This third part in our series will focus on using technology in your optical dispensary. To compete with a sales channel that is based on computer technology, you want to show the consumer that your office uses technology in a way that is superior to the optical websites they might visit. The patient who might take his Rx to shop online and the patient who pulls out her phone to check frame prices while she is in your office are very comfortable with technology. They like technology and you will not impress them with old school methods. Invest in technology in a big way so your tech-savvy patients will view your optical as a viable option for their product purchase.
Digital dispensing systems
These electronic devices that capture an image of the patient and use special software to measure and fit eyeglasses have a huge wow factor for the patient. I think the devices are great, but I hear a lot of complaints from ODs and staff members that it takes too long and that the measurements are not as accurate as our traditional methods. I have two different leading devices in my office and I admit that the early generations of these systems could be improved, but they do a fantastic job at increasing the professional service aspect of selecting and ordering glasses. We need to continue to work with these devices and make them part of the normal optical ordering procedure. Opticians who use these systems regularly get faster and more accurate.
New devices are being rolled out by private firms and lens manufactures frequently. Some use iPads and other tablets. Many of the systems include other features, such as a video or photo reviews of the patient wearing different frames, or computerized demonstrations of various lens features and how they work. Continue to evaluate these systems and choose one that your staff can use on every eyeglass order. Let’s make the difference between a brick and mortar optical drastically different from the virtual online store.
Play up social media by helping patients post photos of themselves with new frames on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other sites. Consider taking the images directly from your digital dispensing system or take a photo with the patient’s iPhone and post it. The marketing power for your practice is huge! Not every patient will want to do this, but getting opinions on their new look with new frames is fun. At the dispensing visit, ask patients if you can post a picture of them wearing their new glasses on your practice Facebook page.
The goal is to showcase your practice as advanced in technology.
Kiosks, videos and demos
Try to make your optical operations completely electronic. Install workstations or laptops or tablets at every dispensing table. Retrieve the prescription and enter all the measurements and frame information electronically. Price the glasses electronically. Show patients other colors or frame models electronically. Use the computer or tablet to show demos. Many frame and lens manufacturers have excellent websites you can bookmark or leave running at all times.
Large screen TV
Consider a large screen TV in your optical to give the high tech look. Run a video continuously that shows various aspects of eyeglasses from frame manufacturing to the fashion show runway.
Your own e-commerce website?
A tough question is how far should you go with embracing technology? Should you host your own e-optical commerce website? The answer may vary depending on your location and your patient base and it may change as time goes on. I’m not quite ready to endorse the channel yet because I feel that if I sell eyeglasses on my practice website, I’m saying it is OK. A good first step would be have an e-commerce site that offers the virtual try-on feature and lots of frame styles, but does not actually sell any products online. Or, you may be willing to sell non-Rx sunglasses and reading glasses online, but not prescription glasses.
In-office finishing lab
I will touch on this again in the next edition of this series, but I consider in-office lens edging as an important part of the technology in your optical. Play up the fast service that you can offer that is simply not available online! Anything that differentiates your office from the online website helps to keep the patient loyal to you.
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.