A Step-by-Step Guide to Stopping Optical Walkouts

Practitioners can improve their capture rate in the optical by refining their communication skills with their patients.
Photo Credit: Casper1774Studio, Getty Images

In my training with Spexy, I break down communication into simple concepts that are easy to digest, teach my members how to analyze them, and offer tools where they can easily implement the changed behavior into their everyday optical lives. Implement the following three-step exercise to perform with your team for better communication and fewer walkouts.

Step 1: Listen
Just listening seems simple enough, but unintentionally, most of us hear and then assume. I would encourage you to listen and consider the meaning behind what you hear. An exercise I do with teams is have them write down common objections they hear from patients and the team member’s immediate feeling or interpretation. For example, after hearing, “I am going to buy my glasses online,” many will experience an immediate feeling of defeat and reluctantly hand over the prescription. Some will muster up a response resembling a negative you-get-what-you-pay-for kind of vibe.

Take each objection you wrote down and ponder reasons why the patient would express that. They might want to save money, utilize their insurance, look for something unique, haven’t had a good experience in an optical, or any number of other possibilities.

Step 2: Reframe
This is a tactic to open the team’s mind to alternative possibilities from the initial assumption of what was heard. The reframing portion of the exercise will empower your team with a level of understanding rather than immediately fearing the worst. To reframe a scenario, take the objections you wrote down in Step 1, then consider the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario for each objection.

For instance, if a patient is trying to save money, the worst-case scenario would be: There is no way you can beat the pricing and they go online. You might consider offering something in the future to capture these sales. However, the best-case scenario could look like this: You have a package that starts at $X. If you are able to see the style the patient is looking for, you might be able to get them in a pair for a similar price, or they might be willing to pay more if you have a great fitting pair that looks similar.

Have your team do this for every common objection you listed in Step 1. When you do, you’ll start to notice two things:

●  The best-case scenario is a plausible outcome that might never happen if nothing is ever said to the patient.

●  The worst-case scenario is not all that bad. In this example, the worst-case scenario is that the patient goes online. Newsflash: That is what they were doing anyway when the conversation started, and you were just going to shut down and hand over the prescription!

Writing down the best and worst-case scenarios causes you and your team to see the reality rather than fearing the worst. You can also see the possible opportunities and be able to reflect on what is within your control to help adapt that perception in the future.

Step 3: Inquire 
Do not just ask, “Why?’” That one word alone, no matter how kind your tone, can put the other person on the defensive. In this part of the exercise, it is important that you channel your inner Brene Brown and review The Power of Vulnerability. Start your response with a statement and question of vulnerability. In the case of this example, you would respond with, “We are always trying to improve for our patients. Do you mind if I ask why you are choosing to purchase online?” It’s important to remember that the patient’s response will empower you with knowledge, and you can then be ready with a reply. If you can make it clear to your patient that you genuinely want to improve, they will feel that. 

To get this part of the interaction down successfully, you’re going to have your team practice drafting a vulnerable statement followed by an open-ended inquiry. This will be what guides the conversation between the practitioner/technician/optician and the patient.

When you’re with your team, discuss the importance of listening intently to the patient. After you write down your response, modify it and refine it a few times with your team. Finally, go over each of the objections you listed from Step 1 and write down friendly responses.

The end result of the conversation using the first possibility from Step 1 could look like this:

Patient: I am going to buy my glasses online. Can I get my prescription?

You: Not a problem. We are always trying to improve for our patients. Do you mind if I ask why you are choosing to purchase online?

Patient: Well, I can get a much better price.

You: Did anyone tell you yet that we have options to fit nearly every budget? I would love to show you a few options of the lower pricing. Did you have a certain style in mind?

This conversation is much more likely to save a walkout than hanging your head in defeat and handing over an Rx! Repeat this dialogue with your team for all the remaining objections you listed from Step 1.

The lack of refined sales and communication training in our industry is the main source of many of the pain points in independent opticals. Optical professionals historically make assumptions, and the result is a poor experience all around, which leads to decreased performance in unguided opticals. This is why I have made communication and sales training for the optical industry my passion. I look forward to hearing how this exercise with your team changes how your optical communicates with patients.

  • Kayla Ashlee

    Kayla Ashlee is the founder of Spexy, an international optometric speaker, a certified optician, and an optometric renegade. Her direct and relatable approach to training has set her apart in the optical industry. Kayla took her knowledge of industry coaching and adapted it to reach any eye care office that is hungry to grow by putting her training in an online video learning platform called Spexy. The result: she and her team train opticals how to give a sensational experience to their patients, and it is transforming the patient relationship with their optical in a powerful way. To learn more about her and contact her, visit https://learn.bespexy.com/pages/kayla

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