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pticiansForChange.com
"Our mission is to re-humaneyes the
dispensing of prescription eyewear."

Consumers are buying glasses online.
Is Opticianry as a profession at risk?

Are We All In Trouble?
Based on article in Eye Care Professional Magazine
August 2012 Edition, By Anthony Record, RDO

"Lots of prescription eyewear is being purchased online.
What does it mean for the brick and mortar dispensary?"

"Eyewear Consumers need and deserve the following:
a) Optician-assisted, in-depth lifestyle interview;
b) Optician-assisted, design and selection;
c) Handcrafted, form-fitting eyewear;
d) Free lifetime adjustments and
minor repair services, none of
which are available online."
3DDispensing.com

LET'S TAKE A LOOK

Are we all in trouble? I don't think so. I can say with complete confidence that no other topic in the optical field generates as much interest, or elicits as much passion from Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) as the sale of eyeglasses over the Internet.

Previous articles have addressed the issue using many different approaches and offering many different takes. Contact your legislator, educate your patients, and just say no (to taking PDs and servicing Internet-bought goods) are just a few.

Regardless of what your opinion of online selling is, and regardless of what the future may or may not hold, most ECPs would agree on one thing: We would like to have those would-be Internet buyers to purchase their prescription eyeglasses from us – in our friendly brick-and -mortar optical establishment.

With that in mind, I recently challenged a group of 100 opticians to do some brainstorming and share with me all the reasons why. Why should consumers not purchase their eyewear over the Web? What can we offer clients in person, that online retailers cannot? If we could identify some of these things and then consciously begin to emphasize these things in our day-to-day dispensing, perhaps the flow of online business may start to recede instead of flourish. Here are some things we came up with:

 Knowledgeable Guidance. With a few well-chosen, thought-provoking (call it Lifestyle Dispensing if it makes you feel better) questions, you can begin to build a personal rapport and mutual respect with a client that can lead to you offering better guidance for the patient's needs. First, what about lens material? Would the patient be better with plastic, glass, high-index, polycarbonate or Trivex®? Okay, what about index of refraction? Should it be 1.50, 1.55, 1.60, 1.66, 1.74? So many to choose from! Transitions? Polarized? Bifocals? Progressives? Two pairs? The simple act of informing the patient of all the choices that are available – and the ability to coherently offer hands-on, knowledgeable guidance – might be enough to motivate the patient to keep the sale in-house.

 PDs and MFHs. How you approach Pupillary Distance and Multifocal Heights might encourage a would-be virtual customer to become your actual client. While many opinions and approaches to this have been shared by many industry professionals (including me), I don't think I've ever heard this approach: When someone asks you to take a PD for an Internet order, begin to act a bit tentative or hesitant. Then explain that while you could give them the PD measurement, most online retailers don't even ask for an MFH on their order forms. Explain that they really "guess" at a height, and that if they guess a millimeter or two too high or low, the bifocals will be difficult – if not impossible – to use.

 Attend to the Small Things. In the blockbuster, best-selling work, 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,' relationship and management expert, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, shares six specific things we can do to build relationships based on mutual trust, respect, and rapport. He calls them "deposits" in a person's "Emotional Bank Account." We have that advantage over a faceless, non-human, online seller. Think of all we can do with a client vis-à-vis attending to the small things that they cannot: say good morning; pull the chair out for them before they sit down; hold the door when they leave; compliment their clothes or hairstyle; make inquiries as to their family; a follow-up phone call after the initial sale.

 Feeling and Fitting. Most online retailers offer a "see how they fit" option. Customers can superimpose an image of the frame over a photo of their face. Sounds cool enough. Be sure to explain to your in-person customer that those virtual try-on features shed no light on how the frame will "feel" on the face. Although it looks good, it might be too loose or tight on the nose or temples. Be sure to communicate that. And speaking of fitting, an Internet retailer can't cut temples. If the person thinking about buying online is small or petite, be sure to explain that you can custom-fit the glasses (including the temples) to fit just right.

Additionally, dispensing opticians need to get back to hands-on, comprehensive adjustments. I cringe when I see a so-called optician simply hand glasses to a client. "Do they feel okay? They do? Great! Have a nice day." And sadly, I'm only exaggerating a little bit. If you do not take the time to give a hands-on adjustment both before you take the initial measurements and when the glasses are dispensed, you have just created a "there's no real difference between us and the onliners" impression in the mind of the patient. I say shame on those of us who do that.

 Ease of Service. This is a big one. Why not ask a few questions when you learn a client is considering an online purchase. Questions like: "How do you know they will fit? Who will take the initial measurements so that you see as well as you can? What if you need adjustments or a screw falls out – would you expect free service for something you had purchased elsewhere? What's the warranty? What would you use for glasses if you had to ship them back for repair? Who will verify that what you order is actually what you receive and that the prescription was ground accurately? What assurance do you have that a qualified, licensed professional will prepare this personalized, medical device?" Again, questions like these, communicated without sarcasm but with true concern, might dissuade the online decision. Give it a try.

 Supporting the Local Economy. While it might not influence all or even many of the people not to do it, try explaining that making the online buy does no good for the local economy and by proxy it does no good for local professionals. Some people actually would be influenced by this; they just never really thought about it. Make ‘em think.

 You. This one is probably the most significant and persuasive reason a client should never make a prescription eyewear purchase on-line. They can't have you! If you embrace this concept then it's time to look in the mirror and do some real, honest introspection. Take out a piece of paper and write down as many reasons as possible why you would buy eyeglasses from you if you weren't you. (Did you follow all those yous?) Once you identify those reasons, work on them, improve them and use them to your advantage. Hopefully you came up with 10 or 12 reasons in a matter of seconds. If you had any difficulty doing so, indeed, we are all in trouble .--

See Testimonials From Consumers. See Chicago Tribune's Look At Buying Glasses Online.

Why Are Glasses Online Sales Proliferating?

Question: What are the chances of today's prescription eyewear consumers getting a handcrafted, customized fitting of their prescription eyewear? If you answer this question correctly, you know why consumers are buying their prescription eyewear online.

As an example, here's a letter from a consumer after visiting OpticianryToday.com, one of our Web sites.

I was 9 (*cough, cough!* an eon ago!) - I can't remember actually being "fitted" with my glasses in years and years. Thank you for this reminder that it SHOULD be done this way. Perhaps if dispensaries had continued these practices I wouldn't have felt so aggrieved at continually and gasp-inducing rising prices of eyewear. To such an extent, in fact, that the last pairs of glasses I've gotten, I purchased online. (Hope you were sitting down for that! I wouldn't want to be the cause of a heart attack. :-) ) No, I didn't get fitted, obviously, but I got exactly the same product - AND service - I would have gotten at any local shop, for so much less money that I was able to buy three pairs of glasses for about a third of the price I'd have paid in person. Anyway, thanks for sharing this. --

So, this consumer's experience suggests the reason for the proliferation of online prescription eyewear sales is not so much about lower prices as it is about the absence of adequate, personalized, frame-in-place, hands-on-the-face, handcrafted services.

There are only three things the optical industry can offer the prescription eyewear consumer, SERVICE, QUALITY and PRICE. But most latter-years dispensaries currently ever offer ONLY TWO of these, simultaneously. Why can’t we offer SERVICE, i.e., 1) HANDS-ON 3-DIMENSION DISPENSING, 2) QUALITY PRODUCTS, and 3) FAIR PRICING, all three simultaneously, like we used to do? This leaves the online providers with only their cheaper prices with no custom fitting skills for that segment of the market, and leave the remaining market (we’re talking mostly about full-time-wear prescription-wearing consumers, not those looking for plano sunwear or readers) to Eyewear Professionals. A big challenge now, is that the industry has devolved to the point of being extremely short on Multi-Dimensional Dispensing Technicians. See 3DDispensing.com.

BTW: A colleague recently asked, "What does it say about the "soul" of our profession when the first "selling point" that comes out of a frame rep's mouth is, "Your cost is $9.95, but it's listed in Frame Facts for $79.95...so you can bill insurance higher?"

Coming from the old-fashioned world of Opticianry, it really saddens me that today is all about sales. Gone are the days of one-on-one frame-fitting, and guiding patients through the process. I have even come across people who never knew they were wearing progressives!! This is totally outrageous. They tell me they were only told they will be able to see up close with their new glasses, but it was never explained in any detail what they were getting. This has happened more than once.

I can see why the visitor to your site, OpticianryToday.com, felt no difference buying online rather than at a location. It angers me that the word "fitting" is not even recognizable to him. As Opticians, we need to man up and go back to basics before the Internet takes over what we alone are trained to do.

Thanks for the eye opening. I will take it as an encouragement to keep doing my old-fashioned fitting and dispensing, and hope it does make a difference. --

NEWS FLASH! Old fashioned, tactile, in place, on-the-face, hands on the patient dispensing of handcrafted, customized eyewear has declined to the extent that the Florida Board of Opticianry recently enacted a rule requiring all future applicants to undergo a minimum of 2 CE hours of experiential frame fitting directly on a living subject. --

Why would you let an unlicensed plumber do your plumbing or an unlicensed electrician wire your home? I wouldn't. Same reason I wouldn't order glasses online. I can't fit my head into my computer for adjustments? Is my bridge the same size as that of another person? Ethnic groups have different needs. I know I do. We are all customized from the day we were born, so why shouldn't our eyewear be? If you do not interview, feel, touch, measure, fit the glasses before you take the measurements, as well as after, how do you know how to interpret the Rx and what the patient's needs are? How many times have you talked to your patients and asked them, "What do you want your glasses to do?" Can a computer talk back, discuss their problems, and come up with solutions? Sorry, I am from the old school of hands-on people! Get real! I love my job and no computer is going to replace me until I am ready to say goodbye! -- See Facial Asymmetry. --

Everyone is worried about the economy and I understand all of that. But should we cut costs on something as important as our vision? Our eyes help us see, and who would not want the best vision possible? We only have one set of eyes and everyone needs to take care of them. Our daily existence depend on them. I think online shopping for glasses is ridiculous. After people get them online they want to take them and have them repaired and adjusted at a business where others are waiting to get their hands-on experience. I could write a book about all the experiences I have had working in all aspects of the Optical Industry. I am absolutely amazed. People have gotten to the point they shop for glasses like they are shopping for a shirt off the rack somewhere. They definitely are not helping the economy or themselves by purchasing online. I love the work I do and I enjoy it tremendously and I enjoy helping people see. As Opticians we need to help the consumer understand how important it is to get the correct and proper eyewear for their prescriptions. The industry has changed over the years and I am concerned about our profession. I can't understand why some states are not licensed to fit glasses, but require a license to do hair or nails. That's another story in itself. --

All I can say is, "I am so happy I am self employed and i can practice good ol' fashion Opticianry the way I was taught back in the 80's!"

Keeping that in mind, here's a conversation I had with a person at a networking meeting:

John: Hi, my name is John and I'm with _________________________.
Me: Hi, John, I'm _____________.
John: Who are you with?
Me: ____________ Optical, our business.
John: It's too bad I didn't meet you a month ago. I ordered my glasses online and got them about two weeks ago. They were cheap.
Me: And how's that working for you?
John: Biggest mistake I've ever made. These glasses are horrible. I can't see clearly and I don't know what the problem is. When I called them they said I need to "get used to them".
Me: Oh?
John: Can I have one of your cards, I need to order me a REAL pair of eyeglasses!

Case closed!

I have a similar conversation at least twice a month. There's a reason we are Opticians: You wouldn't let a truck loader fill your medical prescription, neither should you let someone you'll never meet do the same with your prescription eyewear. --

Buying online does not necessarily mean that a consumer will get their eyewear any less expensively, and when you add in the extras, shipping, etc., they often pay more. And the consumer does not get the professional fitting, eyeglass measurements, optics in the lenses that are called for, and more. And they are led to believe they are paying less. I think that all optical shops should now begin having an online business; to answer questions and sell accessories and continue with their walk-in optical. Some consumers are just not educated; when it comes to seeing a Licensed Optician. It is clearly a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, we are only given one pair of eyes and as Licensed Opticians we need to make the public aware. --

The bottom line is this. Opticians must use, sustain and improve good, old-fashioned, Discovery, Design and Delivery skills. Multi-dimensional dispensing, is the real key to restoring our market share. The reason the public remains uneducated about the 3-D's, especially the touch-and-feel aspects, is that we have gradually abandoned their application for the past 50 plus years to the point that many consumers now express shock that an Optician would touch their head and ears in order to handcraft their eyewear.

Many eyeglass consumers, even many long-time wearers, have become convinced that they have to endure wearing their prescription eyewear WITHOUT experiencing any handcrafting of their eyewear. What a revolting development! This occurs because WE have not been 'educating' the consumer with old-fashioned DISCOVERY, DESIGN and DELIVERY skills, i.e., multi-dimensional craftsmanship of their prescription eyewear for decades. See 3DDispensing.com.

I know... I know, I hear it all the time, "But WE HAVE BEEN providing handcrafted, humanized services!" Yes, some old-school Opticians still exist, but our number is now too small to where our handcrafting art has all but disappeared. The industry, especially corporate leaders, need to get young, latter-day Opticians back to old-fashioned 'touch-and-feel' dispensing. Without it, we cannot offer the consumer any good reasons to patronize brick and mortar dispensaries instead of Web-based, online eyeglass merchants. Right now, too many consumers get the same thing in their mail box that they get in too many brick and mortar dispensaries.

"Many of the Retail Optical Execs and Managers have no
experience in Opticianry or Ophthalmic Dispensing. In one
organization, only 1 of 43 Regional Managers is an Optician. In
contrast, the CEO of Walgreens Drugs is a Registered Pharmacist."

And, we must stop whining, expressing self-pity, and ignoring the reality of our 50 year plus history (it's not about price) of providing declining, or even non-existent handcrafted, prescription eyewear fitting services. In a word, we have to resurrect CRAFTSMANSHIP... We must give the consumer a valued reason to return to our brick and mortar dispensaries.

"Of over 67,000 Opticians designing, manufacturing
and dispensing eyewear, less than half have formal
certification or licensure." --
U.S. Department of Labor

Today's consumer does not now know what they're missing in terms of hands on the patient craftsmanship because we have not been providing it. Or, we DO NOT KNOW HOW to provide it. In my view, the latter has become the unfortunate norm. See GlassesOnlineWarning.com. --

Recently, a woman came into my dispensary asking if we adjust glasses for free, which of course, we are happy to do. She then produced a brand new pair of glasses she had just received from an online merchant for me to fit for her. Immensely frustrating for me, someone who prides herself on "specializing" in custom fitting eyewear. My fifteen years of experience and expertise, culminating in spending fifteen minutes fitting someone else glasses. Apparently the Web site had recommended just "popping in" to any optical shop for a fitting. I wonder if we ought not to be charging a fee for such a service, or just hope that in that little bit of time we can make such a great impression on the person that they become a future customer? Seems a little tenuous to me. -- See more below.

I feel your pain. When you are adjusting her eye wear, did you mention "Gosh you bought them online?" "I am happy to adjust these; but since we did not make them, I can't be responsible for the optics being off or the condition / treatment or lack of on these lenses or the frame. If the frame breaks while I am adjusting them, it is not my responsibility to replace them." Thinking out loud... maybe there is a waiver form we should have these customers sign before we adjust their glasses. And I would like to add... I worked at one clinic where we charged $2 for adjustments. Just be nice and friendly and full of knowledge. They will come back. --

The reality is that most Opticians have historically included (before Internet merchants) free-of-charge lifetime adjustments. Some even include free-of-charge minor repairs, nose pad replacements, temple covers, etc., for their patrons.

In the case of online purchasers that I'm aware of, consumers pay Web-based merchants less, i.e., minus the usual Optician's fitting fees, and any other qualitative service fees. (Some online purchasers pay much higher prices online minus frame-fitting services, etc. Buyer beware!)

Here's what I would do when online purchasers of prescription eyewear present themselves for services: Adopt a 'tough love' business attitude. You are here to serve. But you're a highly skilled Optician, here not just to serve people well, but to make an honest, living wage, as well.

Question: Would you expect an auto mechanic, plumber, dentist, hairdresser, etc,. to donate their services simply because you chose to acquire services from some Web-based merchant who is incapable of providing you with any direct lifestyle design, touch and feel hands-on frame-fitting delivery and/or follow-up services?

Let's be real. The online prescription eyewear consumer, who gets a 'bargain' should not expect, nor be given more consideration as to your time and expertise than your full-fee patrons. And they are certainly not deserving of comparable, free lifetime services. However, in all fairness, if you should choose to accept Web-based consumers at no charge, they deserve the best service you have to offer.

I recommend charging online consumers a fee commensurate with whatever you determine your time is worth. And I recommend posting a high-visibility disclaimer, briefly announcing a nonrefundable minimum fee of $25.00, along with possibly a verbal explanation of your policy to each online purchaser while disavowing responsibility for any unsatisfactory design of eyewear, any consequential lens chipping or frame breakage that occurs, or the discovery of any problematic Rx issues. Any repairs requiring additional time or expense would be subject to extra fees. Furthermore, I recommend charging a reasonable fee for measuring or checking a PD.

These actions will help Opticians regain their market share. The slow and steady decline in handcrafted service to the public has happened over several decades. It will take awhile to restore, but we must make a start. And be advised, each of us is responsible for making it happen. -- More

Here's a memo we received recently, which indicates we are not alone on this issue.

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant from the UK working with UK opticians and optical businesses. I stumbled across your site whilst researching a 'professional selling' course I am writing for _________ Opticians. I just wanted to say what a pleasure it has been to read your views and opinions on the challenges faced by professional opticians in light of the burgeoning Internet and 'bucket shop' optical market. We suffer the same problems in the UK as you report: devaluation of the profession, commercialization for its own sake, a focus on cost rather than value etc. I wish you the very best in disseminating your professional viewpoint, and hope that you are enjoying ever-increasing support from US professional opticians who truly understand the nature of opticianry. Kind regards. -- (See The real reason some folks buy their glasses online.)


WHATEVER YOU SAY...

DON'T SAY THAT!

LET'S TAKE A CLOSER LOOK

From the article in Eye Care Professional Magazine
April 2012 Edition, By Anthony Record, RDO

"Transform every unhappy patient into a cheerleader for your business."

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We are far too eager to leap to conclusions, as we are to take advantage of opportunity. And believe it or not, when you have an irate customer, unhappy patient, or crazy client (feel free to insert any description or euphemism here), what you really have is an opportunity.

Studies show that when a client is upset with someone or something about your practice, if you can resolve the conflict immediately – and do so by meeting or exceeding the patient’s expectations – more than ninety-five percent of them will do business with you again. Anecdotally, I have observed over the years that these very patients often become your loudest and most enthusiastic word-of-mouth cheerleaders.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are a few (very few) consumers we are glad to see go: those who are always rude, disruptive and disrespectful to other clients or staff; those who are completely unreasonable; and let’s just say it: the truly crazy. But never lose sight of the fact that probably all but a very “elite” few upset customers are simply decent, reasonable people who due to some event have experienced a temporary loss of reasonability. My goal is to retain these clients in my practice. If that’s your goal too, avoid the following words and phrases when attempting to resolve the situation.

UNREASONABLE, FREAKING OUT… Or any other synonym for “upset.” Assigning one of those terms to your client’s behavior will only exacerbate the behavior. If you must refer to it at all – and you should try to avoid it altogether – simply use the word “upset” – making sure your tone of voice and body language is also appropriate.

CALM DOWN. Asking or telling an upset customer to calm down is like trying to put out a fire by pouring gasoline onto it. The wise ECP allows the customer to vent, and when appropriate, in a calm voice, begins the resolution process with a sincere, soft-spoken apology: “I’m sorry Ms. Miller. Here’s what we can do…” By using that kind of language you have begun to form a team with the upset customer. It no longer feels to her that it’s her against you or your practice. It now feels more like it’s her and you against the problem. You are now a team.

I CAN'T... No, or any other words or phrases that convey a can’t-do attitude. You have to be creative here. Rather than saying no or I can’t, how about, “It’s usually our manager, John, who takes care of this, but let me see what I can do to help…” much better.

UNFORTUNATELY. This one almost has a Pavlovian effect on an upset patient. Replace it with a less troubling phrase like, “as it turns out.”

CORRECTING AN INSIGNIFICANT ERROR. One of the biggest errors an ECP can make while calming an upset customer is to correct the upset person when he or she makes an error. For example, imagine a client is ranting about a pair of glasses that is late. It was promised in a week, and it’s going on two. She says, “I ordered these things last Monday, and you promised they’d be here by this Monday, and now it’s Friday!” The worst response to that would be, “First of all, they weren’t ordered last Monday, it was Tuesday. And it wasn’t me that placed the order. It was Mike. Oh and by the way, today is Thursday.” Ouch!

While all three of those corrections may be accurate, you have once again doused the whole event with words that act like gas on the fire. Do so at your own peril. Another example of correcting an insignificant error is if the client mispronounces your name. Who cares? Focus on the goal: retaining this otherwise reasonable person. The fact that you got her to call you Deborah when she insisted on Debbie will not help at all.

SHE'S NOT AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW; I'LL GIVE YOU HER VOICE MAIL. Where to start? First, even if you were to go this route, ordering an upset client around is probably not a great idea. If you must hand off the client to your manager it would be much less problematic to ask. “She’s not available right now. May I give you her voice mail?” Better yet, try giving the upset client options that give him some control. How about, “My manager is in a meeting until one o’clock. Would you like to call back then or do you prefer to use her voice mail?”

YOU'RE CONFUSING ME. You may be wondering what’s wrong with this one. After all, it sounds innocent enough. It only feels innocent to you because at this moment you’re not the upset patient! The problem with this phrase – and any other like it – is the word “you.” Any time you pepper the conversation (remember your goal) with too many “you’s”, it has the effect of seeming to shift the blame to the person to whom you are talking. A better choice would be, “I’m confused.” “I could help better if the form was filled out this way,” is less offensive than “you should have filled it out this way.”

THAT'S OUR POLICY. I saved the best for last. This one is probably the TOP phrase to avoid if you are dealing with an irate consumer. Get it? TOP – That’s Our Policy. “That’s our company policy” is just as annoying. All organizations have policies. Successful organizations know that policies are never as important as retaining a good customer. Wildly successful organizations have enough confidence in their associates to empower them to do whatever they think is reasonable to achieve the retention goal. If you find yourself working in an environment that does have strict policies and you simply do not have the authority to deviate from them, try communicating that to the client without using the “p” word. Try something like, “Normally when something like this happens what we do is…” Same substance, but you successfully avoided the phrase that could be a catalyst to further upset. Rather than referencing “policy” or telling someone what you can’t do, tell them what you can do. Why not try an upbeat, “How would it be if I…” A patient would be much more receptive to something like that.

It’s challenging enough when we encounter an upset customer. If we’re not careful, by our own choice of words we can make it worse. If it’s not illegal, and it’s not immoral, do whatever it takes to retain your most valuable asset: your clients. Avoid some of the words and phrases described here and you’re well on the way to doing just that. –


FORMULA FOR SUCCESS

Consumers deserve a pleasant experience.
Consumer
s deserve as much time as they need.
Consumers deserve handcrafted prescription eyewear.

      

HANDS ON THE PATIENT
WORKSHOPS AVAILABLE HERE

FREE COURSES ONLINE HERE




Whatever happened to old-fashioned
Hands on the Patient Opticianry?

Contact Lens Care and Compliance

NCLE No Fee CEs For Opticians

The Rap on Wrap-arounds

Sunwear Is Not An Option

About Professional Egos

Time For Craftsmanship

   
Books, lectures and tests can take an Optician's skills only so far.


It is time for touch-and-feel, Hands on the Patient training.
Only one on one craftsmanship training provides this.
Craftsmanship cannot be learned virtually.

"Handcrafted frame fitting, i.e., touch and feel, hands-on dispensing,
cannot be outsourced to lectures or virtual sources. It is an art form,
which requires actual and multi-dimensional contact with the patient."

HANDS ON THE PATIENT WORKSHOP TRAINING AVAILABLE HERE
"It is incumbent on those who know to teach those who do not know.
It is incumbent on those who do not know to surrender their ego."

American Board of Opticianry accredited and Florida State Board approved CE hours
for Intermediate and Advanced Level Opticians in Handcrafted Frame Fitting are
currently offered under the sponsorship of POF, the Professional Opticians of
Florida. Click or Call
855-410-2700 to arrange for Training Session.

    

      

         

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