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HAVE YOU EVER SAID SOMETHING you immediately regret? Maybe you congratulated a woman on her pregnancy only to find out she isn’t expecting. Or commented to a middle-aged gentleman that he must be very proud of his daughter just to be told the attractive young lady by his side is his girlfriend. Embarrassing surely, but not necessarily bad for your bottom line.

But there are words and phrases that have become all too common in your practice that you need to stop saying. Confused, potentially offended customers with high and misguided expectations are the opposite of the ones we all hope to “wow” in our opticals. We asked eyecare providers to tell the things they wished they could stop saying in their businesses. Do any of these sound familiar?

 

“When did the whole world get so cheap?” — Steve Whitaker, Whitaker Eye Works, Southeastern Pennsylvania

“Giving them an option to pay for their glasses in payments. Always ends in trouble.” — Kristy Smith, Eyeglass Wearhouse, Reynoldsburg, OH

“Saying ‘Sweetie.’ I’m Southern, whaddya want from me? Seriously, do y’all need anything? Sweet tea, some country ham …” — Angel Miller, Cynthiana Vision Center, Cynthiana, KY

“Your insurance covers $_____ amount.” — Holly Cheong, Eyeoptics Optometry Center, Elk Grove, CA

“When someone comes in and speaks little or no English and I find myself talking louder. They usually don’t understand loud English either!” — Martha Davenport, SafeVision, St. Louis, MO

“‘Don’t do that.’ It doesn’t get results and it can be insulting. Instead by simply rephrasing it into a subtle suggestion of doing something differently it gets more results. This way of thinking has helped me form a bond with our junior optician and has increased her willingness to listen but more importantly learn.” — Sherry Berry, Pascarella Eye Care and Contact Lenses, Newtown, PA

“We are not Costco.” — Sabina Krasnov, i2ioptique, Scottsdale, AZ

“Coating. It should be called a lens treatment.” — Mitchell Kaufman, Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY

“I emphasize how many years I have been in this industry a lot. I feel sometimes it comes across as pretentious, but on the other hand sometimes a patient likes knowing that there is a well-skilled person sitting across the desk from them.” — Julia Castillo, Gregory A. Stainer, M.D., Bakersfield, CA

“Your ‘vision insurance will pay for…” I’m trying to use the term ‘vision benefit plan’ instead, because when a patient hears ‘insurance’ they think it should be free. Uggh!” — Shane Clark, OD, Infinity EyeCare, Rapid City, SD

“I didn’t get these glasses here.” — Ashlie Dorminey, Optical Associates, Valdosta, GA

“‘We don’t care if you can see out of your glasses as long as they look good.’ It always gets a laugh though.” — Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates, Girard, PA

“AR coating. I should call it non-glare.” — Brenda Smoke, Smoke Vision Care, Buchanan, MI

“Sure, we can rush that order for you … (even though you’ve been toting your Rx around for nine months.)” — Kate Giroux, MacPherson Opticians, Arlington, VA

“We’ve been working on this … ‘vision insurance’ and ‘allowable.’ There is no ‘vision insurance.’ They are discount plans with some benefits, but they don’t insure against anything. ‘Insurance’ gives the patient false expectations about what they are allowed to do and can or can’t get. They have a contribution (not allowance) from their vision discount plan (not insurance). This change in verbiage has helped us a lot.” — John Dovie, Blacksburg Eye Associates, Blacksburg, VA




Dave Goodrich
Goodrich Optical, Lansing, MI

Kristy Smith
Eyeglass Wearhouse, Reynoldsburg, OH

Shane Clark, OD
Infinity EyeCare, Rapid City, SD

Brenda Smoke
Smoke Vision Care, Buchanan, MI

 

 

Having built a career in service journalism, Dee has been covering the eyecare industry for over a decade. As editor-in-chief of INVISION Magazine, she is passionate about telling independent ECPs stories and can be reached directly at dee@invisionmag.com.

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A Tiny Maine Optical That Knows How to Make a Big Impact

With the help of local artists, they injected a little rebelliousness into their branding look.

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MINIMALIST AND MODERN with an attitude,” is how owner Chris Wheaton describes the branding at North Optical in Portland, ME. Doing a lot with a little is a concept that befits an optical tucked into 320 square feet within the “Black Box,” a retail space created out of shipping containers in the city’s East End.

Wheaton is a student of the history of logo design and typography, and cites them as key influences, along with architecture, furniture and interior design. “While a lot of my inspiration comes from famous schools of design like Bauhaus, I also love old-school hardcore band logos and posters. So I try to instill a little bit of rebelliousness into the branding as well.”

Branded materials include business cards, totes, stickers, postcards, posters, coasters, coozies, custom candles and cleaning spray. “I am always looking for new and fun things to put my logo on or a new design from a local artist.”

Wheaton keeps things simple “so that I can mess with it and do really fun things on a whim… like a sticker of cyclops driving a monster truck carrying a flag with my logo on it. Because why not? But it also allows me to be more serious too.”

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North Optical’s branding was also intended to be a platform for local artists and designers. The basic design work is handled by Portland’s Andrew Scripter/Wing Club Press, which also prints most of the materials.

“I work with only local artists, photographers and whenever possible use local printing services,” says Wheaton.

If you’re looking for a branding boost, Wheaton says a good way to begin is to seek out a local business with a strong brand image and a similar clientele, and partner with them. “Something as simple as a photo shoot can be invaluable for upping your brand image,” he says.

Second, Wheaton advises approaching a local designer or artist whose work you love; sometimes artists will be willing to accept payment in trade.

“Also, people love swag. Reusable screen-printed totes are great guerrilla marketing. I think that it’s all about the little things — a customer’s experience can easily be brought to the next level with something as simple as a postcard.”

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

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America's Finest

Let This California Practice Show You What the Perfect Balance of Brick-and-Mortar Experience and Social Media Engagement Looks Like

They’ve branded themselves the ‘Eyewear Gurus’ for the millennial generation.

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Spring Hill Eyecare, Spring Hill, TN

OWNER: Rob Szeliga, OD; URL:springhilleyecare.com; FOUNDED: 2005; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Rob Stensland, Optometric Architects (architect); Amy LeAnn Szeliga (interior designer); EMPLOYEES: 13 full-time, 4 part-time; AREA: 8,300 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Dailies Total 1/Multifocals, Kate Spade, Costa, Shamir, neurolens; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/springhilleyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/springhilleyecare; BUILDOUT COST: $1.6 million


Owner/OD
Dr. Park L. Hsieh of Eye Love
Optometry in Pinole, CA.

PRIOR TO OPENING Eye Love Optometry, Dr. Park L. Hsieh experienced the full breadth of optometry, practicing simultaneously in three modalities: a surgery owned by MDs, a multi-doctor optometric practice, and on-call coverage for a corporate chain. “It gave me a chance to evaluate in which setting I felt the most comfortable,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed the continuity of care in the private practice setting, seeing the same families on a yearly basis.” Similarly, long-time collaborator Aidan Vo had his own vision of the ideal optical experience. “We decided to dive, headfirst, into taking over an established optometric practice — with me tending to the clinical care of patients, while Aidan managed matters relating to the optical.”

In 2008, Hsieh purchased an 11-year-old practice in El Sobrante, CA, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and with Vo set about transforming it. They gave themselves a crash course in all areas of the business: customer service, patient education and flow, diagnostic tech and high-quality ophthalmic products. The optical was stocked with independent eyewear brands, including a handful of handcrafted overseas lines that helped them stand out. The next level beckoned, and they shifted to neighboring Pinole, CA, in 2012. The move allowed them to completely rebrand, and Eye Love Optometry was born. Buoyed by a 2018 remodel, Hsieh now feels the practice appeals to a wider patient base, though when pressed to name a target demographic he cites “professional women aged 25-55 and their family and friends.”

Hsieh says Eye Love’s clientele also includes many patients with an eye for art and fashion, and a substantial contingent of “more progressive, hip and edgy Millennials.” Accordingly, he and Vo opted for an aesthetic that is clean, sleek, minimalist and modern to serve as a backdrop for the eyewear, which is consciously presented as art.

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A key feature of the optical is the “eYebar,” a long custom-designed eyewear display case that also serves as a communal frame selection and dispensing table, catering to the Millennial emphasis on the unique experience. “Why else would they line up for two hours to experience a unique craft cocktail concocted by an expert mixologist? Well, since eyewear are works of art in their own right nowadays, the concept of the eYebar makes a lot of sense.”

Opticians at Eye Love Optometry are branded as “Eyewear Gurus” on their business cards, on the website, and in a monthly ad campaign in a local magazine. They essentially serve as personal stylists to patients. Says Hsieh, “They ask probing and open-ended questions about our patients’ lifestyle…as well as their preferred attire, colors, etc. They get a sense of the individual needs of each patient and, therefore, are better able to uniquely guide them, based on their own preferences.”

The team at EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY, including owner/OD Dr. Park L. Hsieh, third from left, and optical manager Aidan Vo, third from right.

Complementing the brick-and-mortar experience is Eye Love’s relentlessly creative use of social media (see Five Cool Things on p. 67). Hsieh hired a professional to photograph selected eyewear frames, “strategically using rays of sunlight, which hit the frames at certain angles, to cast interesting shadows behind and around them. Playing around with the position and number of frames, unexpectedly beautiful shapes were created. We were then able to integrate this photography into our website and social media.”

Eye Love’s dedication to staff development is serious, involving bi-weekly check-ins, quarterly reviews, continuing education and visits from ophthalmic reps. Opticians are encouraged to become ABO certified, with all costs covered. Community engagement is also stressed. Eye Love donates eyewear, supports a local Multicultural Children’s Bookstore, and has even helped pay for a patient’s journey to compete in the Junior Olympics.

Dr. Hsieh recommends an Optomap retinal scan to all patients. “Every patient who opts to have it is given the option of having the results e-mailed to them, reinforcing the high-tech nature of our practice, by allowing our patients to see the inside of their own eyes,” he says. The practice has invested in high-tech diagnostic equipment, and another standout feature on the medical side is its Myopia Control Specialty, reflecting Hsieh’s belief that many eye doctors don’t do enough to address this epidemic.

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According to Hsieh, Eye Love Optometry’s mission is twofold: “to exceed expectations and instill confidence,” in terms of both eyecare and eyewear. “Building a personal rapport with our patients has always been our secret to gaining their loyalty.”

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Five Cool Things About Eye Love Optometry

1. PLEASE YOUR SELF. Eye Love Optometry’s iPad-based selfie photo station allows photos to be taken and sent to be shared on social media. Patients are given a “Selfie Card” encouraging them to share the photos. The station uses Simple Booth’s Halo software, which makes the service fully customizable.

2. WINNING STRATEGY. To boost social media engagement, Eye Love holds contests that encourage patients to follow it on Instagram and Facebook. The patient, after showing that they have followed the business, is automatically entered in a raffle to win a predetermined prize.

3. MONTHLY THANKS. For its “Patient of the Month” program, the practice chooses (with their permission) an ideal patient who is rewarded with a gift basket or small prize. “This reinforces to our followers that we truly do care,” says Hsieh.

4. A LITTLE YELP. Selected patients are issued a “Yelper Card” that says, “YELP us to spread the LOVE!” A QR code with instructions to “SCAN ME” automatically directs patients with smartphones to the specific web page that lets them write a Yelp review.

5. SHARING THE LOVE. The store donates eyewear to a child in need whenever a patient purchases an annual supply of contacts through LensFerry, a program allowing incremental monthly payments.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • I really like what they’re doing! NBill Gerber, Contentlinq & OMG! Marketing Group, San Diego, CA
  • Under Dr. Park Hsieh’s leadership, Eye Love Optometry have thoughtfully designed their store, logo and brand to create a space that lets the eyewear as art speak for itself. Eye Love Optometry’s use of technology, combined with a personal touch, brings forward an optical retailer that gets what customers want today. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • Love the logo, and the minimalist design — combined with the colorful marketing — works for these guys. Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear, Andover, MA
  • The term ‘Eyewear Guru’ is an interesting way to project an aura of expertise for their opticians. The practice appears very advanced on the clinical side, which works well with the streamlined, modern optical environment. The Myopic Control Clinic is a great focus. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

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Best of the Best

These Machines Let Boutiques Create Bespoke Frames Right Inside the Optical

Luca Mariotti’s EYEFRAME system lets the optical owner exist totally independently from big frame makers.

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OTTICA MORI, AN optical and optometric practice in Pisa, Italy, recently ventured into producing its own frames on-site. That’s a serious step for any owner, but Luca Mariotti went one step further, building his own “desktop factory” — a small-scale frame manufacturing system designed to fit in an optical shop. Ottica Mori now uses Mariotti’s EyeFrame System to produce its own line of frames, Mocchialeria.

THE IDEA

One day, as Mariotti was working on his hobby-grade CNC router, his daughter Chiara asked him if he could use it to make a frame from a blank of cellulose acetate. The results were disappointing. But the experiment sparked a chain of events that would transform Ottica Mori’s business. “We started to evaluate the true potential of self-produced frames. It only took a short time to realize that the earnings could be very interesting .” Mariotti invested in a professional grade router. But what he really wanted — a machine small enough to fit inside an optical but with the capacity to produce quality frames from an array of materials — didn’t appear to exist.

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Mariotti hooked up with a manufacturer who agreed to custom build a machine, but the partnership was a disappointment; he didn’t get along with the company and the result was “a steel monster” too large to be used in the shop.

THE EXECUTION

Mariotti, who has a background in machine design, took matters into his own hands and now produces his own “EyeFrame System” CNC routers for opticians. Small enough to fit in an optical, they can machine acetate, plastic, wood, buffalo horn, aluminum, alpaca, brass copper, silver, gold and other non-ferrous metals.

Using the system, Ottica Mori gets about seven to 10 custom frame orders a day. Mariotti starts with an analysis of the customer’s corrective needs, then takes measurements of their face and head. “Then we suggest possible solutions, often making drawings and involving the people in the process. With a set of cellulose acetate samples we choose the color and then we start to make the CAD drawings,” he says, referring to the software system that produces the final frame design.

Tracers are used to order lenses from a manufacturer, which are placed in the frames before final adjustments are made. “The tracer is also used to calculate the thickness of the lens prior to drawing the frame using a special tool we developed. Due to the fact that it is a custom frame, all the limitations we usually find are eliminated,” says Mariotti.

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THE REWARDS

Mariotti invested about $110,000 to develop the EyeFrame System and has produced four so far. It is aimed “mainly at opticians but we have raised the interest of industry too.” He is selling the system directly in Italy and looking for foreign distributors.

The practice’s custom eyewear business and small-series frame lines are also growing rapidly, and Ottica Mori now sells several M occhialeria frames a day, in addition to the custom orders.

“Our goal is to became a single line shop in two years,” says Mariotti. “People want a well-made frame, [and] the assurance that they can find spare parts in the future … Obviously the capability to have custom-design frames has led to some strange requests, but usually people want quality.”

On a personal level, he says, “It is the most important project in my life and it is very rewarding. I am proud of it. It is a family project and I am very happy to work with my sons. At the age of 56 this project is changing my life.”

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