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For eye care professionals

Staff training: how opticians can stay ahead of consumer ‘internet experts’

How to deal with the rise of the ‘expert patient’

We’ve all been there as optometrists: faced by the patient brandishing their phone or printouts from the internet. They may be sure that they have self-diagnosed correctly, and they may feel that they are already an expert on the specs or lenses that they need. So, how do you guide them to a clinically correct diagnosis and the right product, as advised by a trained professional rather than Dr Google? At Essilor, we want to help you deal with the rise of the ‘expert patient’, and how to educate those who feel that all they need is their PD and prescription to safely order whatever they need online.


Are you losing sales? 

Patients get used to the same old, same old when they visit an optical practice: walk in the door, surrounded by frames, check in with the receptionist, sit down and wait. Then there’s the eye test. This is, by all accounts, pretty standard. However, by this stage, there has already been several chances for the patient to find out about what’s new in the world of optics. If you are on the ball you can use this ‘patient journey’ to open their eyes to new optical developments. So, let’s slow right down and look at what happens during a visit to your practice, and where the marketing opportunities are.


Having an online presence

Thanks to having unprecedented access to medical information, you may find yourself being told by your patient exactly what they need now more than ever. Patients will often research their symptoms and come up with a solution — which may or may not be correct. On top of that, they may start shopping around for products to assist them, but based on unreliable or erroneous facts, or even plain old bad advice they found on a forum. 

As such, we don’t need to tell you that valuable sales are potentially being lost due to consumers who believe that they have the knowledge to safely buy a pair of glasses online, rather than in-store. So, how do we deal with this? 


Skilling up your staff

We always champion training up your staff at Essilor. They need to not only be able to deal with customers who have no prior knowledge of treatments or eye health, but to also stay current with information, conditions, techniques, and products that customers may have researched themselves. It’s an area of your practice that is becoming more important than ever, as it’s here that misinformed health myths are dispelled. Rife on the internet, misinformation can spread like wildfire and social media users share a good story without checking the facts. Combine this with companies that plug their super-low-cost eyewear and tell people to just ask their optician for their PD along with their prescription, this can have a marked effect on sales. It only adds insult to injury and takes up staff time when the person returns for assistance. At best they may ask you adjust an ill-fitting pair of specs, at worst they won’t be able to see out of their new specs and despite ordering online will want you to resolve this. This is why staff training forms an integral component of our unique Bespoke service for independent ECPs

So, what do you do when faced by the social media manager who has already decided on the best solution for his visual needs, or the avid bargain hunter demanding their right to buy elsewhere? Start by considering what information you and your team will need to stay ahead of these customers. What skill sets need to be developed, and how will you help staff learn? The rise in patient education – and misinformation – can’t be ignored. Instead you need to be prepared to optimise staff training for the current buying environment. As patient knowledge grows, staff need to stay one step ahead. 


Industry innovations

Fortunately, the optical industry is developing apace, and there are always innovations to show patients that they simply can’t get online. For example, make sure your staff are trained in using a digital measuring device with flair; as well as being able to explain the benefits of such a tool. The additional theatre of a demonstration of your new look and the great visual results you can get, the ways you can personalise lenses can all win patients back to your practice. 


Think about how else your staff can build on their current knowledge, and stay au fait with new technologies and treatments available to eye care practitioners so as to avoid being caught out by savvy customers. Our Bespoke service  can help you facilitate this, for instance. If you have ever wondered whether you are making the most of staff training time, this type of service can take the worry away — providing you with a structured system to bring all staff up to date with the latest proven products and great communication techniques. As an example, have you thought about which words will encourage patients, and which will deter them from building trust in you before making a purchase? Or which are the right type of questions to use to draw out the patient’s areas of knowledge while at the same time adding correct information to areas where they may be misinformed? It is easy to tell staff to talk about benefits rather than features, but do they all truly understand the difference, or could further training allow them to really make the most of this technique? 

With the right training and education, your internet-reliant patients will soon realise there is a significant difference between what they can self-select from some online stores, the tailored service they receive from your practice and the custom products your team dispenses. Once you have people’s trust and belief, it becomes much easier to demonstrate the benefits of an elite lens or frame choice, and patients will take your word when you deal with their concerns. 

So, next time you and your team are faced by a patient who says, “I looked this up on the internet,” there is no need to hold back a sigh. Instead, look on this as an opportunity to have a dialogue, uncover any misconceptions, and start to build a relationship of trust. With the right staff training, all your team will soon be able to reassure the new breed of expert patient that they are in the right practice to get the optimum eye care and eye wear that they are looking for. 

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