Article Date: 9/1/2005

Unleash Your Contact Lens Practice Potential
Staff's role in upgrading to colored lenses is undeniable.


In a six-week period — the comparatively slow beginning of summer — about 95 patients ordered colored contact lenses from our Tulsa, Okla., contact lens specialty practice. For a year's supply of lenses, each of those patients paid about $80 more than they would have if they had been ordering clear spheres. That represents $7,600 in increased sales to our practice in just six weeks.

Let's annualize the numbers used to determine the full potential. Upgrading even one patient a day into colored contact lenses translates to approximately $20,800 a year. That's based on about 260 work days in the year, including holidays. The impact can become large very quickly.

So how does a practice capture that kind of potential? In my 13 years in this practice, I can say without question that patients want colored contact lenses. It feels less like "selling" than it does "providing" patients with what they want. Here's how to uncover that interest in your practice.

Effort is minimal

Overall, about 25% of our contact lens sales are in colored contact lenses. In fact, colored lenses have been such a large part of our practice for so long, our methods of promoting them are part of the status quo. Initially, I would say we don't do anything special to promote them, but then I begin to see the ways that colored contact lenses are so much a part of what we do.

Get the word out

Even before patients enter our office, they know that colored contact lenses are available here. Our radio and print ads mention the lenses. The coupon section of the local phone book carries a special offer on colored lenses at our practice.

Our Web site offers an appealing incentive to visitors. They can print out coupons offering either an exam and three pairs of clear spheres for a special price, or for an exam and their choice of three pairs of colored contact lenses, for just $30 more. There's also a coupon for an eye exam, contact lens fit and one pair of colored contact lenses at a very low price.

Make the message clear

Once patients arrive at the office, they see many reminders that we offer colored contact lenses, such as point of purchase displays in the reception and contact lens dispensing areas. These include posters, brochures and dispensing mats. And our employees frequently wear color lenses themselves. That helps get the conversation going. A simple statement, such as, "Make sure you let the doctor know if you're interested in colored contact lenses," goes a long way towards encouraging patients.

In the exam room, we ask nearly every patient if they are interested in contact lenses. Many who've never worn lenses or haven't worn them in years simply need some assurance that contact lens technology has improved and that there are more options now. For example, as more colored toric lenses have become available, I can recommend them to patients who in the past had to choose between fashion and acuity.

By asking patients about their interest in contact lenses in general, we open the door to a discussion on the variety of lenses that might be appropriate for them. Usually, we initially fit patients who have never worn contact lenses, or who need toric lenses, in clear lenses even if they express an interest in color lenses. After a trial period in clear lenses, we encourage them to come back after their follow-up contact lens check and make their color selection.

Immediate gratification

Our practice carries a large stock of contact lenses, including colored lenses. That's important, especially as we promote the practice as a contact lens specialty. Patients who are coming in for their first contact lenses, or even those who are upgrading to a different lens, are excited at that time. If we had to tell them to return in a week to try on the lenses, they would be disappointed. Even if we can't fulfill their year's supply order at the time, we can almost always provide enough lenses from our stock to hold them over until the supply arrives.

It's a tried and true formula

In short, we've found that colored contact lens wearers are really no different from other contact lens wearers. By taking care of our patients' visual needs, by attending to their desire for fashion, comfort and a lens that fits into their lifestyle, we are creating satisfied, loyal patients.

We ask our patients questions about what they need and want in a contact lens. We listen as they explain what their frustrations are with their current lenses and recommend lenses that might be better. We let patients know it's all right to have "fun" with their contact lenses as long as they adhere to our wear, cleaning and replacement instructions.

When our patients walk out of our office wearing their colored contact lenses, they feel great about the way they look. They're happy and we're happy that they have affirmed our position as a specialty contact lens practice, for which we have been financially rewarded.

Dr. Elisabeth Harrington practices in the office of Dr. Richard Presley and Associates.

Swaying the Patients

Former optician Bonnie Presley was persuasive in helping Dr. Harrington's patients select colored contact lenses. Now the mother of a new baby, Ms. Presley shares some strategies for promoting colored lenses:

WEAR THE LENSES. "I wore the Caribbean Aqua FreshLook Dimensions lenses to enhance my light eyes and patients frequently commented on them," Bonnie says. For the squeamish, she'd even remove and insert her lenses so they could see the effect of the color lens.

TALK FASHION. "Most patients who come in, especially first-time contact lens wearers, want to change their look. So it's natural to mention the availability of colored lenses," she says.

PROVIDE HONEST FEEDBACK. "If it doesn't look good, I'll tell them. If it does look good, I'll suggest they also ask a friend in the reception area or the patient sitting next to them for their opinions as well."

TIP THE TECHS. "If you want to increase sales, nothing works like financial incentive. We rewarded opticians and techs with $3 for every patient fit in contact lenses and $3 for every colored lens upgrade. So fitting a new patient in colored lenses could mean a $6 reward."


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2005