By Diane Palombi, OD
April 22, 2015
When I was in practice, the frames that sold best were the ones worn by my staff and myself. I suspect that when a frame is worn by a staff member, the patient perceives it as a quality, stylish frame.
The patient can inquire to the staff member about the comfort of their frame, and there is the advantage of seeing the frame on a person, rather than just on the board. This gives the patient a better sense of what the frame might look like on their own face.
Fortunately, I had employees of many ages–from young adults, like my daughter, to myself (in my 40s and 50s then)–to serve as models. Many of my patients were around my age, and were often interested in the frames I was wearing. However, I sometimes had patients the same age as me, or older, who were more interested in the frames my daughter was wearing.
Frames that you wouldn’t think would be popular, could be, if worn by your optician. My optician once wore a burgundy plastic frame with gold snakes on the temples because she found it so comfortable. I was surprised to see sales of even this unusual frame increase dramatically after patients saw my optician wearing it.
The frames I wore as doctor also were always a bestseller. The patient assumption seemed to be that if the frame was good enough for the doctor, it was good enough for them.
I had no male employees, but mentioning that my husband wore a particular frame carried a lot of weight with male patients, who sometimes chose frames based on my recommendation.
The impact of the staff’s optical style on patients may be subconscious. I surveyed my friends on whether they are influenced in their frame selection by what the optical staff is wearing, and the overwhelming majority said that they are not. Some said that the staff at their doctor’s office does not even wear glasses. Others said that they usually come to the dispensary with a frame style already in mind, sometimes after seeing the frame on TV or in a magazine. They also sometimes already know the frame they have in mind after browsing styles online.
Since, consciously or not, patients are influenced by staff eyewear, it is worth making it easy for staff to wear your products. My optical lab would give my employees one complimentary pair of lenses a year, and the frame companies we purchased from also would comp my employees’ frames. So, every year, each employee received one free pair of complete eyewear (frames and lenses). If they wanted multiples pairs, they would only have to pay for lenses at half of lab invoice price. This made it affordable for my employees to change up their eyewear.
I never influenced my employees in their frame choices, but I always thought wearing an affordable frame that would be covered by most patients’ insurance plans was a good idea. I could have pushed more expensive frames with more out-of-pocket expenses for the patient, but that was not my practice philosophy. The majority of my frames were affordable for patients. I did not carry many expensive designer frames, and my patient base typically did not request them.
The bottom line: Patients are influenced by your staff’s eyewear in their decision to purchase. Making it affordable for employees to wear your products can pay off in dividends for your optical.
Do you make it easy for your employees to wear the products you sell? How do you, and the vendors and labs you work with, do this? Are there particular styles or brands you prefer staff to wear over others?
Diane Palombi, OD, now-retired, was owner of Palombi Vision Center in Wentzville, Mo. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org