Amir Khoshnevis, OD
As you implement your professional New Year’s resolutions, make sure this is on the list: improving your optical dispensary. Here are 10 steps to boost profits.
1.Take an active role. Stop abdicating your responsibilities as the CEO and start managing your optical. A significant cost/profit center of a practice should not be left to chance, or allowed to be managed by a non-owner, without direct and regular reporting.
2.Audit, audit, audit. Your lab and frame statements should be scrutinized for billing errors, due credit, charges for warrantied items, volume or individual item discounts not issued, etc. It’s not enough to simply reconcile your statement against invoices, especially if you delegate this to the same folks who are ordering products. There should be a system of checks and balances in all aspects of your practice. Review figures for 2011, if you can dedicate the time, and you’ll come to realize this is one of your biggest opportunities for cost-savings…
3.Set a production goal for optical sales. One of the best key performance indicators for the optical is “pairs of lenses sold” (or if you would prefer to include frames in the count, use “complete pairs sold”). If you have this number, you can easily monitor your capture rate based on number of exams performed with refraction. Setting a monthly number will give your optical staff a simple goal and allows you to truly quantify your walk-out rate.
4.Start to differentiate from competition. Any good business needs to evaluate and understand the competitive forces influencing their consumer’s decision making process. Optometry is no different, if you have a retail component such as an optical. If you carry the same products, more specifically the same brands, be prepared to enter the price war. If you don’t believe me, simply Google your favorite frame brands in your office. If they are mass produced, chances are you’re overpriced. Online sales of frames and lenses are growing at an alarming rate. The technology exists to allow a patient to get accurate measurements and virtually sample frames (while others send multiple frames to the consumer and allow them to keep one or more, and ship the rest back free of charge), and mass-retailers are luring your patients away by offering the big brands. You can either allow the environment to control your practice, or you can actively differentiate by offering the promise of individuality to your patients.
5.Build your online presence. Use the power of search engines to drive patients to your optical. Regardless of your decision to sell online or not, your optical should have a story to tell when consumers are looking for “the place” to shop for their “frames.” Consider creating a new website just for your optical (ours will launch this month). Create a truly exciting, fashion-oriented retail site that gives the consumer a sense of what is trendy and exciting in eyewear. Keep your focus on the the consumer’s needs and desires to become “the place” to go in town.
6.Have a big sale and get rid of the old frames in your inventory. Unsold inventory is like having stacks of money sitting on your shelves, collecting dust, all the while depreciating.
7.Take a trip. Have you taken your primary frame purchaser or optical staff to a big show, like Vision Expo? The opportunities to welcome new vendors and exciting products to your office are endless. For us, it’s the most exciting trip of the year. The same goes for our most loyal patients and consumers in town who eagerly wait for us to bring back the goodies.
8.Observe and refine your sales techniques. Watching your optical staff in action, whether in person or by recording a few interactions, will tell you everything you need to know about your sales potential. In order to align your prescribing habits with your opticians’ sales techniques, you need to speak the same language, believe in the same products, and most importantly, present a solution for the patient and not a list of products.
9.Create three exciting promotions and alternate between them every other month.
10. Read “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” by Chris Anderson. We all need to rethink marketing to the masses in the age of free internet and price transparency. This one is a must read.
What improvements to your optical do you plan to put into action this year?
Amir Khoshnevis, OD, founded Carolina Family Eye Care in 2003. He is a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and is a member of several optometric associations. He is a presenter at AOA and SECO. Dr. Khoshnevis has a strong interest in specialty contact lenses and has built a medical co-management contact lens practice as well as a clinical investigation site for specialty lenses. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org.