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Coach Your Customers to Look Their Best on Zoom Call and More Questions for October

And the holidays are approaching. They may be lean but proper preparations can prevent poor performance.

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Do vets make good employees? Is there anything to the stereotype of them being rigid and rule-bound and — if they’ve served in combat — likely to have mental issues?

There’s probably not a worse thing to base a hiring decision on than a stereotype. Of course, an ex-military hire could turn out to be a dud — it’s a huge organization — but that risk is more than offset by the potential positives: Not just anyone can enlist. The recruitment process does much of the filtering for you, screening out people with criminal records, histories of drug use, problematic financial records, and even some long-term health issues. A freshly retired vet may take some adjustment if your workplace is highly individualistic and competitive as opposed to team-based. But if you’ve got a candidate with the skills, keep in mind they bring a lot to the table. The military has done some of the vetting for you—now you have to do your job as a business owner to see if they have the relevant skills and personality to fit your culture. Dr. Daniel Bintz, who runs an eponymous vision practice in Elk City, OK, took on a partner, Dr. Scott Ellis, who had served in the Army as an OD and says it worked out great. “The knowledge he obtained as a doctor and leader were critical to our success,” he says of Ellis.

People are saying it’s going to be the worst Christmas in more than a decade. How should I be preparing now?

Yes, it’s shaping up as a lean holiday season, but you need to adopt a mindset of grandeur interrupted and focus on the things you can control and get done. In the back of your mind, make big plans to be well positioned when the rebound comes, but be modest about everything you do in the meantime. That means tight inventories, micro-marketing (referrals and word of mouth), and scaling back on your purchases of the more ostentatious eyewear. Use this year’s best sellers and best-performing price zones as your strict guide. Don’t resort to price-cutting too fast, but remember: Customers are looking for value, so start thinking of ways to ensure your presentations reflect a “value proposition.” Back-to-school sales were aggressive this year. Brace for the same come the holiday season. Our final piece of advice: Stay upbeat with yourself and your sales staff.

I’m matching face shapes to frames and recommending computer progressives with anti-reflective coatings, and even blue light protection, to my customers who say they need to look better in Zoom meetings. Is there anything else I should be doing?

It sounds like you’ve covered all the bases. The next step is really stagecraft, meaning the lighting and body positioning. That’s typically beyond the purview of an optician but the more you can help them to look good, the more they’ll keep coming back for you for their vision needs. Start with these tips. It’s important they look straight into the camera, not the person in the screen (which may require some adjustment of their computer set up, especially if it’s a laptop). Urge them to lower the brightness on their screen to reduce the glare and reflection showing on their lenses. They also probably need to experiment with lighting behind their camera to better illuminate their face. If this creates hard shadows, try bouncing that light off of a smooth, white surface, such as a white wall or even a sheet of paper. A dedicated space or room that provides a proper background with distractions and competing sources of light removed from back walls can also help. Never have so many people needed to look good on a screen. This is your chance. Seize it with helpful advice.

I can’t carry everything for everybody. How can I compete with the brands that I don’t carry?

Knowing that you can’t be everything to everybody — and not trying to be — is already half the battle, says consultant Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts. Be thoroughly familiar with the unique features and benefits of the products you do carry. Then, train your staff to become expert listeners, tuned to hear and discern the customer’s real needs. “Although there are some ‘brand collectors’ out there (for whom nothing but the exact model will do), you should recognize that more often than not, when a customer asks for a specific brand, he or she is most likely asking for the ‘look’ (i.e. something he or she saw elsewhere) or the implied quality (i.e. ‘Lindberg means good frames’) of the brand,” says Peterson. When a customer asks for a line you don’t carry — i.e. “Do you have XYZ ski glasses?” — the typical “no, but…” is the worst possible response, she says. The customer hears nothing after “no.” A more appropriate response might be to answer the question with a question: “Is there a particular lens feature you had in mind?”

How can I get the most out of my direct marketing efforts this holiday season?

Don’t treat all customers equally, says Ellen Fruchtman of Fruchtman Marketing. “Do all of your customers deserve the same value gift card or special offers during the holidays? The answer is no,” says Fruchtman. “The object is to separate your customers into different buying ‘buckets’ and create incentives and offers that will move them up the ladder to a higher bucket.” One example might be a $25 gift certificate on any purchase of $200 or more, sent to a customer “bucket” that is historically and consistently purchasing below $200. Another good example would be targeting the “win-back” bucket (customers with no purchases in the past two or three years) with a message that should encourage them to get back into the store during the holidays (e.g., “we miss you and here’s a special incentive to welcome you back”).

I have one great employee, who I assign to maintain important jobs when they come up. I know this causes resentment among the other staff. What do I do about “boss’s pet” talk?

First, understand that fairness doesn’t mean uniformity, says Marcus Buckingham, author of the business bestseller the ONE THING YOU NEED TO KNOW. Every employee is different and will feel fairly treated if his or her differences are recognized and accommodated. Your B-grade performer can be perfectly happy with a star getting important projects — as long as they have a chance to show off their best talents as well. Employees will repay you with loyalty if they know what’s expected of them, have the resources and the chance to excel, feel that someone cares about them at work, believe their opinions count, and know that merit is rewarded, says Buckingham. If you can do that — all of your employees will feel like they are your favorite.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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