June 6th is World Eyewear Day. I’m not exactly sure when this started, but I think it’s a significant day that shows how far we have come in recognising Eyewear and Eyecare around the world.
Glasses are no longer seen as a negative requirement. In 2019 glasses are as much of a fashion statement as they are a health requirement, and many people choose to have more than one pair not out of necessity, but out of fashion.
Designers are pushing the boundaries with new material combinations, embellishments and techniques and each day more people are recognising that many of these designers are in fact artists: there are frame manufacturer’s, but there are also true artistic designers. This is where the passion is growing and I think its fantastic that they are starting to get the recognition they deserve.
Lenses, lens materials, designs and quality have also come quite a long way over the last 10 years, and now there are a whole catalogue of options for wearers so their purchases can be completely customised for whatever lifestyle requirements they have. No more adjusting your lifestyle for your lenses 😉
So how is it that in this time of emergence and appreciation for details, quality and artistic flair, that the independent optometry practices are still fighting to stand their ground against the corporate eyewear machines?
I believe it comes down to awareness and education. Firstly for all of those that work in the industry, and then also our end consumers.
Speaking specifically Australia now, we have seen a shift in businesses hiring people into their business as ‘sales people’ rather than Optical dispensers over the last couple of years. If your business is struggling financially this might make sense up front, but in the long term you’re setting yourself up for a tough time as your staff struggle to explain to your customers the benefits of an independent practice over the corporate big brand named products.
Putting an emphasis on the amount of knowledge you require of your staff from the beginning will only help them grasp the importance of the role and if you have the correct people in your team, they will love the technical side of the job and finding there is always something new to learn and pass onto their customers. If your business is focused on health care, you will hire dispensers. If you are focused on retail, you will most likely have sales staff and end up fighting a battle that is almost impossible to win.
The more we educate the public on what their options are, the better its going to be for our independent practices.
Too many glasses wearers don’t actually know what they have paid for.When I did a little investigative groundwork, a lot of the sales staff couldn’t explain to me correctly either.
For example, I went in with a friend of mine when she wanted to purchase new glasses and deliberately kept my identity as ‘a friend’. She was your typical customer: this was her 2nd pair of glasses, had an idea of what she wanted in terms of frames and didn’t want to spend a fortune as these would be a spare pair for the shed and were guaranteed to get thrown around outside quite a bit.
Long story short, the sales assistant
– didn’t ask my friend what she wanted in a frame but started to show her ones SHE liked
– went on to give her a quote without discussing lens options.
Is trues that my friend has an extremely basic SV Stock RX, but there was no discussion on what they would be used for, if she required high index, photochromic etc. The quote included a Multicoat which was not explained at all as they went through the costs. When I questioned why the lenses were $90 more than we were quoted last week, she said it was for the Multicoat. When I asked what that was, she replied a coating to help the vision that the Optometrist recommended….which I went on to say was quite weird as my friend had her eyes examined elsewhere and had brought her prescription in. That made things a little awkward !
My point is that this isn’t an isolated incident. On a daily basis I hear of far too many instances of customers being over-quoted, under-explained and not listened to at all. And, most of the time, these instances are occurring at the big corporates and chains.
THIS is what is making it difficult for independent practices, as the general public are quick to assume that we are all the same. Clearly, we are not. But how would they know? If we keep quite, they will just go online to avoid spending too much money on something they don’t want anyway.
So, this World Eyewear Day, lets focus on the independent practices that value true Eyecare. That value their customers and appreciate that customising each individual experience is true care, and the dollar value will come if the service is right.
World eyewear day is about showing there are those of us out here that have the consumers best interests at heart, and that want out dispensers to have the best training and exposure to the industry as possible.
The eyewear industry isn’t going anywhere – people will always need glasses. Its the way we help them understand what they are purchasing that is going to give us longevity in our businesses.
So Today, and everyday, make your voice heard. Show that you care and that we are ‘not all the same’. Put value on your staff and your products. Remember that passion is contagious – they way you communicate your services and your products to your customers is the way they will learn about who you are.