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Celebrity Clients Are Cool, but Never Forget Who the Real Stars Are

Repeat after me: “Every customer who walks through my door is a VIP”.

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I’VE BEEN AN ECP on the Upper West Side in NYC for the better part of the last 30 years. Over the years, my Manhattan store, The Eye Man, has seen a virtual who’s- who of television, stage and screen walk through the doors.

In the early ’90s, I remember a particular client, an attractive woman in her 50s, who asked if she could bring her husband in for a pair of glasses. She intimated that he was a bit of a celebrity, but didn’t disclose his name. To accommodate her, I told her we could keep the shop open late one evening so that he could shop undisturbed. So, one brisk, fall evening after the shop had officially closed, I waited for our after-hours appointment and opened the door to one of America’s beloved anchors, Dan Rather.

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Video: Burglar Makes Off with $19K in Eyewear

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Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

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Video: Your Eyecare Business Should Be Getting Way More 5-Star Online Reviews Than It Is

I greeted him as I would greet any customer, with a warm smile, a handshake and quickly locked the door behind him. Then I set about my business. He was here, after all, because he needed a pair of frames and no amount of swooning over his fame or accomplishments was going to get that job done. I felt he appreciated that professionalism and although there were a dozen things running through my head to ask about some of his most recent news features, I concentrated on helping him find what he was looking for with regard to my field of expertise … eyewear.

Dan and his wife spent approximately an hour with me that night, and what struck me most was how interested he was in everyone else. He asked specific questions, and he really listened. He didn’t posture, he didn’t demand extra attention, he was humble, and gracious and in an extraordinary way, he was very “normal.” I think he appreciated that I treated him like I would any customer in the store. I was attentive, but not overbearing. I was interested, but not stupefied by his celebrity. I offered my opinion when asked and I helped him get what he came for. In return, he gave me something … a reminder of the power of asking thought-provoking questions and truly listening, and how important that is in making people feel understood and valued.

There have been many more stars over the years, and for a few minutes or an hour, each lit up my store like a Broadway marquee while they shopped. I think the main thing these chance encounters have taught me is: The real superstars in our stores are “regular” people, the everyday men and women that share our names and the experiences they have within our stores with their families and friends. These people are the silent sales people that go unnoticed, yet many have given out your card or referred you to a friend and have added to your business. So, remember to make every customer that walks through your door, calls your business, or interacts with you on social media feel like a VIP. They’ll leave feeling like a superstar and will help lead you to your own type of blockbuster success.

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Richard Baum has held various optical roles at a number of stores, eventually owning and operating several retail locations in NYC. His current ventures are I and Eye Optical and Vari Eyewear (varieyewear.com), which provides convertible eyewear options.

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Historical Data is the Future of Optometry

Eye scans and retinal images going back decades can help predict diagnosis and progression.

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OPTOMETRY IS BEING cast as a declining profession thanks to the advent of procedures like LASIK and “robot optometrists.” In 2017, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, MD, suggested his healthcare directors get rid of optometry and audiology services. According to him, “LensCrafters on every corner” means the VA does not need to provide this service any longer. Whether it’s true or not, the perception that optometry’s days are numbered is evident in today’s generation of aspiring healthcare professionals; but despite the decline in applications, there is reason to be optimistic in about the future of optometry.

“The eyes are the window to the soul” may be more than a poetic turn of phrase. The eyes truly are windows into humans because, simply put, the eyes provide a non-invasive way to see inside people. This window could allow for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, by measuring the choroid. The identification of amyloid plaques early on offers a window to monitor disease progress.

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Video: Burglar Makes Off with $19K in Eyewear

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Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

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The growing awareness of the long-term effects of concussions presents another opportunity for optometry to have a positive impact. CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeated head injuries, is a cause for concern in many sports. The eyes may be a window into how bad a concussion is. More importantly, the eyes may be a record of brain injuries that can be decoded and evaluated. There may also be ways to evaluate if individuals are fully recovered from concussions or just becoming functional again while accumulating damage. The parents of young athletes will press hard for certainty on whether their child truly has recovered. Because CTE requires accumulation and time, there is an opportunity to limit the damage by recognizing the signs early on.

This is where historical data will play a part in an optometry renaissance. In practice management systems across the country, there exists an untapped wealth of eye scans and retinal images going back decades. Right now doctors have patients suffering from CTE and Alzheimer’s disease, who had pictures of their eyes taken throughout their lifetimes.

The historical data is a gold mine of information to be sifted through for early indicators of the diseases. With foreknowledge of diagnoses, the historical data can be targeted effectively, and paired with today’s automation, those images can be evaluated in large volumes to identify the early indicators.

The collective historical data of patients represents a lifeline to a profession that the U.S. government is beginning to consider potentially obsolete. The likelihood that additional diseases besides Alzheimer’s and CTE can be detected early through the eye seems strong. Given how much information can be gleaned from the eye, there are probably quite a number of diseases that can benefit from early detection methods. Those methods will in turn be applied to the historical data to detect additional diseases creating standard operating procedures in optometry practices for disease identification. In the 21st century, it seems ironic to consider 20th century history as the path toward the future, but in the case of optometry, it is.

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When You’re Rushed for Time, Don’t Take Shortcuts

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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THE DOCTOR RUNS on a schedule and optical must do everything possible to stick to that schedule. If the doctor is running a 30 minute comprehensive exam, it’s not near as difficult to adhere to the same patient schedule in the optical, but today, most practices run 10, 15, or 20 minute exam schedules and it likely causes a backup in the optical.

In a comprehensive exam, the doctor is typically not disturbed by phone calls, or other interruptions. But in the optical, it is common to answer phone calls inquiring about when glasses will be ready, to service walk-in patients looking for an adjustment, repair or dispense, or for a patient who ran out of time to return to shop for eyewear. These “interruptions” cause us to get behind schedule. Then, we find ourselves hurrying to catch up. What suffers? Sales and attention to detail.

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Consider the following ideas to reduce lost time:

Create an Optical Schedule

An optical schedule provides the control to reserve/schedule optical consumer needs; such as those who want to come back later for glasses, and reduces the many calls from patients requesting glasses updates, etc. It’s easy to get a fax daily from the lab for lens spoilages, and easy enough to reschedule the few of those that won’t make it back from the lab within 10 days.

Pre-Appoint Dispensing

The more patients you pre-appoint for glasses dispensing, the less bottlenecking occurs during ‘prime time’ patient schedules. Reserve this time during the glasses order and carve it out on the optical schedule before they usually head to work. In our office optical experts take turns two days a week dispensing eyewear from 7:30 to 8:45 as optical customers are headed to work; our doctors begin med checks at 8:30 while first comprehensive patients are in pre-exam.

Don’t Explain the “Add-Ons”

Don’t break down the individual lens treatment components. AR, Blue AR, High Index are “essential,” not add-ons. Your optical consumer wants to buy a pair or two of glasses, not a list of all-too-confusing add-ons, which you know leads to “Do I need it?” “Did the doctor say I need it?” “I didn’t hear the doctor say I need it?” “Is it covered?” Make it simple and simply include the “essentials” into the total lens price. You bought the blouse and the buttons came with it!

Don’t Walk Them to “The Boards of Confusion” to Find Their New Frames

When you walk the optical consumer to the frame boards, it almost instantly becomes overwhelming. Sometimes the consumer says: “I don’t see anything I like!” And you wonder how that’s possible. It’s called “Choice Overload,” a real human psychological dilemma. It’s just too much to take in. Simply ask what they want to change about their frames this time and then go pick them out yourself. Likely you’ll be right 99 percent of the time and you won’t disappoint them with the inevitable “That one’s too tight!” “Too loose!” “Too narrow.” “Too wide!” when they are left up to their own devices. Pick seven frames and help them purchase the three the doctor prescribed. You are the expert because you do it many times every day.

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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John Marvin

There is Power in Starting

Motivation comes from taking action, not the other way around.

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CAN YOU BELIEVE it is the beginning of a new decade? We are one month in, and it already seems to be moving faster than last year. That’s the way it is with time. It seems to move at an ever-increasing speed.

I’m sure that many of you took on this new year with plans to make changes, improvements and commitments that are already behind schedule. For some, it may be the result of putting off the actions needed to begin the change. Usually, it’s due to waiting for the right motivation or circumstance to take action. Conventional wisdom says that action follows motivation. Once someone has the desire and motivation, then they take action. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Those that don’t understand this spend days, weeks, months, and even years failing to act. They wait on that perfect set of circumstances to motivate them into taking action to make the change they desire.

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Video: Burglar Makes Off with $19K in Eyewear

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Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

Video: Your Eyecare Business Should Be Getting Way More 5-Star Online Reviews Than It Is
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Video: Your Eyecare Business Should Be Getting Way More 5-Star Online Reviews Than It Is

It is behavior that creates motivation. The most challenging part of beginning an exercise program is lacing up your shoes. If you have not established a routine in your life where you exercise regularly, you’ll find getting dressed and lacing up your shoes to be most challenging. You’ll wait until you “feel like exercising” before you lace up your shoes. If you just make the decision, take action, lace up your shoes and take a 30-minute walk when you have no motivation, you will discover that after a short period of time, you become motivated. Motivation follows taking action.

Now think about the improvements or changes you want to make in your business. Maybe it’s a staffing change; maybe it’s reassigning responsibilities or using new technology. You will be tempted to wait until conditions are best suited for making these changes. Maybe the difficulty in going through this process is what is keeping you from taking action.

Well, let me help you with two steps to lace up your shoes:

1. Be sure you know what it is you want to do and why you want to do it. To think this through, take the time to write it down with a full description of why it will be an improvement for your business. Many times a friend or colleague tells us what they did and why they are glad they made the change. They can talk about how it made such a difference for them and their patients. However, that is not you or your business. If you are going to take on the difficulty of change, you need to know for sure that this is important to you and why it will benefit your patients.

2. Next, set a date to begin. Not to accomplish the entire task, just to start. Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker, said, “you don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.” There is power in starting. Break down the task into steps and set a schedule of achieving the steps. Don’t worry about the potential consequences, you can work the issues out as you implement the change. Using my exercise analogy, you don’t have to begin by working out for two hours, six days a week. Start with 30 minutes, three times a week. In the beginning, it is not about the amount accomplished, but only that you start doing something.

These simple actions will create the motivation and support to achieve even more. Once you begin this cycle of continual improvement through taking action, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

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