Staff Management

Top Ways to Incentivize Staff

By Eric Rettig, OD

Nov. 20, 2019

Hiring the right employees is half the battle to providing great patient care and achieving practice profitability. The other half is incentivizing staff to a high level of service and sales. Here’s the approach my practice, which has 26 support-staff employees and four ODs, takes.

We have five full-time opticians, two full-time lab employees,  and one part-time optician. Actual total salaries plus bonus for the opticians and lab is $225,000. The total with all included benefits (not PTO) is $275,453. Our opticians have a base hourly wage, and, along with all of our other support staff members, are offered a monthly bonus if specific sales goals are met. We spend $80,000 per year on staff bonuses.

We also give every full-time employee health insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, paid time off and a 3 percent match IRA contribution. If you compare our hourly rate to other practices in our area, we are competitive, and often higher. We are a pretty rural place, so fully trained opticians are very few and far between. Most staff are pulled from other retail jobs and trained to do optical.

Incentivize All, Not Just Opticians
The bonus that we offer is for every employee in the practice (minus the doctors). The overall practice goal for each month is to be at least 3 percent growth in gross revenue compared to that same month the previous year. Most months that bonus is reached, the practice is anywhere between 5-20 percent growth.

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If we meet that goal, a quarter of the additional earnings, compared to the previous year, is divided among all of the support-staff employees. In addition, we have small bonus boosters that we set each month that go along with the goal of 3 percent.

We’ve branched these monthly boosters into the rest of the practice. For example, our reception staff tracks how many new patients we have each week, how many full exams/refractions are scheduled each week. We’ve also started to track how much time a patient spends in each part of the office, so we can see where the biggest wait times are, and can then find ways to be more efficient.

Our technicians are also encouraged to perform point-of-care tests and specials tests based on patients’ complaints. All staff in the office are aware that seeing more patients (whether that be for routine eye exams, medical visits, emergencies or other needs) generates more income, which helps their bonus at the end of the month.

We’ve found that having the monthly incentive bonus, and tracking metrics on a weekly basis, keeps our practice goals in employees’ minds more, and has helped generate additional practice income.

Set Short-Term Goals
All practice goals are tracked on a weekly and monthly basis. For example, in the optical we have weekly goals of premium progressive eyewear sales, second-pair sales, sunwear sales and annual contact lens supply sales, among other metrics. We use the dashboard management system, Glimpse, to track these numbers, with our staff members tracking the metrics on their own, as well. We have a weekly meeting every Monday morning in which we go over the previous week’s numbers.

Recognize Stand-Out Employee Performance
Once a month we name a winner of our Gold Standard award. This isn’t for the person who sells the most, or had the biggest sale, but for a staff member who goes above and beyond what is expected to accommodate a patient and make their experience better. They are recognized in front of the whole staff, and we usually give them a gift card.

Incorporate Individual Metrics Performance in Annual Reviews
For each optician, we can track how much AR they sell, average frame sale, how much they sell of each lens material and other sales metrics. We use those numbers in our yearly employee reviews, and try to incentivize the opticians to increase specific metrics, which we let them know could result in a pay raise the following year.

Train Employees to Sell, But Only With Patient’s Best Interest In Mind
We train opticians to only recommend and sell products that make sense for each particular patient, such as blue light-filtering lenses for people who work heavily on a computer, AR for people who drive a lot and high-index lenses for people with high prescriptions.

We also encourage our staff to wear glasses they’ve gotten from our office that feature the same premium products we often recommend. That way they can talk about their first-hand experience with the products, and how the products can enhance a patient’s visual experience.

We’ve streamlined our progressive lens selections to three options: good, better, best. We do something similar with our anti-reflective options. Our staff is trained to bundle lens packages together, which has helped to increase sales options. We also rarely use brand names for any lenses or options we sell. I know this goes against marketing tips from various lens companies, but we’ve found that most patients really don’t care what the lens is called, just as long as it works!

We will use terms such as “digital progressive” or “new technology” to discuss lenses and options. Same goes for contact lenses. I rarely tell a patient which brand I am fitting them in, just that I chose this particular lens because I feel it meets your specific visual and comfort needs the best.

There are SO many options in both spectacles lenses and contact lenses. We’ve found it is much easier to select a few that you really like and become extremely comfortable with them.

Get Feedback from Opticians On What They Need to Sell More
We want our staff to want to work for us, and to enjoy it. We try to communicate with them as much as we can. Our managers and doctors are always available to discuss ideas staff have, or challenges they are experiencing with particular aspects of optical sales.

For example, they might ask us to explain more to the patient about a particular lens treatment during the hand-off to the optical, or they might let us know if there is a frames and lens package that they are having trouble selling, offering suggestions for how the sales package could be altered to make it easier to sell.


Eric Rettig, OD, is a partner with Mountain View Eye in Altoona, Penn. To contact him:

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