I love what I do, always have, so I am biased when it comes to dispensing opticians. In my view, a good dispensing optician is one of the best investments a practice can make.
A good dispensing optician is a goldmine; they will always want the best for the client and the practice. Optometrists and dispensing opticians are the flip sides of a coin, supporting each other and working as team, with a deep mutual respect - assuming you have the right people!
Most profit within a practice comes from retail sales driven by DOs. The optometrist is the clinical guru; what they tell a client carries tremendous weight. Both need to work together for the best outcome for the client. Mirroring behaviour can work brilliantly to ensure both are reading from the same page.
A DO is in the prime position to build relationships with clients; to find out about their passions and lifestyle. Not only should they recommend the best option for visual freedom, but also be able to qualify and explain their recommendations to the client. The DO is the person the client should want to see most often. Whether it be a visit for a refit, a new frame or just a clean and straighten, the DO is the crucial link between client and optometrist.
A frustration for many DOs is when the optometrist tells the optician what to dispense. The optician, in the main, should be entrusted with this decision. An optometrist should enable an optician to explore the best solution for the client. In my practice, my DO and I keep up-to-date with technical changes, we read research (including clinical papers), we test new designs on suitable clients, and we help the client determine the best option for them. We understand the concept of lenses; hard versus soft, customised versus basic. We understand blending and BVDs, distortions and aberrations.
Many times, one pair won’t be enough. Our depth of knowledge enables us to quote statistics on bifocals versus progressives, lens materials, impact resistance, quality of lens coating and more. This knowledge enables us to discuss alternatives with confidence and support the client in their needs, which is what makes comprehensive dispensing solutions so valuable to a practice.
Trust your DO
DOs want responsibility. They want to be able to make decisions. They thrive on a challenge. So, let’s enable them! Qualifying and registering as a DO is a big deal that should be celebrated. Nurture your DO and watch them grow in themselves and grow your business.
You leverage a DO the same way you do anyone in the practice – customise their role to fit their personality.
Like all industries, some people are driven by money. If so, pay well, offer bonus schemes or incentives. Some people are driven by responsibility. If so, let them have it. Allow them to take full control of your frame range, stock turn and lens choices. Some people thrive on competitiveness. If so, work with KPIs. Do not benchmark them against others within the practice or the “industry norm”. Benchmark them against themselves. Challenge them to change, to grow and to push boundaries.
Ultimately, the best way to leverage your DO is to get to know them as a person; understand their passions, their personality, rely on them, hand them your trust, make them an integral part of your business.
Have you got the right DO?
The best leverage comes with ownership. Can you partner with your DO? Treat them as an equal? Allow them to be assertive with their ideas? If you have the right DO, don’t let them go! Encourage them to emotionally buy into the practice, become a part of it. This could be part of your succession plan.
In short, we are not just DOs. We are fully qualified, knowledgeable, client-focused dispensing opticians! Your business is going to grow and your practice value will increase, if you have the right, passionate, caring and hardworking DO.
Treat us well and we, and your practice, will thrive.
Vanessa Cumming is Practice Principal and DO at Canon Street Optometrists in Timaru, with over 30 years’ industry experience. She is past president of ADONZ and IOA, as well as a former Independent Optometry Group board member.