How to Create a Safe and Stress-Free Buying Experience post-COVID-19

By Gerard Johnson, M.S. August 03, 2020

The patient has answered COVID-19 screening questions TWICE, checked in for the visit from his/her car, had a temperature check, and finally saw the optometrist for an eye exam. The doctor completed the transfer of care to you perfectly by clearly describing the patient's eye care needs to you in front of the patient. Now what? We spent the past 4 months frozen in fear of touching door handles at the supermarket. How are you going to convince a patient to touch anything, let alone try on a pair of frames?

Temperature check acrylic shields screen employees before entering ...

All of these steps, prior to the visit, demonstrate to the patient that you take his/her health and safety seriously. That's half the battle. Gone are the days, however, of letting a patient wander aimlessly on the optical floor, randomly trying on frames as the optician sits back passively, offering an occasional, “Those look really nice. Are you looking for a particular color or style?” Honestly, those days should have been gone a long time ago. That sales technique serves neither the patient nor the optician. It creates an additional burden. We have to follow the patient to disinfect each frame touched to prevent the possible spread of the Coronavirus. A “drop off” bin for tried-on frames is for sanitary reasons. However, it glosses over a very simple fact. You are the eyewear expert in this situation, and you should guide the patient through the selection process.

The OD should briefly review the patient’s current visual needs and any recommendations. After reviewing the patient’s insurance benefits, or promotions you may have its time to lay out the ground rules in today’s environment. The patient will only be allowed to try on five frames from the board at one time. Offer the patient the option to walk with you to the frame board to select up to six frames. Or, the patient can let you choose, based on your expertise, and your conversations with the patient about his/her preferences. The use of a jewelry tray for carrying the selected eyewear adds a touch of luxury to the buying process. These plastic trays can be found online for $2 dollars each and are easy to sanitize with wipes or sprays between uses. In addition, we should protect our patients from COVID-19 exposure by limiting the number of frames tested by patients.  This approach will also ease eyewear-buying stress created by the Paradox of Choice.

Buy Eyeglasses, Complete Guide in Purchasing - All About VisionThe Paradox of Choice is the stress caused by too much choice that affects the positive emotions associated with the selection process. There are myriad combinations of eyewear materials, styles, shapes, and colors.  There are an infinite number of eyewear lens options. If the sales process is too complicated, patients can feel like they are being pushed, overwhelmed, and then can completely shut down. Cognitive science shows the human brain likes easy, binary choices. We recommend presenting six frames into 3 groups of 2. Sharp contrasts make the decision-making process easier, so keep that in mind when creating the groups. For example, pair the bright and colorful frame with the all-black frame or divide them by pricing.  Once the patient tries on both frames and selects a favorite, take the frame that was not chosen and remove it as an option. Now rinse and repeat, or should I say disinfect and repeat. Disinfect and return frames to the board as you go. As you progress through the selection process, if you know of a really great frame that may work well with the patient’s taste, you can offer additional suggestions. Don’t, however, do that when the patient is in the middle of selecting between 2 frames. Ultimately what you will find is that when patients are presented the options this way the cost concerns of the frames are less of a factor.

This is a hands-on process. And, once you become comfortable setting the stage for the patients, you will find that it shortens the amount of time a patient spends on the sales floor. That, in turn, makes social distancing on the sales floor easier when you have multiple patients searching for frames at the same time. I have used this technique over the years and have found that it will also help with multiple-pair sales as well. If it comes down to 2 pairs for frames with different flavors, it makes for an easy transition into the benefits of having multiple pairs of glasses. This process allows the patient to feel safe and not pushed into a decision, even if the patient spent a little more for eyewear than initially intended because the choices were simple. Everyone wins when the patient is able to have a safer, less-stressful experience and walk away truly happy with new eyewear.

Gerard Johnson, M.S.

Gerard is a writer, trainer, and leader who has worked in healthcare since 2003. He has managed and trained teams in Optometry, Ophthalmology, and Family Medicine. Gerard currently works as a practice manager for a family practice in Atlanta, GA.

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