CONTINUING EDUCATION, 1 CE Credit – $9.99, 1 Hour, General Knowledge, Level 1, Release date: October 2007, Expiration date: October 31, 2012

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Dispensing Optician

After I graduated from Cornell University, I wanted to give something back for the fine education I had received, so I started doing some Cornell fundraising. I was asked to train my fellow volunteers, so I came up with a three question method that made fundraising fun, and which resulted in record Cornell fundraising.

So what is this magic that turns a selling situation into fun? First: don't picture yourself as a salesperson. Secondly, put the decision making power where it belongs: in the patient's/customer's control. Thirdly, give that person sitting in front of you the time to exercise that power.

First, set the tone. Thank the Optometrist or Ophthalmologist for bringing the patient to you and ask her/him if there are any recommendations they have for you to consider when helping this patient choose the best eyeglasses to enhance their visual needs. If there are recommendations, write them down while the patient watches, or underline them on the prescription for the patient to see. Whether or not your Doctor has considered doing this in the past, by asking the question you enhance the Doctor's stature which may draw the Doctor into the dispensing process now and in the future. Is this something you, as the dispenser, want to see happen?

Secondly, recognize that your patients want to pick your brain. You have the knowledge of what best will fit their needs. They have the knowledge about what they do visually and what they are willing to spend. Your job is to dispense knowledge. Their job is to understand what you say and to make choices based on that new knowledge.

Since you have the knowledge, start dispensing it immediately. Comment on what the Doctor has recommended, or by looking at the prescription, start telling the patient what to expect. For instance, "I see from your prescription you are nearsighted: this means that if you are tempted to choose a super-large frame, the edges of the lenses will be relatively thick. The smaller the glasses you choose, the lighter they will feel on your face and the thinner the lens edge will be. Were you considering any specific type of glasses before you came in today, so I can help you choose ones that will look well and feel lightweight on your face?" Keep the way you phrase your knowledge simple and easy for a lay person to understand. Also, always end your knowledge statement with an "open ended" question for the patient.

The patient has come in to "buy a pair of glasses." You have the knowledge that often it is advisable for the patient to own various glasses to meet their needs. Share your expertise as you learn more and more about your patient. "So you spend most of your work day in front of a computer: that means at least 35 out of 80 waking hours a week are spent focusing on a computer screen, on average. You could protect your eyesight by having anti-reflective coating on the pair of glasses you wear at work. If you apply this AR coating to specialized progressive lenses, it will allow you to see the full computer screen, the work material you need to reference while working on the computer, and the person who is coming to talk to you from across the room – all without changing or removing your glasses."

Note that you have taught the patient that they may need specialized computer glasses because they spend so much of their time at the computer (35 out of 80 hours) and have asked them to focus on why their current eyewear may not be appropriate to the work environment. Also note you have not sold them a thing. Also note they have not yet started to choose the glasses they came in to buy!

After the explanation, and if they have mentioned reasons why their current glasses might not serve their work needs, suggest the appropriate computer work lenses with AR, the cost for lenses and coatings, and assume that they are considering such a purchase by asking, "What type of frame do you feel would be most appropriate for glasses you wear in the office?"

Do you feel you are putting pressure on your patient by presuming to ask this question? Why is this presumption not pressure? Because your patient has just described dissatisfaction with using her/his current glasses at work, you have presented a solution with a lens cost, and you have asked an open ended question. Now comes the hardest part for you to master. Remain silent.

Yes, this is the hardest part. To be an effective dispenser, you must allow your patient the uninterrupted time to consider the new information you have given. If the patient indicates which frame they want, you know what to do. Even if the patient says, "No," say to the patient as you do it, "I am writing your work visual needs on your chart, and your complaints about using your regular glasses at work, so the Doctor can evaluate these needs when you next see her/him." No other comment from you is necessary.

Especially do not try to sell him/her these glasses. Do not remind this patient of some of the cogent reasons for buying a pair of specialized eyeglasses for work. Respect this decision, and continue to dispense new knowledge. When the patient describes his/her outdoor activities, you can dispense the knowledge of the value of prescription polarized lenses for visual acuity, improved eye health, and personal safety. Ask your open ended question. Then remain silent. Your patient will remember that you respected a "No" decision, and will respect that he/she is not being subjected to a sales pitch, but that you are sharing your knowledge so she/he can make an informed choice about his/her eye health and vision needs. By your empowering the patient, you are building a trustful relationship. What do you think? If your patient trusts that you care for him/her, and also about her/his visual needs, do you think that she/he might be more inclined to choose to buy glasses from your practice?

So these are three magic steps to more successful dispensing:

  1. Thank the patient for the opportunity to dispense to them.

  2. Use your optical knowledge to describe one or two of the parameters you plan to use while helping this patient choose an appropriate pair of glasses, and end each such statement with an open-ended question to the patient. Then don't say another word until your patient responds to your question. You will learn in which specialized situations this patient will use eyeglasses, and the patient will become more involved in the choosing process.

  3. As your patient describes these specialized situations, suggest the lenses and their cost that would improve vision in that environment, and then ask what frames she/he would like to be seen in there. Then quietly wait for a response. The patient will either ask you a question, indicate that he/she is ready to make a purchase, or say "No." To "No" answers make your note and return to #2 above. Continue dispensing knowledge, asking open-ended questions, and waiting silently for a response.

I enjoy the sales situation, but I hate selling. I enjoy sharing knowledge. Why else would I be writing this column? But I hate selling. If you also hate selling, try to see it my way. The power is in your hands and in your brain. Could these three steps of patient empowerment help you garner more eyeglass sales per patient?

Ted Weinreich
Regional Sales Manager, Optogenics
editor@ECPmag.com

Ted Weinreich, Optogenics

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flagler eye care
Posted: 6/19/2009 1:44:44 PM

Dear Ted, In the last month I have be getting alot of lenses off axis, usually approx. 2-3 degrees. The thickness of plus lenses off .3mm. please try to grind to thickness asked. Scott
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