4 tips for competing with online retailers

Jul 29, 2016 | Practice Management

be-0717-news4-lg.jpgPrescriptions in hand, some patients walk out your office door throwing a punch to your bottom line. In search of lower prices, they take the prescription to Walmart, Target or LensCrafters. Other bargain shoppers head to their computers to purchase their glasses online. They just send off their prescription and wait for a pair of glasses to show up on their doorstep. This is truly a case of consumer beware. What patients don’t know is that they have little recourse if the glasses don’t look good on their faces, the prescription is incorrect, the fit is wrong or the frames are made of cheap materials that will break easily.

The AOA recommends these tips to keep your prescriptions in house.

In the exam, offer solutions to problems.
Most patients don’t understand the value of high-quality frames and premium lens options, says Steve Vargo, O.D., MBA, vice president of optometric consulting at Prima Eye Group. So, let them know during the exam.

“When a patient mentions distortion in his or her conventional progressive lenses, educate him or her on high-definition digital progressive lenses. If the patient mentions glare driving at night, educate him or her on premium anti-reflective coating. Get the patient’s mind off of price and onto value.”

  1. Educate patients about the relationship between custom fit and prescriptive needs.
    Patients may not know that lenses that aren’t measured accurately will cause blurry vision or eye strain. Explain that buying eyeglasses properly fitted by an eye doctor is an investment in their health.Neil Gailmard, O.D., MBA, chief optometric officer of IDOC and CEO of Gailmard Eye Center, tells patients, “I believe you’ll get the best results with glasses that are fitted and measured in person. The low prices you see online are tempting, but we have some excellent low-priced options here in our office, too.”
  2. Create an attractive dispensary and offer top-notch customer service.
    “Patients would rather buy glasses from their optometrist,” Dr. Gailmard says. “We already have their trust.”Dr. Vargo recommends having staff ask about any vision problems when the patient calls to make the appointment.

    “Train your staff to say, ‘I’m so sorry to hear that. Make sure to ask the doctor about X product at your exam.’ When the patient arrives, they will be thinking about a solution to a problem as opposed to how much money they can save.”

Sell a maintenance plan.
Instead of talking patients out of an online purchase, offer them an annual maintenance plan for adjustments, says Gilan Cockrell, O.D., CEO of the Williams Group, which provides optometric consulting services.

At his practice, it’s $65 per year.

“Now I’ve removed the whole stigma that we’re providing a service that has no value,” he says. “Maintaining the glasses has a large value, and when I said $65 per year, that triggered the thought in the patient’s mind that there’s a lot more to the cost of these glasses than just the material costs.”

Also, he knows there’s a good chance online shoppers won’t have a good experience.

“So the next time,” Dr. Cockrell says, “they’ll probably want to purchase them from you with no reservations at all because you didn’t put them in a position of feeling like they are subhuman because they purchased them online before.”