By Preston Fassel
June 27, 2018
You can increase the likelihood of patients leaving your practice with the eyewear you prescribed if they can find something they like in your optical. That may sound obvious and intuitive, but having the wrong frame mix is a common practice problem.
Here’s how the right frame mix makes all the difference to the ability of patients to follow through with your prescriptions–without leaving your office.
Is There a Group of Patients Who Aren’t Being Served?
If you’re seeing multiple patients from a similar demographic coming through your office, seriously looking at your frames, and not purchasing anything, I’d say that’s the biggest sign that your frame mix needs updating.
My practice saw this with petite women. We had several female patients come through the office with smaller faces, or who were proportionately smaller than average, who weren’t purchasing frames. It finally occurred to us, through discussions with patients and through observation, that the issue was we didn’t have frames that were catering to these patients’ needs.
“You Don’t Have Anything Like That?”
Most telling to me is when you’ve got patients regularly asking you, “You don’t have anything like x?” When cat-eye frames first started to become popular again a few years ago, our practice didn’t stock any because there was still that “old lady” stigma against them. But then we started to see this pattern of younger women coming in, getting their exams, looking at the frame board, not trying anything on, then coming up to the desk to ask, “You don’t have any like…?” And they’d invariably cite some movie or television show in which a female character wore cat-eye glasses.
Pay Attention to Who’s Coming Into Your Office
If the same frame has sold more than twice, I’d say that’s something worth keeping in rotation. I used to run monthly reports on frame statistics to see which frames were repeat sales to make sure those frames stayed in stock. The best gauge, though, is just seeing what sorts of people are coming into your office, and what sorts of frames those people want.
We kept two rows of a particular kind of frames because a sizable portion of our patient demographic were middle-aged-to-elderly men in search of basic, lightweight frames that didn’t make a statement. Our office accepted a vision insurance that was offered by several local oil and computer companies, and we knew that, on average, the oilfield workers and the engineers fit that profile.
We always kept a row of another kind of frame because a sizable demographic of our patients were women from a nearby affluent community where social occasions were a big deal and fashion consciousness was a way of life. If you study who your patients are, you’ll get an answer as to what to keep in stock.
Are the Prices Right?
This is another question where demographics is your best answer, and where a patient survey could come in handy: What’s the breakdown of your patients’ socio-economic status? What percentage are upper income, upper-middle-income, middle income and lower income? Information available though the U.S. Census can help you determine this, in addition to your own surveys and powers of observation.
The dispersion of your frame prices should reflect that. If you’ve got a lot of lower-middle-income and lower-income patients coming through your practice, you’re not going to make a lot of sales if there isn’t sufficient variety at a lower price point. Similarly, you may find yourself struggling to sell lower-priced, lower-quality frames to someone with more disposable income who’s used to making an investment in their purchases. I usually tried to err on the side of caution with a healthy offering of high-quality, mid-priced frames that would appeal across the board. Cast a wide net, and you’ll catch a lot of fish.
Check Out Your Top Competitors
I’ve always encouraged secret-shopping the competition. Having a non-descript member of your staff hit up area offices and dispensaries to see what they’ve got, and how busy they are, can paint an image of what’s working and what isn’t in nearby offices.
Asking patients where they’re going to buy their frames can come off as confrontational and intrusive, and potentially cost you their business next year if they choose to return for an exam. You can try and skirt around that awkwardness with surveys, but in my experience, people don’t tend to respond to post-exam surveys if they didn’t buy anything, unless they want to complain about something. It may be time-consuming, but the best means of assessing the competition is by visiting them and seeing what they have and you don’t.
Accommodate Special Frame Orders
If the patient wants it, do it. I once worked for a practice where special orders were discouraged because the OD didn’t want to deal with x company’s return policy, or he didn’t like the warranty. If a patient likes a frame enough to special request it, though, they’re either going to get it from you or someone else.
If a patient is making a special request, they really want that frame. Get it for them. Otherwise someone else is going to be making that sale. And showing that you’re willing to go above and beyond for a patient is a great way to earn their loyalty, and turn them into a repeat customer. In our practice, we had a patient come in and request a Shuron Ronsir Revelation one year. It wasn’t a frame we normally stocked, so we had to make a special order. He liked it so much, that every year he came back and re-ordered another Revelation. It was a guaranteed sale every August.
Preston Fassel was in an optician at an independent practice in the Houston metropolitan area for many years. He now consults and writes frequently about how to create a profitable optical. To contact him: email@example.com