Most of the time, they are trying to say that they want a nice pair of glasses, but their budgets are not large enough to cover the costs associated with their preference.
One way of handling these pressure points is financing options such as Sunbit. These BNPL programs enable managed care patients to get the eyewear they want without being held back by the limits of their managed care plan. Therefore, BNPL provides ease of purchasing, essential to a positive customer experience.
According to a Sunbit ECP Survey, January 2022, the average out-of-pocket expense for eyewear was $343. By signing up with a program like Sunbit’s, patients gain options they may find manageable. Patients are empowered to purchase what they want when they want it without compromise. Sunbit removes barriers to purchasing, including the multiple pairs everyone needs.
According to The Vision Council Covid-19 consumer market insights webinar published in March 2020, two out of three consumers surveyed said they would put off in-person visits for eyecare until the pandemic had passed, and those planning to make online purchases of eyewear more than doubled. Versant Health noted that 88 percent of consumers now prefer online shopping, and that the majority of online eyewear purchases in 2020 were made by Millennials (ages 24 to 39). Online purchases create opportunities for consumers but increase competition for practices, especially with Millennials accustomed to purchasing everything from underwear to automobiles online. Simultaneously, more than 50 percent of consumers used BNPL in 2021, many of them exposed to it online. Consciously or unconsciously, these consumers expect the same option from their inperson optical providers. According to some experts, BNPL plans even the playing field for the independent optical practice with e-commerce competitors. In addition, they can offer the personal service patients expect that cannot be obtained online.
Consider that most consumers, particularly Millennials, are wary of accruing credit card debt. Patients see “the light at the end of the tunnel” when they know exactly how much they will pay and how long it will take. Then add professional attention and patient education to provide a uniquely personal experience. Sunbit is an added amenity and convenience to the eyewear purchase experience, increasing patient comfort levels and making informed decisions. A better consumer experience results in patient loyalty, and loyal, happy patients tell friends and family. Even the National Eye Institute suggests that people ask friends, family, coworkers or neighbors if they can recommend a vision care provider if they don’t have one, making a good word of mouth reputation important.
At the same time, Internet sales have changed expectations. Online, they are three or four clicks from checking out. Of course, they do not expect the same in your practice, but their clocks are ticking faster than they were only 10 years ago. Streamlining checkout speeds up the process. Additionally, it saves staff time. With the additional time, staff can invest more time into providing the personal attention of customer service. Staff guide patients through the fast, easy application process rather than having them sign up on their own. The financing process is integrated into the practice’s point-of-sale system. You can offer patients flexible credit at fair and reasonable rates, with a quick application process and transparent terms. Your patients choose the payment option they want without concern for long-term debt. And if you have an in-office lab, with Sunbit’s 30-second approval process, your patients can take home the excellent pair of glasses they want with peace of mind.
HOW SUNBIT BENEFITS THE INDEPENDENT PRACTICE
Sunbit research shows that optical offices want to make the patient experience better. They want to achieve high customer satisfaction rates and high capture rates. The research also reveals how ECPs can tackle both of those goals simultaneously. See what they’ve found out and how it can impact your business.
Consider these findings: Almost 70 percent of people who wear glasses, contacts or both spend $100 or more. Nearly half spend $200 or more. The average cost of frames and lenses in the U.S. is $343. Members of Consumer Reports have likewise indicated that cost is one of their chief considerations when choosing an eyewear retailer.
And there’s more: 93 percent of ECPs are open to offering financing of some kind. That said, many ECPs are not aware of the available options. The highest awareness is 39 percent for medical credit cards, 19 percent for practicebacked payment plans and 17 percent for BNPL. Of all the financing options, BNPL has the most potential to boost customer satisfaction rates AND capture rates. Customers want payment plans. If given a payment plan option, 78 percent of people would upgrade their lenses or purchase more eyewear. Sunbit can be used to pay for the exam as well.
On the journey from the patient in the exam room to the consumer in the optical dispensary, practices need to leverage technology. Sunbit was founded in 2015, offering new technology to help people by making financing more accessible for essential services. Sunbit isn’t a credit card, which many patients don’t want. They offer access to finite installment loans for which a 30-second application process results in 90 percent approval. With Sunbit technology, there’s minimal data entry and no invasive questions for a quick and easy process, and the soft credit check application doesn’t affect the patient’s credit rating. Account openings and payment activity are reported to a major credit bureau.
Financing options are available for patients across the credit spectrum. Eyecare patients are more comfortable with the BNPL option and want a wide range of payment choices. Sunbit offers a variety of payment options for the consumer to choose from, including three months with no interest at participating merchants. Patients see payment options with “as low as” pricing, and a down payment is required for all purchases. Three, sixand 12-month plans are available for loans from $50 to $6,000. (Loans on the higher end may benefit patients needing orthokeratology, myopia management, specialty lenses, keratoconus treatment or other more costly procedures and products outside of optical.) When the patient chooses a plan with interest, they see the dollar amount of the interest, and the total finance charges, for a clear picture of the exact monthly payment. There are no late or penalty fees, making this a completely transparent transaction.
By the end of next year, more consumers will turn to online providers. For example, it is estimated that by 2023, 23 percent of optical sales will be through e-commerce. As patients return to physical stores after the increase in online purchasing over the past two years, they expect the same options e-commerce offered, but with the added benefits of personal connection and trust. They want (maybe demand is a better description) the process to be easy, emphasizing service even more than price. Practices can distinguish themselves from e-commerce by offering patients dignity, respect and care, including easy financing. Small and medium-sized businesses can compete with online retailers and offer the same BNPL as larger companies by offering Sunbit. The practice is paid right away. The onboarding process is initiated in the office, so patients don’t have to look for it independently. The practice receives Sunbit utilization information in regular financing reports so they can see the difference it’s making.
Sometimes staff assumes they know the limits of a patient’s budget and decide how much they are willing to spend. Sunbit conquers that issue when staff understands that the patients choose their payment options for the eyewear and services they really want. Sunbit provides employee training in the approval process, which integrates into the practice payment platform, and supplies the tablet for application if needed. There’s also a rewards program for staff. Sunbit provides digital marketing to promote awareness of the program on the practice website and point-of-purchase display materials for the office. Sunbit supports the practice and aligns with the practice’s goals of service, quality and relationships.
Over the past two years, some patients may have postponed eye exams and eyewear purchases while not considering interim cost increases, resulting in “sticker shock” for the potentially unexpected expense of a treatment plan or eyewear. Sunbit makes it easier for patients to gain access to care and allows practitioners to broaden the spectrum of care when patients see services as affordable. Insurance usually only covers the basics. Sunbit payment technology enables the practice to generate more frames and lenses sales, and deliver more dry eye treatments, annual supplies of contact lenses, and many other services often not covered by insurance companies. The practice is reimbursed quickly, with payment initiated in full in at least two business days. Average sales, retention, upgrades and multiple pair sales increase, with many patients returning for a second pair after the first is paid off, supporting patient loyalty. Patient satisfaction increases when patients get what they need and like. The patient experience is enhanced with a physical frame try-on and everything they need in one place.
Not all BNPL services are the same, however. If you’re interested in offering a BNPL option, look for a solution that offers:
• A 100 percent digital application process.
• A quick answer without a hard credit check.
• High approval rates—at least 90 percent.
• Simple interest loans with fair rates.
• No hidden fees, no late fees.
• Quick payment in full to the ECP.
Sunbit checks all of those boxes.
ECPs have already seen dramatic success with BNPL technology solutions like Sunbit. These results speak for themselves. One practice, a long-time medical credit card financing user, saw a 178 percent increase in financing revenue after implementing Sunbit. The office saw an incremental revenue gain of $23,235 over just two months, with an average transaction amount of about $450. Customer financing approval rates increased 70 percent, with 95 percent approved compared to 65 percent with medical credit cards.
Another practice saw $15,000 in new revenue in one month alone, shortly after implementing Sunbit. Sales are $411 on average from each patient, but they have an average purchase amount of $735 with patients using Sunbit. That’s more than $300 over the average! Yet another practice saw a 200 percent increase in capture rate after partnering with Sunbit.
More testimonials include a practice that generated an average of $7,500 in revenue per office per month through Sunbit. In one year, a multioffice practice generated more than $362,000 in additional revenue with Sunbit. Patients see a doctor with a retail shop instead of a retail shop with a doctor, which elevates the practice beyond big-box competitors.
END OF PURCHASE CONVERSATION TIPS
Patients don’t ask for something they don’t know exists! Offer BNPL Sunbit technology to every patient who walks through your doors. When it comes time to talk about price, lead the conversation with, “We have Sunbit, so you don’t have to pay everything today. Let me show you how it works. Now that you know how much you qualify for, which options can I show you?” Explain the payment options and let the patient choose. Sunbit provides quick approval for easy payments. Easy financing eases the stress associated with any transaction for the patient and optician. There’s no need to wait for the close of the sale. Sunbit provides messaging to introduce the patient to the program and approval process before the appointment, so the patient can see what’s available in the privacy of their home and come in already knowing about payment options. The office is notified of the at-home approval, which saves staff time, and they have valuable information when the patient arrives.
Once staff understands the value of Sunbit, they can feel good incorporating this financing into their closing strategy for every patient. Having the option to spread payments over time helps redirect the conversation with patients to focus on the eyewear they want. Staff can be comfortable and establish a rapport with the patient. A good listener will convey empathy and understanding of the patient’s needs. Payment options show that you are flexible and will find creative solutions to fill those needs. Identify any objections. Clarify any misunderstanding of the product and patient needs. Explain and demonstrate the features, benefits and advantages of the product. Stress value over price, and by making the purchasing process more straightforward, patients will embrace value.
Life as a practice owner can be hectic with juggling patients, maintaining operational initiatives, and an office full of employees. Making even one thing more straightforward and streamlined would be a welcome benefit. Sunbit technology enables practices to provide access to fast, fair, easy financing available to patients across the credit spectrum. The fast and easy application process can be done instore with an associate or through a link provided by text or email from the practice. Using Sunbit tells the community that you are cutting edge in finding ways to make health care more accessible. Sunbit is an easy win for your patients and any practice owner with a dependable partner and a solution that makes patients’ lives and your practice better.