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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor September 28, 2011 - Tip #501 
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How is your dispensing process?

  Sponsor: SofLens® daily disposable

Sometimes doctors and staff members are so close to the day-to-day operations of their practice that they can't see the forest for the trees.  As the needs of the practice set in over time, it's easy to gradually stop working the vision of greatness you once had.  I'm guilty too.

That's why we must step back and review key elements of the patient's experience.  This week, let's tackle the delivery of new eyeglasses.

Is it special or mundane?
From the patient's point of view, new glasses are a very special event.  As eye care providers, you and I wish it was not quite such a landmark event and that the public would buy them more often... but the fact is, they do not.  Patients don't think about the fact that you dispense and adjust hundreds of glasses per month; they just think about their new pair that will soon be on their face for the world to see.  They hope it will make them look cool.  They hope they will see really clearly.  They view glasses as very expensive with a lot of technology they don't understand very well.

To maximize the patient experience and to garner as much positive word-of-mouth chat as possible, the act of picking up the new glasses should be made very special.  Review the process as it is now in your office.  Has it turned into a quick in-and-out visit with a busy optician?  Does it seem routine and boring?  Are the glasses treated like a commodity?

Tips for maximum dispensing
Consider these simple steps to make the most of the dispensing visit and make it memorable.  You will elevate the importance of the eyewear and increase the perceived value.

  • Trays to hold the eyeglasses.  This is a great place to start and I think it is a must-have.  The act of retrieving the glasses and carrying them to the dispensing table greatly affects the patient's perception.  We place the eyewear on a black tray that is lined with black velvet.  We train the receptionist and optician to handle the glasses as if they were expensive jewelry.  We've all heard of this idea but most ODs don't bother.
  • There are many sources for trays.  I bought several for $15 each at http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10029290&N=&Ntt=jewelry+tray.
  • Get rid of the paperwork and plastic bags.  Consider everything the patient sees and make it better.  Most offices just put the glasses in a case and wrap the job ticket around it with a rubber band.  They may be in a reused plastic bag.  Then the case is placed in a drawer heaped with other glasses.  The receptionist rummages around searching for the correct glasses and pulls out a pair. 
  • A better approach is to direct the patient to the dispensing table and then locate the glasses.  Take the glasses completely out of the case and place them open on the tray.  The glasses should already be clean of lab markings.  Yes, I know those can be helpful in confirming the fit of a progressive, but the patient's impression trumps that in my view.  It is rare that there is a fitting problem and you can always re-mark the lenses if needed.  The dispenser carries the glasses to the table on the tray.  Keep the paperwork separate - don't place it on the tray.
  • Train dispensing staff to compliment the patient's new eyewear and be excited about the process!

Other niceties
Here are some ideas for additional items you can place on the dispensing tray.

  • Place the eyeglass case on the tray, along with a cleaning cloth and a bottle of lens cleaner.
  • A single chocolate truffle is a nice touch.
  • A high quality business card with the optician's or doctor's name.  You want referrals don't you?  Be sure the card has the practice logo, web address and an email address.
  • An office brochure is a possibility.
  • A list of eyeglass features included on this pair of glasses.  If patients know what type of lenses they have, they are more likely to talk about their new glasses to others.  Their perception of quality and value is also increased.  You could use a checklist that is preprinted with the practice logo on heavy paper stock.  You could also generate a word processed document that is more customized, but the checklist has the advantage of showing and describing the lens features the patient didn't choose this time, but might next time.  I like the form to specify which pair of glasses it pertains to and again, you could preprint the common options like: general purpose, sunglasses, computer/office use, driving glasses, etc.  This promotes patients thinking of multiple pairs.
  • These documents could be in a nice folder and presented separate from the tray.  You could add the patient's receipt and eyeglass warranty form. 

Make dispensing of new eyewear a fun and important event in your practice.  Celebrate it and start the patient off with enthusiasm!

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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