Creating an Environment That “Sells” the Optical
Visionary Eye Care illustrates the benefits of a unique, high-end dispensary, even when the place has gone to the dogs.
JIM THOMAS, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
Patients arriving at Visionary Eye Care in Tampa, Fla., are greeted with an unusual sign: “The bulldogs are in.” “Bulldogs” does not refer to a nickname or school mascot. It refers to… well, bulldogs Joseph and Herbert.
“I wanted a practice where I could bring my bulldogs and what turned out to be my three children to work,” says Jennifer Brady Cook, O.D., co-owner of the practice with her husband, Michael Cook, O.D.
It may seem unusual, then, that Dr. Brady’s vision for her optical goes largely unnoticed by most children and canines. Patients are struck by vaulted ceilings, crystal chandeliers, art nouveau optician stations and a high-tech spectacle dispensing system. She may have broken some rules, but in doing so, Dr. Brady has created an environment that fits the area’s demographics, attracting and wowing patients while generating plenty of referrals.
“It looks more like a spa or art gallery,” wrote one patient who rated the practice five-stars on the review website Yelp.
Dr. Brady set out to create an optical with the atmosphere of a destination she would enjoy, including a place for her children and bulldogs Joseph (left) and Herbert.
“I was trying for a nice vibe — a mix of the SoHo Club (New York) and the Delano Hotel in South Beach,” explains Dr. Brady.
Visionary Eye Care opened in 2008. The practice grossed more than $500,000 in its first year. This year, it is on target to reach $1 million. While many details create a successful optical environment, the following tips can differentiate your optical in a positive light.
1 Give patients a reason to spend time in your optical.
In addition to a friendly and knowledgeable staff, any number of elements attract patients to the Vision Eye Care dispensary: the high ceilings, soothing earth tones, original artwork, refreshments, an awesome children’s room and, of course, the bulldogs.
Fifty-six high-end frames, out of a total of 356 on display in the office, are highlighted in illuminated portholes within custom walnut cabinetry.
Combining substance with style: Visionary Eye Care takes advantage of a state-of-the-art spectacle dispensing system.
2 Provide patients with a one-of-a-kind experience.
Early on, Visionary Eye Care achieved a look for its dispensary. But the sensory experience did not stop there. The practice offers automatic massage chairs, fruit and cheese trays and ambient scenting. Also, the practice takes advantage of the open space in the 1,200-square-foot optical for special events, such as bringing in a local musician to entertain customers during an art show.
3 “Rethink” the details to create a patient-friendly optical.
Imagine the overwhelmed patient facing wall after wall of frames displayed under bright lights. Why not try a different presentation? Dr. Brady had a notion of creating illuminated port holes inside custom walnut cabinetry as a way to elevate the high-end frames.
Also, consider fashion-conscious patients who may be among your most profitable. The large framed mirrors that adorn the walls of Visionary Eye Care’s optical are stylish but perhaps more important, they allow patients to view a complete picture of how their eyewear looks with their wardrobe. It’s a view the patient can’t get through a small mirror on an optician’s desk.
4 Remember that style is no substitute for substance.
A “cool vibe” brings patients into your optical. However, they will return only if you offer the right care, products and services that keep their eyes healthy and vision sharp. For example, Visionary Eye Care offers the latest digital high-definition lenses and dispensing systems that take precise measurements.
5 Furnish with what is “you.”
Why did Visionary Eye Care recreate an atmosphere that’s part five-star restaurant, luxury hotel and hip club? Because that’s the kind of upscale environment that attracts the owners — an environment they understand and appreciate. Or, as Dr. Brady summarizes, “I wanted to create a place where I would like to go.”
Yes, it takes money.
If a practice wants to positively differentiate its optical from those of its competitors (from chains to big box retailers to private practices), then it follows that the practice must invest differently. Generally speaking, a luxury optical, like a luxury car and all else luxurious, comes with a luxury price tag. OM
The Visionary Eye Care sensory experience includes art, massage chairs, ambient scenting, a beverage service and, on special occasions, live music.