By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO
March 21, 2018
Your staff is your greatest resource, introducing patients to your practice, and ensuring they leave their appointments with all the products you have prescribed.
Since staff is a vital driver of patient satisfaction and profitability, my practice focuses attention on preparing them well to their jobs. Over the years, I’ve discovered several key training resources that continue to teach my staff the lessons they need to serve patients, and help drive revenues.
Essilor Optical Training: The Value of Cross-Training Whole Staff on Lens Features
Essilor offers training options for novice opticians, and all employees who need to know more about ophthalmic lenses and sales techniques.
Where do I find it? Through your lab rep, provided that you purchase Essilor lenses.
Cost: Usually no cost, but you have to be doing business with an Essilor lab. Or, in cases of programs that are more advanced, a guarantee of a percentage of lab business or growth.
Lessons learned: Everything from lens basics, materials, properties, how to fit, sell and educate. It also keeps everyone up to speed on advancements in personalized lens technology. We learned the value of cross-training all staff on lens products, so selling becomes a team effort, rather than something only for the opticians.
This training has helped give my non-optical staff knowledge that allows them to be better-versed with patients, as well as serve as back-ups for my seasoned opticians. It has also helped my regular opticians to sell lens packages and lens treatments more effectively.
MBA Inventory (stands for “Management By Appreciation): How to Best Show Employees & Co-Workers Appreciation
This inventory, or survey, is based on the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, but instead of romantic relationships, it focuses on languages of appreciation for the workplace. Each staff member takes a 10-minute survey, answering questions about how they most like appreciation in the workplace to be expressed to them.
Where do I find it? www.mbainventory.com
Cost: Depending on how many employees you have, it can cost between $50-$150 total.
Lessons learned: It allows you to understand your co-workers (and for management, your staff), and what “speaks” to them in the workplace to make everyone happy. For instance, what you appreciate is often the way you “speak” to your co-workers, but it may not be meaningful to them, so they don’t really hear the appreciation you’re trying to express. When you know what makes your co-workers happy and feel appreciated, you can apply it. In the process, your positive messages to them, and vice versa, will come through more clearly.
We spent about 20-30 minutes explaining each language, or way of communicating appreciation outlined in the program, and then had each staff members’ results revealed. Now, every week at our regular staff meeting, each staff member takes a turn giving an example of how best to show appreciation to them, including an example of how not to show appreciation to them. It’s compelling because even though staff members may identify with a particular language of appreciation, it doesn’t mean they like appreciation communicated the same way. I liken this to people who speak the same language, but different dialects. Overall, it makes for a happier workplace and something we can use to talk to staff about their co-worker relationships.
Lunch ‘n’ Learns with Vendor Reps: The Importance of Staff Understanding & Wearing the Products Themselves
The reps from whom you purchase contact lenses, frames and ophthalmic lenses can also be training resources.
Cost: $0, and often free lunch or food for you and your staff.
Lessons learned: Presentations from our vendors allow my employees to become well-versed and better understand the products you use to treat your patients, or sell to them. Increased talking points, confidence and understanding by staff empower patients in the long run.
Our reps have taught us the importance of having staff members wear the products they sell. They encouraged us to make it easy for our staff members to wear their products, frequently offering discounts to make it easy for my practice to provide the products to our employees at little, or no, cost. When staff themselves use a product and understand the why behind it, the sales presentation to patients becomes more powerful, as nothing beats a personal testimony. This has boosted sales of glasses, omega supplements and contact lenses in my office over the last 10 years, resulting in increased revenues of over $100,000.
Vision Source Customer Training: Presentations from Renowned Companies Outside of Optometry
You can find training resources through membership in Vision Source, or through another alliance that partners with Vision Source.
Cost:–$0 for Vision Source members.
Lessons learned: Customer service tips and advice presented by the corporate training divisions of organizations like the Ritz-Carlton and Disney. For instance, it teaches the Ritz-Carlton technique of providing legendary service by training employees to keep their “antenna” up to anticipate customer, or patient, needs, before they arise, and the Disney method of teaching the difference between “back stage” and “front stage” presentation to customers. Employees learn which actions, or work, should be unseen by patients, so that a seamlessly pleasant patient experience is created.
With competition from online retailers, and large optical chains, offering intuitive, personalized–and seamless–patient service is a way to differentiate your practice. Patients can find many of your products elsewhere, but not your high-quality, attentive staff.