It's a neglected area in most optometric practices: the sale of multiple pairs of glasses to the same patient. At a time when most practices are looking very hard to find new profit centers, especially with the dominance of discount vision plans, most ODs sell very few multiple pairs. It is an opportunity for improvement and it can mean an increase of $100,000 or more to your annual net profit.
Read on for my three-prong approach to selling more second pairs of glasses... and third and fourth pairs.
An incentive for the patient
I've been doing this part for many years in my practice, but most ODs have not adopted the strategy of applying a deep discount to the second complete pair of glasses purchased at the same time as the first pair. I like the nice round figure of 50% off on all additional pairs. My only rules are that the discounts must be on the less expensive pairs of glasses, they all must be complete pairs and the multiple pair discount may not be combined with other discounts. They may be combined with vision plans however.
The most important thing to do before offering the multiple pair discount is to make sure your optical prices are high enough. You need to still make a profit after the discount. Higher mark-ups in optical can help with general profitability as well.
This 50% off tactic alone helps us sell many multiple pairs of glasses. In no small way, we sell them because the discount makes our staff feel comfortable about bringing up the idea! I find many opticians do not feel comfortable talking about multiple pairs, but once the concept is presented, many patients go for it.
There are many efficiencies in selling two or more pair of glasses at the same time, which makes the discount more bearable. We take the measurements all at once, place the orders together, check the jobs in together, call the patient once, and dispense all pairs at the same pick-up visit. It is very quick.
Be sure to check with your wholesale lab about its policy on multiple prescriptions for the same patient. Many labs extend a 50% discount to your practice when ordering multiple pairs for the same person.
An incentive for your staff
I'm not usually very big on bonus or incentive programs for staff. I don't think they work as well as most people think and they can become a morale problem and create an entitlement mentality. But paying a bonus or spiff directly to the people who sell additional pairs of glasses does make a big difference. It does work. Of course with a 50% discount already given to the patient, the bonus can't be extremely large, but it doesn't need to be. Five or ten dollars per pair works very well.
I don't really care that all employees don't share equally in this bonus opportunity. I think bonus programs that divide a pool of money equally are fairly weak. They don't usually do any harm, but they do not really change people's behavior because the reward is too abstract and the goal is not within anyone's direct control. But selling a second pair of glasses is directly within the optician's control, and the more they do it, the more money they earn.
If you want all staff members to have a goal, design a different program for the various departments. For example, front desk staff could be rewarded each day that is completely filled with patients.
Sales training for doctors and staff
Don't be offended by my use of the word sales. It is the most straightforward word and there is nothing wrong with it. We all sell our services and ourselves every day in a professional way. As a doctor, all I really mean is for you to prescribe the best eye care without regard for the cost. Don't prejudge patients and their ability to pay for what they want and need. The best eye care often requires more than one pair of glasses. You know this like the back of your hand. Simply prescribe for the patient's needs: computer glasses, sunglasses, TV glasses, golfing glasses; whatever the need is. Use the power of the doctor and recommend the best. Plant the seed.
For staff, you may want to provide more sales training. After all, your optical dispensary is a retail environment and you compete with some the best retailers in the world.
Read books on sales techniques and share them with your staff. Present the core elements at a staff meeting.
Bring a professional speaker into your office to present to your staff. Close the office for a half-day seminar.
Send staff to some of the best optical sales programs in existence at Vision Expo or at meetings held by practice management groups.
Be sure to help your staff understand how important their contributions are to the profitability of the practice. As the practice grows, so does their career.
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.