Optician Success 69


Weekly nuggets of random goodness, hand-picked to complement the OpticianWorks Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Rock Star Optician; tips, stories, and science helping you focus on getting the most from your optician business/career.


The Forest for The Trees

I’ve had this conversation with optometrists before, over the years, but the frequency of this conversation has dramatically increased, recently, though I’m not sure why. No matter, it’s troublesome to me.

I’ll explain in a moment but I want to juxtapose this next to the fact that the national rate for multiple pair sales amongst independent ECPs runs around 10%. This is ironic because anytime I’ve asked ECPs, “On average, how many pairs of eyewear does your average patient need?”, their response averages out to 3 pair. Also, I’ve been hearing of some dramatically reclining capture rates recently, as well.

That said, here’s one version of the "conversation" I’ve been having with such frequency, as of late:

“Robert, would you sell a new pair of glasses to a patient with just a 0.25 diopter change?”


“You would?", they’d say with great surprise. “Why?”

“Because they need a new Rx.”

“Yeah, but it’s only a 0.25 diopter change.”

“Yes, I know. It’s a change in their Rx, is it not? Am I missing something here?”

“Yes, I think so. A 0.25 diopter change is sooooo minimal.”

“Yeah, Got it. But, I didn’t write the Rx. You did. If it’s so minimal, why did you write the change in the Rx in the first place? Why didn’t you keep it the same as before? If you had, you wouldn’t have to ask me such a ridiculous question.”

I’d love to hear everyone’s take on this.

—Robert Bell (From Ask The Lab Guy on Facebook)


Robert has hit on something extremely important here.

The online conversation that followed consisted largely of opticians going back and forth about the 0.25 diopter and whether or not it warranted a new pair of glasses. The consensus seemed to be... it depends.

Is the 0.25 diopter in one or both eyes?

Does the “patient” have insurance or flex spending?

Are their current lenses scratched?

The “patient” deserves to see better. Can you convince them with a trial frame?

What about the legal obligation to reject lab work out of tolerance? (for which there is none)

It turns out Robert’s question revealed a microcosm of what is wrong with the industry and why your customers don’t want to buy glasses.

Newsflash: The Rx change is irrelevant.

The question begins to illustrate the fundamentally different roles of doctors and opticians and how even we (especially we) in the industry have a hard time keeping them straight.

Just to be clear here, in my view:

The doctor’s role is (should be) to examine, treat, and refer. Period.

The optician's role, while multi-faceted, is (should be) to sell eyewear then to correct any refractive errors (a.k.a. “Fill the Rx”).

It only works well in that order, not in reverse.

As demonstrated through Robert’s conversations, there obviously are some questions on the part of ODs about whether or not they should be selling “from the chair.” Understandable. ODs are usually not business people first, but often find themselves business owners. The sale of eyewear can be vital to the success of that business through which they can have a clear impact, if they choose. But, they are (should be) doctors and not salespeople.

My concern, however, is with the opticians who seem to believe their role is primarily to “Fill an Rx.” for no other reason than a clear preference for the medical narrative. The hard-headed insistence that these things that we put in the middle of our customers’ faces—that they not only see through but are seen through—are "medical devices", reinforces the false belief that opticians are in the business of treating patients not of selling eyewear.

Consequently, we work in an industry where doctors feel like they need to sell eyewear and opticians just would rather not.

Then we’re baffled that people are willing to spend more money on coffee and massages than eyeglasses.

So, let’s dig into this a little bit. Given Robert’s scenario, the customer has likely been wearing the same pair of glasses for two years or more. Let me ask, as an optician, why would you even hesitate to try to sell a new pair (or pairs) of glasses?  (These may seem like sarcastic responses, but I know for many opticians, these should at least be worth pondering.)

Because selling eyewear is beneath you?

Because you believe your customers' lives couldn't be made better with new frames?

Because you believe your customers' lives couldn't be made better with your frames?

Actually, the question we should be asking ourselves is, "if there is no Rx change would you sell a customer a pair of glasses?" If your answer is "no", then you are the problem.

Let’s say you’re a tailor whose customer has been wearing the same pants for two years, would you sell them a new pair or 3? Yes? What if their waist size only changed 0.25 in.?

Now, look at it from the customer's’ perspective.

Why is it that most people believe they should not buy new glasses until they absolutely have to but they'll shop for shoes every weekend?

There are a myriad of reasons, but they all boil down to: Because we tell them (and believe) glasses are a f**king medical device.

So, if you think it's not your job to sell eyewear because its only purpose is to correct a refractive error (and your boss is cool with that), fine. But don't complain when your second pair sales or first pair sales walk out the door; or when they opt for Warby Parker (or even Costco) where they at least get to feel like a customer and have an actual retail experience.

Shopping is fun. Going to the doctor (with some rare exceptions) is not. 

Scrubs, lab coats, sterile environments, being called a patient... makes me want to run out right now and spend $500 on a medical device.

Acuity is important, but it's only part of the equation. In reality, most people will see acceptably well through $12 Zenni's (particularly with the knowledge they only spent 12 bucks). Can they see better? Well, yeah. But as long as we keep playing this game—for really no reason other than our own egos—and refusing to look at eyewear in terms of retail sales (yes, the dirty 's' word), it doesn't matter, because you’ll continue to lose sales and it will only get worse.

Here’s the kicker and the big potential upside:

If we approached this the right way, the average person wouldn't need an Rx change to prompt the purchase of new glasses. They wouldn't wait for the bi-annual exam or until it’s time to dump the flex account. They wouldn't only be concerned with price or insurance coverage.

If we did this right, buying eyewear—like a piece of jewelry, an accessory, or a collectible—would just be fun. It would be something people want to do as opposed to have to do.

Then, if you want to go there...

When your customers are stopping by periodically just to shop or be part of the experience you create; when they want to see what's new; or they value your relationship enough that they just want to say, “hi.”...

How much easier does it become to convince your customer that it’s time for an eye exam?

We seem to have just a few things backwards.


Video Of The Week -  Poly and Trivex: A Shocking Comparison

Several months in the making, finally, here is our side-by-side comparison of Trivex and polycarbonate lens materials. Most opticians have strong feelings and beliefs about these two materials. We ran a series of tests to see how they actually performed. You might just be in for a shock! It turns out there is much more to lens performance than material properties alone. Tests include impact resistance, tensile strength, Abbe value, chemical resistance and more.  Care to place any bets?

Don’t forget, our goal is to provide a more accessible and higher level of education for opticians everywhere. If you like Optician Success and our free weekly videos—and haven’t done so yet—please consider showing your support by becoming a member of OpticianWorks.com which includes access to even more high-quality optician training. Or, better yet, open a Laramy-K Optical lab account for the best in truly independent uncut work and we'll throw in OpticianWorks memberships for your entire office for free.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Optician Success.

Until next time,

Thanks for reading and sharing!



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