Why Independent ECPs Need to Wear Internet Eyeglasses
December 19, 2018
By Nathan Hayes, IDOC Consultant
"Nathan, you wouldn’t believe this! I’m looking at a sofa I would actually put in my house, and it’s only $300!"
That’s what my mom called to tell me earlier this year while she was shopping at a discount furniture retailer to stage a house. Bear in mind that her budget for furniture is…higher than $300.
My first job was selling furniture and I can easily tell you the differences between that $300 sofa and a $3,000 sofa: better leather, a better frame inside, higher spring counts in the seat, better foam in the cushions, and overall better craftsmanship. Just sitting on a $1,000 sofa will tell you tons about the differences between it and a $300 alternative.
I often talk with practice owners about my own version of Mom’s $300 sofa: budget anti-reflective coating. If you’re curious, here it is: Value A/R is fine. The optics are clear. I’m comfortable driving with it at night. But man, is it hard to live with! It collects dust like a magnet and smudges easily.
Many are surprised. "Oh, really? Interesting!" I suspect their staff would react the same. This surprises me. How many ECPs in higher-end practice don’t really know what the alternatives are like? And if they don’t, how will they successfully prescribe and dispense the best in optical products?
Buy low–end to sell high–end
Here’s what I recommend practices do. Buy yourself and your staff (at the least, your optical staff) at least one, if not two, pairs of internet glasses. Without naming names, pick a $99 price point and an under-$20 price point option. I trust your office already gets to wear high-end frames and lenses.
Tell your team: "Don’t just buy the glasses; live with them. Wear them all day. Rotate them in with your nicer options. Then we’re going to share our experiences. How convenient was the online aspect of the purchase? How could – or should – our practice be similarly convenient for our patients? How are the glasses we sell meaningfully better than low–cost, online alternatives?"
Most importantly, your office needs believable stories about the value of premium eyewear. Because it’s stories, like my experience with budget A/R, that persuade patients that your prescriptions are worth the price premium. A sterile recital of features and benefits just can’t stir emotions the way a story can.
Do you prescribe and dispense with conviction?
I was visiting a practice in Tennessee earlier this year, owned by an optometrist friend of mine. While I waited to say hello to the OD owner, the optician gave me a tour of their optical. I was struck by how she talked about their frames.
They had a broad selection of high-end ($550 price point) Japanese frames, and she couldn’t stop telling me about them. About the materials. The Japanese school of optical. The construction. She pulled them off the board to show me the hinges. When she was done, I had no doubt those frames were WORTH $550, even though that’s more than I’m likely to spend on glasses. She also told me how some of her patients had their $100 online glasses warp when left in the car during the hot summer in the South. And that stuck with me, too.
Then my friend came out. I asked him about the digital progressive lenses on their dispensing mats, expecting a simple "yes, we like those lenses". Instead: "Oh, Nathan. That’s just the best progressive lens on the market today. We’ve tried them all, and I have fewer non-adapts and happier patients with this lens."
It’s better when told, but here's the point. Both of these ECPs' knowledge of the products they were recommending was a help, but it was their conviction about the quality of their offerings and the contrast they drew with the alternatives that gave their 'sales' pitch weight.
If you and your staff don’t "gush" over the eyewear in your practice, perhaps it’s because you don’t really know the trade-offs involved in step–down options. For a fun end–of–year project, give everyone $150 (and maybe more if they’re presbyopes) to go online and buy glasses. Feel and see and live with the differences, then go into 2019 convinced that your patients NEED the premium products they’ll find in your practice.
Nathan Hayes is the Practice Finance Consultant for IDOC. He is a 10-year veteran of the eyecare industry, working at HMI Buying Group and Red Tray, Prima Eye Group from its inception and now IDOC. In his current role, Nathan helps OD practice owners manage their overhead, grow practice revenues and profits, and maximize their personal income, free time, and professional satisfaction. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.