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Donna Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group.
Take these suggestions and you’ll watch your capture rate improve and your average optical ticket rise.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
Industry research on optical sales confirms that lifestyle dispensing generates not only higher average revenue per patient, but also increases patient satisfaction. Could this tactic boost sales in your office? What does it look like when properly executed?
Simply put, lifestyle dispensing means that the doctor recommendation and the eyewear consultant’s reinforcement of the doctor’s recommendation focuses on solving the patient’s most annoying visual acuity problem.
For example, my most visually challenging situation is in front of a computer late in the day or any time I am on a tiny digital device writing emails responses to doctor inquiries, composing client reports, or crafting articles for publishing venues-like this blog. That’s a pretty written-about doctor/optician patient-presentation, right?
Unfortunately, I have a very restrictive vision plan linked to my medical insurance. What this means to my eyecare provider is that he and his team must be prepared to answer any questions about payments while educating me about the best lens options for my stated problem.
I suggest using a lensguide. This is a printed brochure or nicely laid out one-sheet document on your letterhead. Either way, this patient-friendly educational brochure generates a conversation with the patient that links patient lifestyle to a best spectacle lens recommendation.
This begins in pretesting. Clinic technicians should be trained to collect visual needs information: how patients use their eyes, etc.
-Establish the patient's vocation and hobbies.
-Relate an enhancement in acuity and the comfort of the patient's vision to lens technology options.
The technician may or may not verbalize these observations. The technician always circles blocks of copy in the lensguide that would enhance vision. The technician then gives the marked document to the patient when he or she is seated in the exam room. NOTE: The document briefly explains all the practice’s most recommended lenses.
The technician invites the patient to read about the circled spectacle lens technology as he or she waits for the doctor in the exam room.
As the patient reads about the lens features that the technician marked, the patient self-educates. By the time that the doctor enters the room, the patient has a rudimentary understanding of how prescription eyewear leads to clearer vision in a variety of situations. The idea that your office will be creating a visual system designed just for the patient and his or her individual visual and lifestyle needs is beginning to take root.
To review, all the technician does is mark in a brochure what kind of spectacle lens the patient is currently using and adds an option that might solve the patient’s acuity issues. Then, the doctor continues by marking off the lens options the optical staff should demonstrate to the patient.
If you decide to create your own lensguide, pick descriptive names for lens options. This creates a better picture in the patient’s mind than technical ones. For example, “thin and light” or “featherweight” attract patients' interest more than “high-index” or “polycarbonate.”
It’s also important for the doctor and optician to offer general guidelines for what type of “best” options are appropriate for which visual lifestyle issues.
Let’s role play
Technician: "Mrs. Smith, tell me about your eyes. Last year you complained about __________. Is this still a problem for you?"
Review the patient’s answers to visual acuity lifestyle questions.
Mark the lensguide and return it to the patient saying: “Mrs. Smith, based on what you’ve told me, I’ve marked some lens materials and treatment options you may want to consider.”
By the end of the exam, the lensguide will become the patient’s written documentation of your practice’s professional recommendations.
When the doctor enters the room, he or she asks for the lensguide and asks the patient, “Mrs. Smith, tell me what you are doing when your vision most bothers you.”
If the doctor agrees with what the technician suggested, he or she simply reinforces those choices with his or her recommendations.
If the doctor feels like another spectacle lens technology would be better, he or she stars those blocks of text.
While it is certainly good patient care to educate patients about their spectacle lens options with a lensguide, please don’t forget that the patient comes to a doctor’s office for your expertise and will not be offended by a recommendation about “best” lens technology.
For example, "Mrs. Smith, you're having difficulty seeing in dimly lit areas because you are presbyopic. You need assistance seeing near and far and because of that I recommend _________ (give what you consider to be the ONE best option for that patient: Progressive Lenses, Bifocal Contact Lenses, A/R, UV, etc.)
Not your style? What about the following word pattern delivered with a smile, a positive voice and eye contact?
“Your prescription did not change much this year, which is always good to see, but there are some other aspects of your eyeglasses I want one of our eyewear consultants to talk with you about. There have been some amazing advancements in lens technology in the past year, which can improve your vision.”
What if I were your patient?
Remember my problem? Computers and digital devices. Here is what I would like for you to tell me.
“Mrs. Suter, computer glasses provide a wide and deep field of vision at an intermediate distance between 18 and 24 inches, which is the normal distance between your eyes and the computer screen. You will find that you’ll see the screen more clearly and will not have to handhold your glasses in an uncomfortable position to see the screen. Working on the computer will be a lot easier and less stressful.”
Escort patient to optical
Each patient is then escorted to the optical area and introduced to either your optician or his or her helper, referred to as an eyewear consultant. Then, in front of the patient, explain to the optical worker what the patient needs for clearer vision in his or her most visually challenging circumstance.
What if no one is in the optical? Seat the patient.
“Mrs. Smith, please review your lensguide while I inform my eyewear consultant that you’re ready to begin the lenses and frame selection portion of the exam.”
If they are working with another patient, interrupt.
Get the lead optician or eyewear consultant who is on the floor with a patient to excuse him/herself. Grab the one who is in the frame dispensing portion of the selection process or dispensing eyewear orders.
Walk with him/her back to the patient you just escorted to the optical.
Set up a positive experience. For example, “Sally, this is Mrs. Smith. She needs something for near and far. Her present glasses are too heavy and slip down her nose. Please demonstrate our thinnest progressive lenses.”
The optician then takes the lensguide, looks at your suggestions and answers the patient’s questions.
Encourage eyewear consultants to not obsess about price or vision plan coverage at the start of the selection process. Challenge them to discipline themselves to base frame and lens recommendations on need and not price.
However, he or she must be prepared for a “first thing” question about vision plan insurance.
“I have XYZ vision insurance and want just what is covered.”
“I understand you want to use your coverage. With your permission, I would like to go over what the doctor recommended and then discuss what your plan covers. (brief pause) Dr. Jones marked putting you in a no-glare progressive with premium coatings. What this means to you is….”
This way, the optician is on his or her way to creating a happy patient that will recommend others to your optical.
This replaces ordinary ways to begin the selection process that often sound like the following:
“Are you changing your frame today?”
“You want one like your old one?”
“Do you want me to pick one out for you or do you want to look with me?”
“Do you like plastic or metal?”
If any of the above sound like your office, just ask for the change you want.
Please keep in mind that this consultive approach to optical sales requires practice and buy-in: buy-in from the clinic technicians and/or opticians, as well as the doctors. Take it one step at a time and you’ll watch your capture rate improve and your average optical ticket rise.