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For eye care professionals

Progressive lenses: how do I manage patient expectations of my products?

Manage your patients’ knowledge and expectations of your products

When it comes to new optical technology and products, it’s important to think strategically about how to manage your patients’ expectations regarding them. Successfully marketing new products, such as progressive lenses, which have evolved enormously over the last twenty years, is as much about the message as it is about the medium you use. 

Our aim here is to consider just that: how you can manage your patients’ knowledge and expectations of your products - using progressive lenses as an example. 

The limitations of progressive lenses

The digital evolution in optics is well documented, and something that Essilor is really trying to help independent opticians take hold of in the UK. If you’ve been in the industry a while, you’ll have seen plenty of changes over the years; some that have stuck and some that are now dust in the wind. Progressive lenses are an area of optics that’s continually evolving and changing, however, and as a result of it, so are consumer expectations and perceptions. 

Although progressives have been a massive breakthrough in this industry, there are also many people who never really got on with them. In the past, designs were limited, the central area was narrow, and, on top of all that, people had to get used to the idea of a ‘bifocal without the line’.

The changing landscape of lenses

Fast forward from those early designs of the fifties, sixties, and seventies to now, and you have an entirely different situation. Our latest progressive lens innovation, Varilux X series, is a great example of this. Lens designs can be tailor-made to fit individual prescriptions, face size and shape, choice of frame, and lifestyle. Depending on the hobbies, work, and other activities of your patients, the relative size of the distance - intermediate and near areas - is a choice that the eye care practitioner can now make easily. Adaptation to these new type of lenses, as a result, is far more successful than it was in the past. And yet, some people still resist progressive lenses. Why? 

Well, there are a number of factors involved in this. To start off with, humans are naturally averse to change. A negative experience, even a negative comment from a trusted friend, can prevent someone from trying something new. Some may resist because the idea of a reading addition can be  yet another sign of age; yet we know presbyopia is very real. Cost can be a further barrier: someone who has never needed specs before or are transitioning from single vision lenses may be shocked by the cost of a progressive lens. What’s more, patients don’t always understand the need for an adaptation period for news specs, either. Without the right introduction, for instance, they can start worrying about the peripheral distortion or ‘blurred bits’ as soon as they start wearing their new lenses. This is especially true when they’re buying from online retailers. 

There’s a reason why dispensing opticians exist, yet people are quickly forgetting that thanks to the rise of the internet consumer. Fortunately, these barriers are all surmountable - as long as your dispensing team has the right preparation and training. 

Understanding your patients

If you can develop your patient’s trust, and understand their lifestyle and motivations, you’re well on the way to effectively communicating the unique lifestyle benefits a personalised pair of specs can offer them. This is true of all lenses, not just progressive lenses. Of course, it’s easy to ask team members to simply explain ‘benefits not features’. What that is really about, however, is putting the patient at the heart of the dispense. Ask the patient what they are having difficulty with, what they’d love to be able to do, and you’re halfway there. Understand your customer, and you’ll understand how to dispense them the product. 

Presbyopia is always going to be a sensitive area for patients unfortunately: people refuse to believe age catches up with them. But, you as an independent can make that transition smooth and easy for them by offering them a totally personalised and quality service. 

Using technology to build patient trust

You can also try to help the patient feel comfortable making their decision to switch to progressive lenses. Using modern technology, such as the Visioffice 2, can enhance the dispensing process and make sure that you tick every box in your patient’s wish list. Using it, you can share with your patients the different physiological and eye measurements recorded and consult the positive impacts they will make to the finished lenses. This can educate your patients about the lens benefits, whilst showing them how it would fit into their lifestyle. 

Also, this is a good step in building patient trust and confidence, as they’ll see you take a range of quick, accurate measurements, tailoring it uniquely to their needs. At this stage in the process, when the patient understands more about what they are being offered, the cost will feel more reasonable. Technology allows traditional measurements to be quick and ensures more time is spent on professional dialogue. In essence, showing them the benefits is more powerful than telling them. For more information on managing consumer expectations within the world of optometry, head on over to Optical Industry Advice

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