Labs like Luzerne have trainers and representatives who offer continuing education in your office.
Let’s assume you are one of the savviest eyecare professionals (ECPs) in your area and you want to provide the best vision for your patients. That means you are recommending free-form progressive addition and single vision lenses for your patients. You recognize all the features and benefits these lenses provide and are aware that this type of lens technology will dominate in the next decade. You know this, but is your staff on board? Do they understand these lenses and how can they effectively present them to patients?
WHERE TO START If you’re busy in an exam lane or buried in a mountain of paperwork and data, you may not be aware of how these lenses are presented to patients. What does your staff need to know in order to present and demonstrate free-form lenses effectively? Answering this question will help you create a list of the topics you will want your staff to understand and the skills you will want them to possess. This list will guide your efforts in getting them up to speed on presenting and demonstrating free-form lenses.
No one can discuss or demonstrate a product unless they understand it. That means that training is your key strategy in obtaining this goal. Your investment in staff education will be returned exponentially.
Use the materials supplied by lens companies like HOYA which offer simple graphic presentations that can bang the message home.
USE WHAT’S AVAILABLE Don’t think that you have to develop all the materials you’ll need yourself. Actually, quite the opposite will probably be true. Use everything that’s available to meet your needs. It’s already out there and in most cases, it’s free. For example, take advantage of continuing education, whether it comes from professional organizations, lens manufacturers, optical publications, or your local laboratory. For example, labs like Luzerne Optical Laboratories Ltd., Rite-Style Optical Co., US Optical, and Expert Optics Inc. have trainers and representatives that can do this for you in your office. Be sure to give your staff the extra time to take advantage of these opportunities. Don’t expect them to do it on their own; it’s part of their job so include it in their work time.
Following along this line, virtually all lens manufacturers that produce free-form designs using digital surfacing have training videos, brochures, Web sites, and representatives who will help educate your staff. Use your lens reps. Yes, they may be focused on their particular brand but they will help you as part of their strategy to grow their business. For example, HOYA Vision Care, North America and Shamir Insight Inc. have staff trainers and consulting speakers that will help deliver top quality education for you.
The i-Terminal, from Carl Zeiss Vision, takes all position-of-wear measurements, demonstrates add-ons, and also works as a virtual try-on system.
Your staff needs to know what designs are available, and what they are used for. Not all free-form designs are appropriate for all patients. There are variables like Rx, segment height, frame shape and size, position-of-wear, and material.
LUNCH AND LEARN
Essilor’s Visioffice can take all measurements in about 20 seconds, including seg height.
In one office where I worked, the owner did a “Lunch & Learn” session. In other words, several times a year he would close the office for an hour or so at lunchtime, buy the staff lunch, and have an industry rep or continuing education speaker present a program on new products, etc. That investment in staff education was time and money well spent. It improved patient satisfaction and the bottom line. The staff also appreciated the owner’s commitment to improving their knowledge base. Perhaps you’ll ask Seiko Optical Products of America Inc. or Augen Optics to discuss their lens designs and how to recommend them or have Coburn Technologies, Inc. discuss the benefits of free-form surfacing.
WHAT TO SAY Remember, the people on the front lines make money for you. They also go a long way in influencing your office’s reputation with patients. Make sure the message you want to get out is also the message they are giving to patients.
To accomplish this, some offices use “scripting”—a written narrative of a conversation that the dispenser can refer to when presenting optical products. I have found that scripting works best as a reference tool so the “script” might actually be a bullet list of features, benefits, and “hot button” issues to discuss instead of a canned narrative. A “canned speech” sounds more like a really bad television commercial. Seasoned staff usually do better with bullet points while less experienced ones find the script easier to use.
Lens manufacturer reps can help you with scripting, although they sometimes are a bit too technical for the general public. Keep it simple. Here’s one good example: Dispenser: “Based on your lifestyle questionnaire answers, I’m recommending a high-definition lens that will bring your vision up to the level of your HD television or iPad. These lenses maximize vision, reduce swim and distortion, and give you the best vision possible—sort of like a digital camera versus a standard camera. These lenses are designed and produced with the most advanced technology in the optical industry so you can be assured of having the best lenses technology can provide.”
The Smart Centration Diamond System, from ABS, functions as a measuring tool and a virtual try-on system.
LIFESTYLE QUESTIONS You’ll notice that I referenced the patient’s answers to a lifestyle questionnaire above. Whether you’re using a script or not, lifestyle questioning is an important element in getting the right product to the patient. They let the patients know that the dispenser is interested in their unique needs, activities, and vision issues. Keep in mind that the best questions are useless if the dispenser does not interpret the answers and turn them into a good recommendation. That’s why it’s important that your staff is familiar with why each question is being asked and how to appropriately respond.
THE HANDOFF If your office has a doctor, the doctor should be performing a “handoff” to the dispenser. This is when the doctor walks the patient into the dispensary and emphasizes why the patient would benefit from free-form lenses in front of the optician. In this way, it lets the patient know that the dispenser and the doctor are working together and on the same page with the patient’s vision correction plan. The patient should hear the doctor say to the dispenser that free-form lenses are the lenses of choice.
Some practitioners use “spiffs” or commissions to encourage free-form lens sales. While that may work for some offices, I favor recommending what you believe in, and what you know will work for the patient’s benefit.
If you’re in an office that doesn’t have a refractionist, you’ll need to convince the patient of the value free-form lenses have without the doctor’s handoff. Some independent opticians have solid relationships with referring eye doctors and those doctors make the recommendation to the patient in their offices and sometimes on the prescription. This can be very helpful for independent opticians.
DEMOS HELP Remember the adage: “A picture speaks a thousand words?” Visual information lasts longer than a few sentences at the dispensing table and is a lot better than the “Mae West” diagram you were scribbling along the patient’s chart margins. Ditch the hourglass drawing on the sticky notepad for progressive addition lenses (PALs) and use the materials supplied by lens companies. They all offer simple graphic presentations that can bang the message home. Most also have excellent video clips you can play for patients that entertain and inform. Remember, your staff is selling high tech lenses; have them use high tech demonstrations.
SALES TOOLS You are selling high-tech free-form lenses so why is your staff using a penlight, a marking pen, and a ruler to take measurements? Leave the Stone Age behind and enter the 21st century by embracing electronic units that take measurements as well as aid in patient education, demonstration, and sales. Here’s a list of what’s available:
• Essilor of America, Inc.’s Visioffice®. Along with a frame try-on option, Visioffice can take all measurements in about 20 seconds, including seg height. • The Smart Centration Diamond System, from ABS, Inc., functions as a measuring tool and a virtual try-on (VTO) system. • The i-Terminal, from Carl Zeiss Vision Inc., takes all position-of-wear (POW) measurements, demonstrates add-ons, and works as a VTO. • The Optikam system, from Optikam Tech, Inc., takes all POW measurements as well as aiding in frame selection and lens demos. • The SmartEye Pix by PFO Global takes all POW without the use of a measuring template and provides videos and demos to help with frame selection and lens selection.
Getting your staff to present and demonstrate free-form lenses is easy, once they know what to do.
Sharon Leonard is a licensed optician and contact lens practitioner in the Syracuse, NY, area.