Kids return to class with style, vision

August 15, 2011

Many children, returning to school this fall, will lack the tools that can help them perform at their optimal level: a professional eye exam and glasses, if necessary.

It seems like summer just began, but in reality we should be thinking about our patient outreach for autumn.

The exam process

Maintain a childlike mindset and refrain from talking down or excluding the child from your conversations. Getting good results requires equal parts effective communication and an animated approach.

If a child needs eyewear, everyone needs to be supportive. Mentioning enhanced academic and extracurricular performance and the cosmetic appeal of fashion-forward frames and lens styles may soothe a child's anxiety.

The dispensing process

Young patients come fully equipped with some challenging characteristics: short attention spans, curiosity, and strong opinions.

The dispenser's role is to present options, provide choices, and ease fears of the entire family. Keep in mind that you're dealing with two separate sets of needs and wants. Parents want durability, style, and value (in that order) and kids tend to think style first, then color and comfort. Great listening and communication skills and a heaping spoonful of compromise will help you keep everybody happy.

Communicating with young patients and winning their trust and the trust of their parents is crucial. Ask personal questions concerning school, sports, and hobbies to get the child talking. This information can be useful in determining lifestyle needs and also is great to document on the patient chart for future reference. It is almost impossible to recall personal information on all your patients and this is a an effective way to provide more personalized service. This type of relationship building with children and their parents will provide you with lifelong, loyal patients.

Marketing opportunities

Once you've mastered the skills necessary for interacting with children and their parents, it's time to take the show on the road. In other words, communicate to your community your interest in young patients.

By using a ten-step marketing plan (see sidebar) you will create a high level of visibility and position yourself as a leading resource for children's vision care.