Not long ago, I talked about how, while visiting a local optical, I was struck by their lack of ambient music, and the strange effect it had on the atmosphere in the store. It got me thinking about the office where I spent the bulk of my time as an optician, and that got me thinking about how our old office compared to many of the stores I’ve visited. I realized something unique about those places versus my old office: None of them had TVs.
Opticians are by nature a compilation of many parts, we are a little bit physics, a little bit fashion, a little bit psychologist, and a little bit tactile genius. We listen, analyze, find solutions, order, fabricate, verify, and adjust eyewear and so many, many more things on a daily basis. And as if we didn’t already have enough on our plates, I’m going to add one more task; storyteller. Why, you might ask? Because this single task might just be the thing that makes what we do so much more valuable to our patients.
I recently had some issues with my phone that couldn’t be resolved over the customer service line, and I was advised to go to my nearest dealer. Thankfully, there’s one on the corner down from my apartment, so it was a quick jaunt over there. Stepping inside, I was a bit taken aback by the choice of music.
Last month, Deborah Kotob, 20/20 Magazine Director of Education, attended the Opticians Association of America State Leadership Conference in Memphis. There, Deb announced Jobson Pro to Pro as the OAA media partner. For more than 90 years, the OAA has been dedicated to the advancement of the American optician. From their Mission Statement, “the OAA is the collective voice of the opticianry industry.
It has been eight months since I have become an apprentice optician. Every working day is an opportunity to learn different techniques and apply my knowledge. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since working in this field, it’s that people need to feel comfortable with who is helping them. Although every optician encounters those patients who refuse almost every suggestion made to them about lens treatments, materials, frame choice, etc., it is still important to try to relate to them and fulfill their needs. Being approachable and friendly will work, but patients gravitate more towards confidence. If there is a way to relate to them on a personal level, they value my recommendations instead of viewing me as another person who is solely seeking sales. Furthermore, I establish a comfort-zone and consequently they willingly share the appropriate information to enable me to design the perfect pair of glasses.
As an Optician, how do you see yourself? Are you the one who takes the order, or are you the one who chooses the best lens, selects the frame that best suits and fits the patient and helps craft both your patient’s look as well as their vision? I don’t know about you, but I am firmly the latter choice. If you don’t see yourself in that manner, then neither do your patients. Want to change the perception? Read on, my friend.
During the recent holidays, it was easier to delve more deeply into my secret-shopping of various brick-and-mortar opticals. The increased foot traffic allowed me to blend in more easily, while the influx of new merchandise for holiday and FSA shoppers provided lots of new stuff to look at and created new sorts of interactions with staff. For the most part, it was unremarkable. In spite of the stress of the season, opticians were on their best behavior—no eight “Are you still doing OK?”s in the course of twenty minutes, as I recalled in an earlier column, or belligerent sales staff trying to pressure me into buying something. In fact, my experiences were downright pleasant. I’ve been encountering a certain technique more and more lately, though, and it’s given me a bit of food for thought about how we present our frames to our patients off the frame board.
I am not a germ freak...well, I could go down that road, but that is not the reason for addressing the important topic of infection control and hygiene in the optical dispensary. This topic was brought to my attention by one of our soon to be graduating Vision Care Technology students. This student has an extensive background in healthcare and is cognizant of the importance and necessity of handwashing and practicing hygiene. After observing interactions in dispensaries over the years, she noticed that the opticians would go from patient to patient without ever washing their hands. Is that what is done in your office? Hand washing is an effective and easy way to reduce the spread of germs and should be done before and after touching a patient. This is even more important now that flu season is here.
Are you taking the time to think back on what has been 2018? I know it’s not quite over yet, but we’re inching in on 2019 and it’s amazing the changes we’ve seen in such a short time. We’ve seen the old school aviator, a frame usually chosen by older men, become popular for teenage girls. We’ve seen the round P3 frame style absolutely blow up. We’ve seen mirrors of all colors used in combination with photochromics. How about the crystal frames, and now metal and zyl combination pieces? I don’t know about you, but this is making me think of what next year will bring and how we will innovate in order to bring what is new and amazing to our little corners of the world.
Whether you work for a large corporation or for a small business, answer the following questions. Is there enough time during the day to properly train your staff? Is there a formal training plan in place for new and current employees? If you answered yes, you are in better shape than many of your peers.