OK. This has been on my mind for a little while now and after having an open discussion with some friends, both inside and out of the Optical Industry, it’s something I feel needs to be discussed. What do YOU value when you visit your Optical practice? Is it a knowledgeable Optometrist? The range of frames? The staff or the prices? Traditionally people wouldn’t actually think about this, they just tend to go where they always have out of habit.
But times are changing. The ever increasing options when it comes to purchasing eyewear has people browsing online, at corporate chain stores and other practices. This is not necessarily a bad thing. To consumers, it gives them more options to explore style-wise, and start to notice the difference between independent practice, and corporate stores. If a practice is looking after their customers, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
What are the options?
What a lot of consumers don’t know, is that they have the right to choose their Optometrist as well as the practice they end up purchasing eyewear from. These two parts of the business CAN be looked at separately. And if you, as a consumer aren’t happy with the frame range, the staff or prices, you have the right to go somewhere else. If you don’t get along well with, or feel confident with the Optometrist or Examination, you also have the right to look somewhere else. It really is that easy!
Think about if you were to see a GP and aren’t happy with their bedside manner. Maybe what they prescribed / didn’t prescribe you wasn’t what you wanted or you simply want a second opinion. You wouldn’t think twice about talking to another GP. So why is it different with Optometrists? Simply, it isn’t.
If you’re happy, stay!
Ideally, a patient would stay with their Optometrist, or at least practice for their lifetime. The patient records are all in one place and easy to refer to. However, that’s just not realistic. People move, businesses close or change owners. Once you find an Optometrist you trust, feel is thorough and explains things in a way you understand, its easy to keep seeing them, and you should! Good Optometrists in Independent practices value the relationships they develop over time with their patients and do genuinely care about your health and wellbeing.
Sadly though, there are Optometrists out there that don’t do anything to help themselves or their business. I have worked in and been to many different practices over the years and there have been far too many times that I’ve seen patients come out of their examination with a look on their face that says ‘what just happened’. This is not ok. This is your health we are talking about. Of course I have to be careful about how I explain this, but generally speaking, the more locations an Optical business has, the higher their sales KPI’s are, and the more pressure they are under from owners to get numbers, rather than actually help patients.
In comparison, a lot of Independent Practices don’t even have KPI’s. Of course every business needs to track sales and numbers etc, but from almost all of the independent practices I’ve worked at, the only KPI’s have been ensuring sunglasses are mentioned in a discussion, or offering to clean patients glasses when they come in to book an examination. This is health and patient care.
Personally, I don’t believe KPI’s (Key performance indicators, e.g. sales targets, people through the door, specific product sales) should be even alllowed to exist in what is essentially a healthcare industry. I’ve been quite vocal about this over the years, although this is the first time I’ve written about it.
What do you value about eyewear?
Talking eyewear, and what started me on this post. I overheard a patient say ‘that will do’ with a sigh, to the first frame she tried on. Thankfully, our staff member didn’t leave it at that, and continued to help our customer find something she was excited about. The issue here, is that this customer was new to us, and had only moved to the town recently. After hearing a little more of her story, I found that her last Optometrist had never even let her browse through the frames on their shelves because she was ‘an older lady, and is after the classics’ – The are our patients words. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS!!
- Why have frames if people can’t browse and experiment with their style?
- Age/sex/race etc means nothing when it comes to style! ANYONE CAN WEAR ANYTHING – I can not express this enough!
- The Optometrist had not discussed frames with the patient. Now, I know some Optometrists do, but in this case it was not mentioned at all. Assuming anything about a patient is only going to get you in trouble!
Our new customer left that day having ordered a beautifully embellished multi-coloured acetate frame, and a pair of polarised prescription glasses that she didn’t even know existed. She was ecstatic, and all because we took the time to ask questions, pay attention to her answers and offer suggestions based on this information. The customer had the choice to order everything, or nothing and we would have supported her either way. As long as she left our practice feeling that she had all of her questions answered, that is a win in out books.
If you don’t feel the same when you leave your practice, it might be time to consider your options.
What do you value as a customer and patient
Overall, if you’re a customer, remember that you always have an option. You can choose to be happy with your Optometrist, the staff that assist you, and the eyewear you end up wearing. Ultimately its your choice.
And if you’re part of an Optical practice, this information should leave you with a positive feeling. If you know you look after your patients and see them as the people they are, rather than a number to report back to head office, you haver nothing to worry about. Our patients have the right to good service and the right to decide what that looks like for themselves. And if they do look around at other options, they will always come back to you if you’re looking after them at heart.
This isn’t meant to be a post about telling people what to do, but simply raising the point that in our Industry, a lot pf change has happened in a very short time. It’s natural for people to want to try other places, and that’s fine. People are also very aware of what COVID19 has done to small businesses and their local communities, and are looking to support Independents as much as they possibly can. Be a customer that prioritizes their health and wellbeing. Be a practice that values your customers and their questions. Your patients will end up with a product they’re happy with and customers that will keep coming back. So, what do you value?
For more info on what you should expect in a practice, read more in my post below.