By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD
Patients come to you for your expertise. They want the care and service you provide in your exams to be superior to what they might get elsewhere or online. So that must mean that you’ve educated them well in some way. Perhaps you or the technicians have explained the various tests and what information they can provide. Maybe you’ve taken the time to educate patients about UV or harmful blue light. Perhaps you’ve fit a family member with a first pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses. The points that resonated should be strong enough to encourage the patient to return.
But professional eye care services are only one part of your business. If patients are leaving with their prescriptions in hand, it’s because they haven’t made the same connection about the quality of or need for the products you’re recommending. Why is that?
Independent ODs capture only about 50 percent of the eyewear sales from the eye exams they conduct, according to VisionWatch and Jobson Optical averages. Take a look at what could be creating that gap between patients who are receiving one or more new eyewear prescriptions from you but choosing to buy their eyewear somewhere else. You may be able to address most of these gaps with relative ease—and through the same kind of education you already provide.
Here are some of the factors that can affect a patient’s reasons to purchase eyewear.
Appointment Ran Long
If patients allot an hour for an annual exam and they wait for 20 minutes or longer in the reception area, that leaves them feeling rushed. Analyze your patient flow to determine where the delays are taking place and how they can be eased. Also consider adapting your schedule. If there’s a delay in seeing the doctor, can your opticians help patients start their eyewear selection even before they are called back?
Does your optical dispensary look current? If it hasn’t changed in years, it won’t be inviting. Reinforce the message that you offer a wide variety of frames at a variety of price points. If patients believe your offerings are too dated or pricey, they may choose to do their shopping online.
Understanding of the Value of Your Services
Do your patients understand the value of buying their eyewear products from you? Does someone explain that you offer adjustments or warranties? Do patients understand that a customized prescription involves more measurements that cannot be taken at home with a ruler? Just as your office staff takes the time to point out what differentiates your professional services, opticians should be able to clarify the superior service and support that comes with buying from your optical.
Your patients should also be educated about the technical expertise of your staff. That includes highlighting your staff’s mastery of measurements and adjustments. It’s also important to provide education about the many benefits of the premium lenses you sell, so patients know these products are worth the added expense.
The Total Charge
For some patients, one obstacle might be paying for what they want and need right now. This isn’t just a factor for patients based on income. Even a patient who can pay for the products now might appreciate what patient financing offers them. When patients hear that they might be eligible for promotional financing over six or 12 months and can make monthly payments, the calculations about what they can walk out with that day change. They no longer need to decide whether it’s contact lenses, a pair of eyeglasses, computer eyewear or sunwear. It can be all of them.