By Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA
Create a distinctive optical dispensary that sends a consistent message: You offer a high-quality patient experience–and this is the place to purchase eyewear.
USE DESIGN PROFESSIONAL. A professional who understands optical layout and design can create an effective shopping space that reflectsyour practice concept.
DEVOTE LARGEST AREA TO OPTICAL. At least half of your revenues come from the optical, so make it the largest area of the office.
OFFER PRIVACY & EASE-OF-MOBILITY. Tables should be spaced far enough for privacy, and use rolling chairs.
Your optical dispensary should make patients feel comfortable enough to browse and be encouraged to make a purchase. Studyingdetails like furnishings, mirrors and the process of displaying frames is essential.
The financial growth in our dispensary in the years following a move to an office with a larger, revamped optical in April 2010 shows the difference dispensary environment makes. In 2010, our annual revenues from frames sold was $573,112. By 2013, that number had grown to $631,833. Annual total frame and spectacle revenues in 2010 was $1,634,593. Last year it was $1,917,460.
The first step to improving your optical and generating additional revenues is to decide on a concept for your whole office and project it consistently. The optical dispensary of your practice should reflect the philosophy of the practice in general. If you pride yourself on providing the best care to patients on the clinical side of your practice, and then have a cut-rate optical department, you are sending a mixed message. I believe this hurts potential optical sales. The opposite could be true also. If you have a clinic that promotes low exam fees and basic care, and then create a high-end optical, the patient also would be confused and probably spend less. In other words, your philosophy needs to be consistent in all areas of your practice.
We have branded our practice high-end, both on the clinical and optical side. We project a consistent message: We are going to offer the best care in service and products regardless of price. We offer what we feel is the best solution for patients first and then worry about cost after making the recommendation.
In Dr. Krivacic’s optical dispensary, tables are far enough apart to enable private conversations. Rolling chairs enable mobility, and full-length mirrors allow patients to see how frames would look with the outfit they are wearing (their personal style).
Use Design Professional to Create Optical
Use an interior design professional to help create your optical dispensary. Many doctors think they can save money by designing their own optical. Unless you went to a different kind of optometry school than I did, or have an undergraduate degree in interior design, it’s worth enlisting a design professional. You’ll spend more money up front, but you’ll make up for it in the long run.
Make Optical Dispensary Largest Area
Our current optical is approximately one-third of our nearly 5,000 sq. ft. office. In the past, our optical didn’t take up such a large percentage of the office space. We relocated about four years ago and made a concerted effort to make our optical larger. In our practice, and probably most independent practices, at least half of revenue comes from sales in the optical department. Therefore, it only makes sense to devote more space to that portion of the practice.
Our optical is located immediately to the right of our main entrance and reception area and is a wide and inviting space.
The dispensary is well lit and shows off popular frame brands on variedshelving.
Purchase Tables and Chairs that Allow for Privacy, Ease of Mobility
Dispensary tables should be spaced far enough apart so that patients feel comfortable talking about products and price without others easily overhearing their conversation. We have also found that chairs that can roll make patients feel more at ease.
The only concern when using rolling chairs is elderly patients potentially have a hard time sitting in or getting up from a moveable chair. I would also recommend having extra chairs stationed by each dispensing table, as many people like to bring friends or relatives with them when they shop for eyewear.
Install Full-Length Mirrors
We have several full-length mirrors in our optical. This is great for most patients who are browsing because not only do they want to see how the frames look on their face, but also how the frames look in conjunction with their clothes (their personal style). I would recommend including at least one, if not more, full-length mirrors in your optical.
Invest in Personalized Lens System
We use the Essilor Visioffice system for measuring lenses in frames. It not only helps take more precise measurements for better optics in the patient’s eyewear, but it allows the patient to compare at least four frames they have tried on by taking and displaying images ofthe choices they have modeled.
For our opticians, the instrument providesmore precise measurements,such as facial wrap, vertex distance, PD, dominant eye and reading distances. This provides better vision and makes for more delighted patients.
The system also helps us reinforce the theme in our office that we are up-to-date and want to ensure that our patients have the best experience possible.
Arrange Frame Board By Brand and Gender
We arrange our frame boards around frame brands. For example, we arrange brands together such as Gucci, Ray-Ban, Chanel, etc. Within the brand subset, we then divide the frames by gender:male, female and unisex. This generally makes for easier shopping by the patients since the majority of shoppers are drawn in by brand recognition. It also tends to make each brand appear to be more exclusive if they are not a lumped all together haphazardly.
Use Price Tags
We have price tags on the frames that we display. We feel having a price tag helps the patient compare products. It also reduces time in explaining prices to patients on every frame they select to try on. The patients can also help us in showing us what price range they would prefer to stay in.
Use Frame Display Trays
We use felt-lined trays to display frames during the dispensing process. This again adds to the experience patients have in the optical. We want that consistent theme of quality to resonant throughout the patient’s time in our office.
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