Most optometrists I know are very sensitive about selling anything at chairside. Understandably so, we have our patients’ best interest at heart and our job is not to sell them optical products. Our job is to diagnose and treat conditions in order to improve vision and ocular health. We are ethical and professional and that approach actually serves us very well from a business standpoint because it garners trust from the patient. And that turns out to be a very important factor as the patient goes on to buy optical products.
Even though I understand that very well, I think most ODs go too far with the professionalism and they develop an aversion to proactively talking about optical products. There is a balance between overtly selling and not educating patients at all.
Excuses for not talking about sunglasses
Sunglasses are a perfect example of an optical product that optometrists don't talk about enough to patients. It might be due to the professional paranoia mentioned above. Or, if we are busy and running behind schedule, we may not bring up any new topics that are not in the patient history. And we may feel that a discussion about sunglasses is the optician’s responsibility. In this article, I’ll provide you with a very simple way to talk about sunglasses to all your patients that will be very professional and only take a few seconds. I hope your optician does talk about sunglasses, but we also know that if the doctor recommends a product, it carries an extreme amount of importance and makes the optician’s job much easier.
Push yourself to say this to every patient
Here is one way to bring up the topic of sunglasses to your patients. Memorize this and say it at the end of each patient visit: “With summer upon us, your eyes need protection from UV light just like the rest of your body. UV exposure from the sun can increase the progression of cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye problems. Do you have a good pair of sunglasses?” If the patient has a full time spectacle Rx, refer to them as “prescription sunglasses”. If the patient wears contact lenses or does not have an Rx, you are obviously talking about plano sunwear.
Patients understand all about ultra-violet protection, but they often do not associate it with their eyes. They apply sun lotion on their skin; women wear makeup with UV protection, they wear hats to keep UV off their face and they buy clothing that has extra UV protection built-in. Remind patients that their eyes need protection, too.
Notice that I ended the sunglass comment with a question. Listen to the patient’s answer and go from there. You might conclude that the patient’s sunglasses are fine. You might simply recommend that the patient speak further about this with the optician. You may find that the patient does not understand much about UV light, polarized lenses, Transition lenses or cheap gas station type sunglasses and you can offer some advice. If your office carries some of the leading sunglass brands in your optical, you might even mention those by name (I know I’m really pushing it now).
The power of bringing it up
If you simply ask each patient about his or her sunglasses, your office will greatly increase the number of sunglasses you sell. You could easily double the number of sales of Rx and non-Rx sunwear. You will increase your practice profitability and you will help to protect patients against damaging UV exposure without ever having to sell anything!
We all know that sunglasses are important in all four seasons, but summer makes it very easy to bring up the topic. Once you’re comfortable with it, I can hear you saying: “Even in winter, your eyes need protection from UV…”
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.