Accentuate the positive

People nowadays are flooded by hurricane-strength doses of makeovers. Our homes have been transformed through "extreme makeovers," our lifestyles have been "queer eyed," and our families upended by trading spouses.

"The first month that I started my program, the optical dispensary I worked for saw a 29% increase in second-pair sales. Average sales jumped some 40%. It was absolutely phenomenal," Schounard said.

Extreme customer service

As business manager for a variety of clients-including ophthalmologists, optometrists, and laser vision correction centers-Schounard knew the common denominator for profitability was their optical dispensary.

However, optical sales had been flat. When Schounard went into optical dispensaries she didn't like what she saw.

"I was very frustrated when I looked at the frame boards," she said. "I realized everything on the frame boards looked the same. The optician doing the buying at that time was buying to her likes and to her age group and not meeting the needs of the patients out there."

Schounard thought to herself, "How can we increase our secondary sales?"

Schounard's extensive management experience taught her that customer service is critical to the success of an optical business.

"I want patients to feel special because that's going to bring them back and make people talk about our office and send other people to us. It becomes totally a win-win program," said Schounard.

To enable herself to serve patients better, Schounard went to school 10 years ago to become a certified image consultant and personal shopper. The curriculum included training in color analysis, face shape analysis, body types, and matching up appropriate clothing with factors such as personality, body shape, and lifestyle.

After earning her certification, Schounard set out to apply what she had learned to the optical industry. First, she designed a questionnaire for customers to complete upon arriving at the dispensary.

Schounard told new arrivals: "I really want to be able to take care of all of your optical needs. If I can have just a moment of your time, I'm going to ask you a few simple questions and we can go from there."

Two versions of the survey were created: one for men and one for women. Each type of survey had 10 multiple-choice questions; patients were allowed to circle only one answer per question. The dispensary's staff was trained to interpret survey responses, creating a patient profile, a thumbnail view of the patient's way of life. That knowledge would allow opticians to customize their sales approach, aiming at directly matching a patient's career, lifestyle, age, and personality. Another key factor is the ophthalmologist's recommendations for the functionality of the patient's eyewear.