The next thing to do is look and listen. Patients share information about their needs right from the moment they enter the practice. They may mention to the receptionist that they are booking a test because of a particular problem, so make sure that is noted down. You may be able to see from their appearance and the way they move clues to their lifestyle or hobbies. And, of course, the optometrist will ask questions about how they use their vision at work and at home as part of the test. As the dispensing optician, you need to be a detective, piecing together these bits of information and getting ‘clues’ from the team, as well as listening to the patient and asking them questions to fill in the gaps in your knowledge of them and their life. A patient who feels they have been listened to is much more likely to be a happy patient, and you will know that you have dispensed the best lens for them.

Better communication is a team effort, and needs to involve everyone in the practice– the receptionist, optical assistants, and the optometrist as well as the dispensing optician. Ensure the optometrist explains the benefits of their recommended lenses in the consulting room before the patient sees the DO. The seed should be sown by the optometrist and when the optometrist hands over to the DO, they then reconfirm the requirements and present a final optical solution to the patient. Patients appreciate this transfer of trust, and it means that you can straight away start to talk about the lenses that best meet their clinical need. If you talk about lenses first, people don’t compromise on lens choice because they have seen a frame they like. Talk in simple terms and help people pick the lens that will give them the best vision. They then know the cost of the lens, and if they have fallen in love with a particular designer frame are more likely to stretch their budget to get the frame too than the other way around.

People take several exposures to new information before they take it on board so make sure all the team is briefed in your lens range, to showcase new products and respond to questions. Back this up by highlighting just what different spectacle lenses and coatings can do, in practice display materials, email newsletters, reminder letters and on your social media channels. Staff should be wearing and promoting the products you offer. They can then better talk about the look and feel of their specs together with having the best vision they’ve ever experienced. What’s more, using the products that you sell can really give you an insight into how they perform.

A pair of specs is a big investment for most people, and when they read messages from online sellers such as, ‘It’s just two pieces of glass. It shouldn’t have to be expensive’, they can feel outraged at the price. As a DO, you can alter this perception by explaining, throughout the dispensing process, just what is involved in creating a pair of specs. The more people understand about how lenses are made, why this is important, and how it can benefit them, the more they will appreciate what is on offer. It can be useful to break down the cost of any pair of specs over the two years that they will be worn for, or longer for some people. Use real examples that are relevant to each patient: ‘Well, Mrs Smith, this pair has lasted you three years, so if you spend £150 today, that’s less than a pound a week over the time you will be wearing them for’.