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Rebecca Johnson: Three Morale-Killing Staff Problems and How to Solve Them

Management advice from Rebecca Johnson

Nip negativity in the bud with some creative solutions.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of INVISION.

Nothing kills staff morale more quickly than unaddressed problems. Interpersonal quarrels, performance issues and hostilities between departments will have a negative impact on employee motivation and enthusiasm. Thinking that the problem will go away on its own is as counterproductive as putting spoiled milk back into the refrigerator. Negativity is contagious, and the only way to keep it from spreading is to deal with it immediately. Additionally, ignoring a problem quickly leads to lost respect for the leader, resulting in ineffective leadership.

Let’s take a look at a three examples of situations that can quickly become toxic to staff morale:

The biller told the optician that she is tired of fixing his mistakes and that he needs to do a better job getting the right information in the computer. The optician is very offended as he believes that he rarely makes a mistake and the biller is making too much of an issue of it when he does.

One technician is convinced that she does the majority of pretesting because the other technician spends too much time chatting with the patient.

The front desk staff feels that the technicians should help more with answering the phone. The technicians complain that the front desk staff takes too long to get the chart ready, which creates bottlenecks in the back office patient flow.

Now, let’s discuss solutions:

Schedule a sit-down meeting with the optician, biller and yourself, stating the purpose of the meeting is to determine what each person can do to assist the other in making their job easier. During the meeting, allow the two individuals to come to an agreement with as little involvement from you as possible.

Get the facts first. If the chatty technician is creating extra workload, have a discussion with her. Compliment her on wanting to be friendly with the patients, but explain that lengthy conversations keep patients waiting longer than they should. Show her that you value her ability to be friendly and sociable by asking her greet patients at the door during the next trunk show or other event.

Give each group a chance to view the other job from a different perspective. Make time for each front desk member to spend the day following a technician and let each technician spend a day at the front desk.

REBECCA JOHNSON is an enthusiastic and motivational ophthalmic staff trainer, a nationally recognized speaker and author, and executive director of GPN. Her honors include the AOA Paraoptometric Special Service Award and VisionMonday’s “Most Influential Women in Optical.” Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Here’s How I Deal with ‘Problem Patients’

Sometimes the patient isn’t actually the problem.

As hard as I tried, I could not find a title for this short article that did not sound like nails on the chalkboard to every optician and optometrist. Most of us would rather wash the dishes in the breakroom than try to figure out why a patient is not adapting to their glasses.

But I may have recently found a key to alleviating some of the pain.

I have found that before anything can be accurately diagnosed, patients must believe that you believe them. If they do not believe that you believe them, all of their answers will be skewed by a fear that you will not really help them. People are so accustomed to being brushed off and told no that they have already prepped themselves for this experience before arriving at your office.

I noticed recently while I was trying to diagnose a difficult eyeglass issue that the patient was still trying to sell me on their issue instead of giving me accurate responses. Because they feared I would not truly repair the issue, they responded in a way that seemed as if none of my diagnostics were working. No matter how many trial lenses I placed in front of them, they acted if all were worse. I then showed them a lens that was the exact same prescription as the pair that they claimed that they could see well in, and they acted as if they could not see.

I then realized that it was not my patient who had a problem, it was me. I had not given them the feeling that I was going to fix the problem. They were still skeptical of me.

I immediately stopped the process and had a conversation to “sell them” on the fact that I was indeed going to repair the problem regardless of what it required. With this issue solved, I could then get accurate responses to my diagnostic questions.

While we understand the diagnostic process and where it is leading, patients do not. They operate under the assumption that the end result of the questioning is the optician giving them an unfavorable answer. They assume we are going to tell them to pay for something new or live with glasses that do not work for them.

The key is to sell the patient on the idea that you are indeed going to repair the problem without a hassle! Then you can get accurate responses in your diagnostic process, so you don’t have to hide in the break room washing dishes!

A version of this article originally appeared at DailyOptician. DailyOptician features unique perspectives from passionate opticians and inspiring brands.


Daniel Rostenne: Don't Forget to Give Thanks


Thanksgiving will be here soon, and it has me thinking about just how important it is to say thank you to your customers. Giving your patients the recognition that they chose you, when they could have chosen any other eyecare professional out there reinforces that they made the right decision. It builds trust, loyalty and goodwill and they will certainly remember it when it’s time for their next eye exam.

Also, creating a culture of gratitude leads to more overall success in any business. Research shows that customers spend more, employees accomplish more and vendors are more likely to pay in a timely manner when they feel appreciated by being thanked regularly.

When giving thanks be sure to:

Be Specific: Focus on exactly what you are thankful for.

Be Personal: Recognize that you are singling them out.

Add Value: Even a small favor will elicit an instinct of reciprocity where your patients will want to “pay you back” by spending more and returning for their optometric needs.

Here are some easy ways to show gratitude using digital marketing:

1. Create a nice thank you graphic that can be sent by email or as a postcard after a visit.

2. Run a Facebook thank you campaign. Publicly thank patients that have come in by sharing a story or a photo of their new frames (with permission of course).

3. Share for them. Help your patients to succeed in their endeavors by liking their Facebook pages, sharing their content and reciprocating.

4. Hold a customer appreciation day in which you offer discounts or giveaways for loyal customers and spread the word through an integrated campaign on Facebook, email, website ads and direct mail.

5. Respond to reviews, both the good and the bad. Thank those that leave positive reviews and those that complain as well. Negative reviews give you insight on what you can do to improve your service. This is also a chance to offer them a consolation and tell that you appreciate that they took the time to tell you what bothered them rather than just walking away.

6. Offer social media exclusive deals such as a coupon code or special savings to Facebook friends.

Even though it is the season to be thankful, expressing your gratitude to patients shouldn’t be a yearly occurrence, but a regular one. Make these efforts part of your regular office procedures and everyone will benefit.

Daniel Rostenne is CEO of EyeCarePro, a provider of online marketing services and practice improvement strategies for optometrists. EyeCarePro develops strategies for social media, search engine optimization, online and traditional offline marketing and sales growth initiatives. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it...

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