Article Date: 3/1/2007

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Plug Premium Eye Wear

Here are five tips to get your patients to recognize the benefits of premium eye wear.

BY GARY GERBER, O.D., Franklin Lakes, N.J .

Because I travel a lot, I stay in several different types of lodging facilities: A Days Inn in Des Moines, a Motel 6 in Memphis and, if I’m lucky, a Ritz-Carlton. But, being weary from a long flight, does it really matter where I sleep? After all, a bed is a bed. Right? Wrong. Not all lodging facilities are in the business of solely providing a place to sleep. In fact, the employees behind upscale hotels, such as The Ritz- Carlton, recognize they’re selling much more than a bed. They’re also selling first-class service, luxury dining and status. As a result of these additional amenities, consumers are willing to pay more for them than they would if they stayed at a motel — often a place where providing a mattress is their sole business. The same is true when it comes to premium eye wear vs. standard eye wear. A pair of over-the-counter readers allows a patient to read. But, a pair of premium, custommade reading glasses from your practice enables him to look great, due to its fashionable style, and it enables the patient to feel important, as the eye wear was created for him and him alone. Also, custom-made reading spectacles allow the patient to read more comfortably and for longer hours because they’re made with his exact prescription and face shape in mind. Similarly, patients look forward to wearing a pair of premium plano sunglasses. Yes, they cut down on glare, allowing for better vision, but they also look great, feel great and make patients feel special while wearing them. Why? Because the right pair of sunglasses can make a person go from fool to cool the second he slips into them. So, with all these benefits, why aren’t more of your patients investing in premium eye wear? Usually it’s because you and your staff aren’t getting them to recognize these benefits. Here are five tips on how you can do this.
1. Change your patient’s perception of premium
Premium eye wear is not solely about price. Yes, this class of frames and lenses may cost more, but they also possess significant patient-relevant benefits above and beyond other eye wear. So, you and your staff need to reeducate your patient that “premium” in the dispensary means benefits, not cost. Some other examples of benefits this subset of eye wear offer: finely tuned and super acute sharp vision and light-weight materials. The outcome of this re-education: If a frame becomes available that is self-adjusting and conforms exactly to your patient’s features, yet it’s less expensive than some of your current frames, this patient would view this frame as “premium” and accordingly, be willing to pay more for it than for a more typically ill-fitting frame.
2. Display premium products in exclusive areas

If your premium frames are grouped together with less-featured products, elevate their status and placement to one of prominence that showcases their unique benefits. Use space and lighting to your advantage. And, place this eye wear in a more brightly lit, asymmetrical display that immediately makes them stand out. Still, other circumstances may require more creativity. For example, we (The Power Practice) worked with a client who wanted to increase his premium eyewear sales. So, we rearranged his dispensing furniture and lighting fixtures to “force” patients to sit closer to, and in front of his best eye wear. The cost for the change was a few light bulbs, but the profit benefits were significant. Another tip: Make sure your point-of-purchase materials for your premium products are current, clean, free from scratches or smudges and readily accessible. And, consider using computerized and/or animated patient education, as this type of education is not only very effective, but is a natural match for displaying the benefits of these products because these are also high-end products.
3. Make presentation paramount When you enter a Range Rover dealership, a well-dressed and well-informed sales person greets you. You tell him the type of SUV in which you’re interested, and he gives you a lengthy and interesting tour that highlights, in layman’s terms, the numerous benefits of a few models he feels match your interest. Unfortunately, the typical buying experience in an eyecare practitioner’s dispensary begins with either you or a dispensary technician saying: “This is what your insurance covers,” prior to one of you pulling out a dusty tray of dated, misaligned frames. Instead of staying with this scenario, assume that every one of your patients wants and deserves the best — after all, they do. Of course, doing this won’t totally prevent the dreaded reply, “I only want what my plan covers.” However, insurance or not, everyone wants the best. And, if you distinguish the frame selection process from the “pick one” rotating display experience in the drug store by ensuring the experience is relaxing, pleasurable and memorable for the patient, chances are some of those patients’ thoughts of insurance coverage will take a back seat to their need for the benefits of premium eye wear. So, make sure the frame selection environment is quiet and private and that the presentation is delivered confidently, knowledgeably and without apology for fees or what insurance plans won’t cover.
4. Perfect the patient handoff
To make your patient handoff to your dispensary staff person as flawless as possible, have one of your dispensary staff members come to the exam room at the end of the patient’s exam. Once she arrives, briefly communicate with her the findings of the exam as well as the eyewear product recommendation(s) you feel will provide the patient with the best benefits based on the exam findings. Be sure you do this directly in front of the patient to show him your recommendation isn’t based on filling your pockets, but on best filling his needs. One very important caveat: Be sure to provide the patient with a copy of his prescription, as this is the law (the FTC Eyeglass Rule implemented in 1978). If summoning an optician into an exam room is not realistic, either write down the requisite premium products, along with their individual benefits, or explain them to another staff member on whom you can rely to relay the message to the dispensary.
5. Know your stuff
When it comes to the science behind many of the premium optical products we offer, most of us are sorely undereducated. It’s reasonable for a patient to question how the features in their frames and lenses got there, how they will translate to personal benefits and why they cost what they do. So, you and your staff need to know how your premium products “work.” (See “Answers to Common Questions Patients Ask in The Dispensary,” page 78.) If you’re one of the many doctors who say, “But my staff just doesn’t get it,” do something about that. If you’re up to the task, devote time to train them yourself. If you don’t have the requisite knowledge base, train them by other means. These include:
• taking them to trade shows;
• having them scour the Internet for premium eyewear information;
• having them read eyecare journals;
• enlisting the help of the product manufacturers’ sales force. In fact, have your staff ask sales reps the same questions they get asked by patients, and have them role-play the answers. Videotape these training sessions, and document them in a transcript. Then, compose a test from the transcript. Use this test as a training tool for new employees as well as a refresher course for your veteran staff members. To help elevate your staff’s level of understanding of the nature of the sales process, take them on field trips to non-optometry venues that sell premium products. For example, before sending them on a shopping trip to a local high-end retail department store, give them a checklist of items to pay attention to.
This checklist should include how:
• they were greeted;
• the products were displayed;
• their individual needs were addressed;
• the merchandise was shown to them and put back;
• The sales check-out process was and whether any follow-up instigated another sale or lead toward building a better customer relationship. When your staff returns, have them discuss their “findings” at a staff meeting, and brainstorm ways to make the patient’s buying experience more positive. Remember, as with a stay at The Ritz-Carlton, premium eye wear fills a strong emotional need and rewards the patient for choosing it. By following the five tips mentioned above, you and your staff will get your patients to see premium eye wear as more than devices that hold lenses and allow them to see.


Answers to Common Questions Patients Ask in The Dispensary
Q: Why are these frames so expensive? My last pair of glasses cost half as much!
A: Actually, when you consider all the benefits they provide (list them), they are really quite affordable. Also, take a look at your old glasses and you’ll notice the lenses are thicker, they don’t get darker when you go outside, and the glare-free coating makes them hard to clean.You’ll also notice these differences in the new frames (list them).
Q: I just want what my insurance plan covers.
A: I’d be happy to show you those frames, but realize that those lenses and frames won’t have all the benefits you need that (I or the doctor) discussed with you. I suggest (I, we) show you exactly what (I or the doctor) discussed first.
Q: I want my wife to see how I look in these frames before I buy them (or, I want to discuss the cost of those lenses with her first).
For the frames:We can take a picture of you wearing the frames and e-mail/send it to her cell phone. Just use our virtual frame try-on technology. That way, you won’t have to come back. For the lenses: Let me e-mail you the page from our Web site that discusses how these lenses work. There’s a link on there that goes back to our office if she’d like to e-mail us with further questions.


Dr. Gerber is the president of The Power Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable. Learn more at www.powerpractice. com or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2007