Providing your customer with comfortable vision is the ultimate goal. Achieving this requires a multi-pronged approach
, but in turn, it will not only satisfy the wearer with easier adaptation to new lenses and reduce remakes, but it can also have better profit margins. Subsequently, you’ll sell more pairs, generate repeat business, and build referrals.
While your initial thought may be, “There’s no way my office could do that,”
bear with me through each step and consider the possibilities. There are many factors to get to the end goal. The first steps, though, are getting your staff onboard to implement these good practices and understanding the reason why vision is paramount to a successful result.
Figure 1 illustrates how to improve sales with a customer cycle flowchart.
Figure 1, image provided by Carissa Dunphy.
Ask detailed questions, listen, then deliver
This is huge. Sell for the user and the purpose, not for the sale. Making a quick sale will help no one. I realize that every office’s patient ﬂow and sales processes
can vary greatly, but this can be applied somewhere in that process by one or more members of the practice.
Talk to your customer about what they intend to use the glasses for. Make sure you understand what purpose they will serve and make sure the customer understands the lens they’re getting. Sometimes customers expect the impossible, but if you explain the options available to them you can prevent problems from developing.
I have prepared a few examples that I've encountered countless times:
- A presbyopic emmetrope who hates using progressives for computer use and never wears them while driving.
- A college student with asthenopia who doesn’t wear any correction long enough to notice improvement.
- A person who is cynical because their friend got progressives 10 years ago, and it was the “worst experience of their life.”
- A presbyopic contact lens wearer who cannot see up close because their “arms are too short.”
So what do I do when faced with these scenarios? I start by asking detailed questions about the intent of use and general lifestyle, followed by explaining the options available, which usually leads to the customer selecting the best features based on my professional guidance. The customer knew what to expect, and I delivered exactly what they were expecting to close the loop on the sales experience.
As I considered these solutions, I considered that not all offices can order any lens at any time. Some businesses have a limited or regulated amount of products to choose from.
“In this case, I challenge you to consider all of the options you have available to you. Sometimes multiple pairs can be a better solution than an all-in-one.”
If you’re in an area where you are not in-network for a big group/employer, let customers with these plans know that the vision plan will reimburse them if they pay out of pocket at your office. They often aren’t aware of this and assume they either can’t get glasses from your office or that it will be 100% out of pocket.
“Boring” single vision
No, it’s not! It’s not a one-stop shop where everybody gets the same spherical CR-39 lens using the pupillary distance (PD) on file. No one is super symmetrical, and with the current frame fashion’s B measurement, it is needed. No matter what the prescription is, I recommend getting in the habit of measuring the optical center/pupil height and monocular PDs for every customer.
Let's say customer Single Vision Sally is dead-set on this particular frame. Measuring these two things hardly takes any time and will improve vision for every customer, more for some than others. It would be terrible not to take these measurements when a prescription really needs it, so avoid the oops and just get in the habit.
Make suggestions for specific features
Frames these days are giant, and often the wearer could benefit from the optician recommending something to improve their pair of glasses. I have encountered many customers who happily paid for a 1.67 refractive index for their -0.75D lenses because being lightweight is very important to them.
“They don’t typically ask for it on their own, but by asking if they think they would be sensitive to the possible weight with such large frames, they opt to upgrade.”
One thing I’ve improved upon is taking the prescription into account
. If a customer has a +/-4.00D or greater, I explain how a digital aspheric lens differs from a standard spherical lens. If they aren’t interested, then no time was lost.
If they want more info, I usually start drawing, two of the three choices lead to a better lens. If they have a giant frame within this prescription, then I strongly recommend upgrading to a higher index material. Always ask if they would like light-reactive lenses, and remember to discuss anti-reflective options.
When talking in the simplest way about progressives with a customer, I first determine what they are currently wearing and suggest from there. If they’re in a medium to premium level lens, then I do not recommend downgrading. However, if they’re in a lower category lens or they do not like their lenses, I give them a quick summary of suitable features or improvements.
“My initial go-to is getting some visually-friendly diagrams to use as a selling tool that show the difference between progressives.”
Typically these are on a dispensing mat or a reading card and available at no cost from your lens representative or lab. My highest converting tool had three illustrations of progressive lens viewing areas and corridor layouts, I simply showed the “mapped” difference between good, better, and best, and nearly all chose the best.
Be knowledgeable about available options
Regardless of where you work and what you have available to you, you should generally know about all of the options that are currently available
. There will be random people at random times who ask about something specific, and it’s part of your job to have a working knowledge of what they might be talking about.
Hopefully, you should know of these products or use this as a nudge to brush up on your current product terminology:
- Anti-fatigue lens/power boost
- Photochromic and mirror color options (many more than customary brown and gray)
- Blue light filtering (not to be confused with anti-glare coating)
- Occupational progressive/near variable focus (highly underutilized in my professional opinion)
- Task/job specific (Double D, safety Rx, etc.)
In addition to the basics above, I put progressives and anti-reﬂective treatments in their own section. The variety and specificity within these two areas are astronomical and need to be given serious consideration for functional and profit reasons.
Any of the visible options listed here: coatings, treatments, mirrors, etc. have demo lenses and/or samples available from your lens representative or lab. I recommend having a sample of all options you will sell the most of in an accessible place so you can pull them out on-demand to show customers when needed.
Recommend progressive lenses
A home-run choice is to use a progressive lens where you can specify the near inset. The beauty of this technology is that the lab will do all the heavy lifting by taking the wearer’s measurements and then fabricating the lens to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Selling a great progressive
that is specific to all of the measurements for that customer’s needs will contribute to giving them little to no reduction in viewing zones, prevent induced prism, avoid unwanted astigmatism, assist with known or unknown binocular vision or convergence problems, and many other variables.
There are many options available at all price points, these are my personal preferences:
Discuss anti-reflective treatment options
Every customer should hear about an anti-reﬂective (AR) treatment
. Many visual concerns or lifestyle habits can be helped simply by having AR. It’s a must-have in any practice—a few anti-reﬂective treatment options are all that’s needed for different purposes. One thing to consider is making sure you know the warranty of each coating you're selling or possibly only offer coatings with the same warranty.
I’ve put together a short list of those in my personal AR toolbox:
A note on blue light filters: I prefer to use regular/non-blue light AR
and use a material with a blue light filter embedded. When shown both options, I’ve found the majority of the population does not like the bright blue/purple reﬂective color on the AR.
This also gives you the ability to upgrade their material from CR-39, as it is rare to be available with a blue light filter. Many manufacturers offer a blue light filter option, and it’s even available in some managed care plans!
Figure 2 lays out the benefits of anti-glare treatments.
Figure 2, image provided by Carissa Dunphy.
Communicate about costs
As for cost, do not assume your customer will immediately say no because the retail price is more. It is your job to help your customer to see the best and most comfortable that they possibly can, and part of that is explaining the options available to them. The bottom line is never to assume a customer’s budget!
Measure with sizzle
Exceptional lens designs
can quickly become mediocre when recommended measurements are not provided. If you do not get the manufacturer’s recommended measurements, default numbers are used as a check down. This means that the lens and design are no longer a customized optimization for the customer wearing that frame. In turn, the prescription is compensated to the default numbers and not their measured numbers.
“Getting these measurements only takes an extra minute or two and will also show additional lens value to the customer.”
While you can certainly use multiple manual tools to get these measurements, let me tell you about digital measuring device options that are often more useful than one would think. Measuring with a digital device really establishes a wow factor for the customer.
Things to consider when deciding on which unit to go with:
- Office Flow: Will you need a hand-held, table-standing, or ﬂoor-standing device?
- Brand: You can use any device for any lens, they do not need to be of the same family. Most lens manufacturers have their own digital devices.
- Ease of use: Staff will need to be trained on the unit, which the representative can do. If the device brand is the same brand of lenses you use, you can consolidate the training.
- Integration: Do you need EMR integration, data storage, an ethernet connection, or other logistical details?
- Features: Are extra features desired, such as lens simulations?
- Patient experience: a digital device can be used on any patient regardless of age or prescription, and some may like more explaining than others.
If only I had a nickel for every time I heard a patient tell me how cool it was or that no optician had ever used a digital measuring device before for them. Ultimately if you decide not to opt for a digital device, make sure measurements are manually taken!
My top picks by type of unit:
Decide which type of device would be best for your office and contact the device supplier. You do not have to pay 100% of the unit cost upfront. Consider all of the options available to you, such as lens manufacturer or lab rebate/reward points, lab volume cost negotiation, buying group discounts, financing, and monthly installments.
Figure 3 shows the author’s measurements taken with a digital measuring device. All measurements were populated with one photo taken. Note the symmetrical distance PD and asymmetrical near PD!
Figure 3, image provided by Carissa Dunphy.
Your lab should work with you
So many times, I have spoken with opticians who use a specific lab solely because “It’s just who we’ve always used.” This is not wise for your business. Explore your options
! If you love the lenses you currently use, then inquire with other labs that make those lenses.
It’s extremely unlikely that the lab you use is the only lab in the US that makes those lenses. Also, you could be getting them for less, with a faster turn-around time, and get additional savings with back-end rebate/rewards programs. Better quality lenses cost more from the lab, but they also offer greater profit margins.
“Every lab has different prices and rebates/rewards, every manufacturer also has rebates/rewards, and every office has different retail prices.”
When I looked at raw numbers, a CR-39 single vision lens without AR netted around a $60 profit, while a CR-39 digital aspheric single vision with AR lens netted a $200 profit. Many labs also offer “bundled savings” when you add AR rather than ordering just a lens. Check how you should expect to see these savings and ask if they are automatically redeemed or if you have to request them each month. You might get these savings with a statement credit, point to use/convert to dollars, or with a mailed check.
Here are the savings you should be getting and asking about—and which products qualify and for what amount:
- Lens rebates
- Coating/treatment rebates
- Lens rebates
- Coating/treatment rebates (may be more than one manufacturer)
Do the math. There is no other way to get to the bottom line. Make a simple spreadsheet with costs and savings, or even write it down on a piece of paper for peace of mind. You can then easily see your profit margins and net results and then make decisions.
If you love your lab
, talk with your representative about additional ways to save or get some numbers if you were to change up what you order. If your lab is not meeting your satisfaction, I would recommend looking at other options. You can use a single lab or more than one lab; however, you must be aware that using a singular lab can often increase savings due to greater volume.
I’ve compiled a short list of my recommended labs that you can reference:
Smaller, independent labs:
Big labs with a lot of options:
To sum it up
Being financially comfortable is a nice place to be, but it’s not always the smartest business decision
. Make it a goal to get staff up to speed with the best lens options available and get the needed product training from representatives.
Once you establish the options you are targeting to sell the most often, make sure the dollars and cents make sense on the lab front. If they don’t, then shift quickly to look at your lab options. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that the customer’s vision and satisfaction
are your number one goals for consistent return business.