By Shelley Smith, ABOC, CPOA
Feb. 2, 2022
As practice manager, I have my eye on both the patient experience and profitability. I keep an especially close watch on optical sales. Here are a few improvements that greatly enhanced optical profitability, including one change that boosted our eyewear capture rate by 12 percent.
Systematic Approach to Frame Board Management
For years, when a frame was sold, we pulled it directly off the board and sent it to the lab. Then, we filled the board space with a frame that we kept in under-stock. We began to have trouble keeping our best frames in stock, and ended up wasting money returning “stale” frames that never sold.
We take a more systematic approach now. First, we determined what brands we wanted to end up with at each location, and how many of each brand we wanted to keep on hand. It was a lengthy process to sell off brands that we no longer wanted to carry, but we finally made it to the assortment that we wanted to keep on hand. We had to do a lot of research to determine which manufacturers worked best for this model, and would ship directly to our lab, and not increase our shipping costs. The most important part of this was creating a process to make sure that every frame got ordered in a timely fashion, so no delays in job delivery occurred.
With the most recent office we acquired, we decided that any new product we introduced would be part of Vision Source’s Frame Dream program. This program makes our frame board management even more profitable because our Frame Dream rep trains all our employees in how to use the program successfully, and provides support as needed.
We re-trained staff to place frame orders differently than they had in the past. We did experience bumps in the road in the initial stages of this transition that allowed everyone to work together to come up with solutions and evolve our process along the way.
Our patients now have access to the hottest products all the time. If a patient can’t decide on a frame during their first visit they can come back and be confident that we will have the same options on the board for them to see. This was not an easy journey for us, and each time that we have acquired an existing practice it has been a challenge to change habits of employees and sales reps and implement this process, but it is 100 percent worth the effort to put a system like this in place.
The first full year we had this frame-board management system in place was 2017, and our optical capture rate increased by 12 percent over 2016. Since then, we have steadily increased our capture rate by 2-5 percent year-over-year.
Updating the Look of Our Optical
We gave our optical, which we call our “showroom,” at our main location a facelift by painting the walls, replacing carpet with luxury vinyl, replacing old office chairs with modern seating, updating our frame boards to more modern shelving displays, and changing our outdated track lights to light fixtures that mimic natural light. Our goal was to create a luxury experience for our patients while they shopped for new eyewear.
The biggest hurdle we faced was finding the best lighting choice. We were picky about what we wanted and did significant research on how to achieve that. We are lucky that one of the practice owners is married to a designer, so she took care of all the color choices and design elements of this project. In addition, the practice owners are all skilled in construction and carpentry, so they were able to complete much of this project on their own, including designing and assembling the new frame displays.
The budget for the showroom facelift was $15,000. Aside from some minor electrical work that was outsourced, those costs all stemmed from materials needed to complete the project.
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The real cost in this project, however, was the practice owners giving up their time with their families in the evenings and a couple weekends to complete everything, and the minor disruption to the patient experience during construction.
This renovation has allowed us to give our patients the luxury experience they deserve in our showroom. These changes have provided a modern, comfortable and inviting space for our patients to select their new eyewear.
Since we completed this project, we have increased sales of our luxury brands and increased second-pair sales. I believe there is a correlation between how comfortable our patients feel in the new environment and the increase in these two sales areas.
Implemented the Use of Vision Source Max
We noticed pricing errors occurring increasingly, especially with insurance orders. For that reason, we decided to start using Vision Source Max, a pricing management software application.
The biggest task in this process was the back-office setup to enter our pricing and specific packages. Then we used the training provided by the Vision Source Max team to introduce the application to our teams. After everyone had an idea of how to use the application, I worked one-on-one with each optician on how to enter the necessary information correctly and efficiently, how to present the information to patients, and how to notate the information in the patient’s electronic health record. After training all opticians we did a brief overview of the application with the rest of our staff so that they can recall information from the application if needed.
For Vision Source members, like our practice, the use of the Vision Source Max application is included in membership fees, so there was no additional cost to our practice to use this technology.
The setup time was extensive because we started implementation soon after the application was released. At the time we had five locations, and each location’s setup had to be done separately. Now, the application has the ability to copy setup from one location to another and copy any price and package changes from location to location. These new features saved hours of work when we opened our sixth location.
Staff needed training on how to use the application. For our more computer-savvy employees, the application was easy to learn. For employees with less computer experience, it took practice for them to feel comfortable using the application. To educate employees on the use of Vision Source Max, we used the training materials that were available from the creators of the application, and I went to each location and trained everyone in-person to give them the opportunity to ask questions on the spot. Before I visited everyone, I communicated with the project manager of the application to make sure I was educated enough to be able to answer questions and fix errors that occurred.
We are now able to determine a patient’s out-of-pocket cost on glasses more quickly than ever before, especially on insurance orders. This gives our opticians more time to devote to direct patient service and connecting with the patient rather than sitting with a book to figure out pricing.
Using the Vision Source Max application has allowed opticians more time to discover the true needs and desires of their patients, giving them the ability to talk more in-depth about the possibility of multiple pairs.
Since we implemented Vision Source Max, our multiple-pair sales have increased from an average of 6.4 percent to 10.5 percent. While I cannot necessarily say that Vision Source Max is the sole reason for this increase, I do feel it has made a significant impact in this area of our sales.