Lenses for Sale

LensesForSaleBy Brian P. Dunleavy

These days, more and more clients visit optical shops after seeing advertisements for spectacle lens products, either on television or in major magazines – and Dennis Higgins believes this is both good and bad.

“In general, it’s great that eyeglass wearers are more informed about lens products, whether they are certain lens designs or coatings,” says the optician and owner of Higgins Fine Opticians in London, ON. “But with advertisements, they don’t get all the facts. Lenses aren’t like prescription drugs. When you go to a pharmacist, you have a prescription for one drug that’s supposed to treat a specific condition. But with eyeglasses lenses, the potential combination of products is endless – reading glasses, lenses for distance, progressives, sports glasses, tints and coatings. Just because clients see something advertised doesn’t mean it will be the right product for them.”

Efforts to brand various spectacle lens products with consumers have created an interesting conundrum for eyecare professionals (ECPs): on one hand, independents struggling in a competitive marketplace appreciate anything that drives more traffic through their doors and many have sought to leverage branding programs by prominently displaying signage and other point-of-purchase materials for products their clients may see advertised on TV or in print.

“If you can do a good window promotion and if clients see that name and it draws them in the door, once they’re in, you can get them to the products they need,” notes Higgins. “That’s the trick to get them in the door.”

But Deborah Perry, optician and owner of Optika Eclectic Eyewear in Saskatoon, recalls a few instances in which clients were so impressed by the lenses they saw advertised – either by the touted technology or features and benefits – that it was a bit challenging to direct them toward the products they actually needed. Interestingly, in Perry’s experience, despite significant efforts on the part of some lens manufacturers to “brand” their products with consumers, “nine times out of 10, when you ask people what they’re wearing, they haven’t got a clue.” Progressive wearers, she notes, tend to be loyal to a specific brand if they are happy with their lenses, but otherwise there is not a lot of brand loyalty when it comes to spectacles.

“Overall, very few people care that much about the brand name of the lens,” she says. “What matters is that they are happy and comfortable with it. Advertising is a funny thing. People may remember it, but they likely don’t remember all of it, or where they saw it.” To illustrate, she relates that she advertises her shop at two bus stops in Saskatoon, and while these ads are effective at bringing in customers, those who come in after seeing them routinely forget where they saw them. “They’ll say, ‘I saw your ad in Sutherland,’ and I’ll think to myself, ‘No you didn’t, because they’re on Clarence [Avenue].’”

This is not to say that ECPs don’t appreciate the efforts of lens manufacturers to support their businesses and increase consumer demand for the products they sell. Quite the contrary. However, many of them would also like to see corresponding enhancements to branded point-of-purchase materials as well as increased funding for educational programs that help opticians and optometrists better understand lens technology.

“Advertising is great, but lenses sell themselves if opticians take time to explain the technology and build a level of trust with the client,” Higgins clarifies. “To do that, they need to understand what the different products are, how they work and how they can improve vision. And that takes education.”

Lenses for Men, By the Numbers

LensesformenBy Brian P. Dunleavy

Since the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was first published in 1992, much has been made of the differences between men and women with regard to sensibilities and personal needs, among other characteristics. Probably too much.

But as anyone who has worked in eye care knows, there are important distinctions between the genders when it comes to eyewear preferences. And, while it’s important not to generalize based on gender alone, having a better understanding of the vision needs and buying habits of men can only help to address them successfully at the dispensing table.

So how should you position lenses to your male clients? Consider these compelling findings:

The Brand’s the Thing

According to Toronto-based market research company NPD Group, the biggest preference for men when making a buying decision about apparel – and let’s face it, eyeglasses are the ultimate in apparel – is sticking with a brand with which they’ve had previous experience and/or success. They also prefer products that fit with their overall style (interestingly, contrary to stereotypes, men value style more than women, according to NPD), those that have the features and benefits they want, and that offer good value for the money. They also value comfort over affordability.

These tendencies shouldn’t necessarily influence the spectacle lens products you offer to men but they should impact how you position those products. For example, if you think a spectacle-wearing male client, who already wears standard progressives by Brand X, might benefit from an upgrade to a free-form lens, offer him Brand X’s free-form product – and make a point of mentioning that you are doing so.

In addition, remember that several lens manufacturers advertise their brands to consumers across Canada. Based on NPD’s findings, it makes sense to reinforce these advertising messages via the merchandising in your dispensary so that your clients recognize them and know that you carry them.

Fast and (Not So) Curious

A 2012 survey by Integer Canada revealed that when shopping, the majority of men (60 per cent of respondents) want to get in and get out of the store as quickly as possible. Keep this in mind when explaining the features and benefits of spectacle products to male clients. Yes, the technology can be complicated – particularly with free-form lenses or photochromics – but long-winded explanations may result in men leaving the dispensing table without making a purchase. Rehearse succinct sales pitches that focus on the most important features and benefits, but also be prepared to answer any questions your clients may have.

Mission Possible

In a similar vein, Hamilton, ON-based retail and marketing strategy firm Clulow & Associates notes that men view shopping as a “mission,” whereas women view it as a “social event.” As a result, men tend to shop alone while women often shop with friends. At the dispensing table, men may be prone to ask their partners for advice on frame purchasing decisions, but on lenses they’ll likely make the decisions themselves – so sell to them, not their partners.

The Price Is Right

The 2012 Integer Canada survey also found that men are less price-conscious than women – only 39 per cent of survey respondents said that they looked for fewer or cheaper items when shopping. This is good news for eyecare professionals who want to upsell to premium lens products and/or second-pair sales. Coupled with the NPD Group’s findings, it’s up to eyecare professionals to convince clients that premium lens products offer good value for the money.

Ultimately, eyecare professionals need to “read” the personalities of each client as well as their unique visual needs. A greater understanding of gender differences can only assist in this process, particularly when the product is as complex as spectacle lenses.

Good Sports

GoodSportBy Brian P. Dunleavy

Most healthcare professionals see the Internet as a source of misinformation and/or disinformation for patients seeking answers to their medical needs. However, for opticians and optometrists trying to meet the increasingly specialized visual needs of sports enthusiasts visiting their dispensaries, the World Wide Web may provide some keys to success. Many ECPs have been forced to turn there to learn about the latest in spectacle lens products and treatments for sports ranging from hunting and fishing to skiing and snowboarding. (See the feature on page 8 of this issue to learn more about the latest in sports eyewear.)

“Most of the knowledge we have in lenses for sports comes from self-education and experience,” explains Gina Kay, optician and co-manager of the Toronto location of Cristall Opticians, a three-location, family-owned optical shop. “In many cases, the patients are so well-educated about their sports and the vision needs related to them that they teach us a lot.”

Where to go for vital information on this application for spectacle lenses has long been the question. ECPs estimate that as much as 10 per cent of the lenses they dispense are used by wearers for a sports-related activity, most commonly hunting and fishing, although a growing number of patients participate in so-called “action” sports, including snowboarding, biking and racing (both running and auto/motorbike). Despite this, education programs are often lacking in curriculum devoted to sports lenses.

If you’re wondering what lenses and/or lens treatments will work for the sports enthusiasts in your client base, there are places to go before getting lost on Google.

Read all about it

The proliferation of sports specialty magazines in response to the increased consumer interest in outdoor activities can help opticians and optometrists as well. According to Kay, many of these magazines publish feature articles that describe the “visual environments” specific sports participants experience; some include advice columns on eyewear needs. Many of these publications are online now, with searchable article archives. Sport-specific online chat rooms and web sites are also excellent resources.

Get equipped

Erin Clarke, an optician at Aurora Eye Care in Grande Prairie, AB and an active outdoor sports enthusiast, says local sporting goods retailers have been an excellent source of information on different sports for Aurora’s optical staff. “They can explain some of the visual conditions and challenges with different sports because they deal with them all the time,” she says.

Partner up

Vendors who manufacture sport-specific products often provide plano sunwear or other eyewear for their respective customer bases. Kay says Cristall has partnered with a company that specializes in gear for motorcyclists to market prescription sunwear designed for optimal vision on the road. Clarke adds that she and her team at Aurora have researched the best prescription lens inserts for ski goggles and other sports specialty eyewear products to ensure the dispensary and its supplier partners offer them.

History lesson

It may seem clichéd, but a thorough patient/client history makes identifying the right lens products easier. According to Kay, “asking the right questions and communicating with your clients allows them to tell you in their own words what they need.” While she emphasizes that they won’t necessarily tell you what lens tint will help them see better in the woods while hunting, they may describe visual problems they’ve had.

“Then it’s up to you, with your expertise and the resources you have – your supplier partners, for example – and maybe a little trial and error, to find the right products for them. Ultimately, the best way to make sure you are providing the best lens options for sports enthusiasts is combining your knowledge of lens tints and lens design technology with your clients’ knowledge of what they do. With all the technology we have now, there are lenses that will work for what they need. As opticians, we need to position ourselves as the experts who will help to find them.”

Wrapping It Up

By Brian P. Dunleavy

LensFocus

When your optical shop sells sunwear to 100 per cent of its clients, you’re bound to see more than a few requests for prescription wrap sunlenses.

And that’s the challenge Gina Kay, optician and co-manager of the Toronto location of Cristall Opticians, faces daily. As many as 10 per cent of the lenses dispensed at her store are prescription wraps, and she has seen a significant increase in demand for the product over the past couple of years, particularly among presbyopes who prefer progressive lenses.

“I used to say ‘no’ a lot,” says Kay, whose family has owned Cristall, which has three locations in southern Ontario, for more than 50 years. “No to prescription wraps. No to progressive wraps. Clients would beg me, and say, ‘But I’ll pay more,’ and I’d have to tell them, ‘Sorry. We just don’t feel confident in the lens technology available.’ That was especially the case if they had an unusual frame preference. Now I don’t have to say ‘no’ anymore.”

Historically, eyecare professionals (ECPs) seeking prescription wrap sunlenses for their clients had to rely on sunglass manufacturers for supply. Unfortunately, many of these lenses were characterized by spotty optical performance, particularly in the periphery – or, as optician Paul Boyko, Jr. says, “from the curve out”. These problems were even more common in progressive lenses or bifocals.

“We always had issues with wrap lenses and distortion was the biggest problem,” explains Boyko, owner of Windsor-based Visions of Canada.

Now, several spectacle lens and sunglass manufacturers are offering enhanced prescription wrap technology, and the biggest improvements are being made in progressive lens designs. Boyko is taking advantage of what he calls “the evolution” of prescription wrap lens design to develop his own line of golfing eyewear called Visions for Golfing. Kay says Cristall uses wrap lenses from a handful of manufacturers but the shop also has an exclusive distributorship arrangement with a high-performance prescription sports sunwear line.

“We can now offer a progressive wrap lens with confidence,” Kay notes. “This opens up a lot of opportunities for us, and for our clients.”

Still, there are important things to consider when dispensing lens designs that incorporate new wrap technology:

Finish what you start

Boyko says his high-performance edger is key to his success dispensing new prescription wrap lenses; if you finish in-house—or use an outside lab—make sure the edger being used to cut your wrap lenses is equipped to do so.

Manage client expectations

Even with improvements to wrap technology, clients should expect to pay more, especially in progressive designs. Eyewear with prescription progressive wrap lenses can fetch as much as $1,000 at retail—great for ECPs seeking to maximize profits but, perhaps, difficult to swallow for some clients. Make sure you explain the technology and the enhanced vision it promises and remind clients that they will be wearing a high-performance product.

“And even the best of the best will have some peripheral distortion,” Kay emphasizes. “But if you tell clients what to expect with the product, they’ll be happy.”

Adds Boyko: “I’ve had clients wearing new progressive wraps rate their lenses a 20 on a scale of one to 10. But we take a lot of time educating them on what this eyewear can and can’t do for them.”

Research the right wrap

Kay and Boyko both note that, as with all spectacle lenses, some wrap designs are better than others. While there is some parity in single-vision, the differences in quality are very apparent in progressives. Before pushing wraps, make sure you are using designs patients will be happy with.

“You can’t do wraps on the cheap,” advises Kay. “With the prices clients will be paying, expectations will be high and that’s where you can get into trouble. The best way to make sure clients are happy is to make sure you are selling the best product.”

The “Light” Stuff

By Brian P. Dunleavy

LensFocus

When it comes to spectacle lenses for children, impact resistance remains key. As a result, optician Vincent Afrouzi, owner of Vincent Optical in Kitchener, ON, notes that the vast majority of lenses he dispenses to pediatric clients are either polycarbonate or Trivex, as both materials are known for their durability.

However, in recent years, exposure of young eyes to light radiation – including ultraviolet (UV) light – has emerged as another optical safety concern for kids, leading to a greater emphasis on spectacle lenses and lens treatments designed to address these concerns. In fact, Madelaine Petrin, an optician and professor in the opticianry program at Toronto’s Seneca College, says that the issue of eye protection from harmful light rays for children has become a major focus of her teaching.

“I see young children in strollers or in cars, with bright sunlight washing over them. Their parents are wearing sunglasses and they neglect to buy a pair for their kids, who are much more susceptible to UV radiation,” she explains. “Kids with prescription lenses are usually protected from UV [with] polycarbonate lenses, but it is the emmetropic children who are also the focus of my teaching now.”

In a paper published in 2011 in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Swedish ophthalmologist Per G. Sõderberg, notes that there are, in fact, three forms of light radiation that have potential adverse effects on ocular health – UV, visible light (i.e., blue) and infrared. Although the sun remains the primary source for all three, increased use of lasers and infrared technology in everything from computers and video games to remote controls has led to an added risk for exposure. Researchers first recognized that UV, visible and infrared light had the potential to damage the retinas or the crystalline lenses of young eyes in the early 1980s; however, more recent studies have indicated that the eyes of children between the ages of three and 15 are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of light rays, and that exposure at a young age can lead to ocular diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration later on in life. Findings such as these have led educators like Petrin to emphasize the importance of high-quality plano sunlenses for children who do not need prescription eyewear or who opt for contact lenses.

Because polycarbonate lenses feature built-in UV protection, most young children who wear prescription glasses have at least a baseline level of protection. According to Afrouzi, though a few of his pediatric clients opt for lenses made from other materials; for them, he says, UV coating is now a must. The optician also strongly recommends anti-reflective (AR) coating for school-age children, as the treatment can reduce glare from computer screens and handheld devices and it offers additional protection from harmful light rays. Sales of photochromics are also increasing among younger wearers because of their protective benefits. And some eyecare professionals have added various lens tints or filters to the eyewear of younger patients in an effort to provide added protection; however, it should be noted that experts debate the merits of some tint products. Eyecare professionals should research lens designs and tints before dispensing them.

“It’s funny; 10 years ago, we would never have considered adding anything to kids’ lenses,” says Afrouzi, adding that roughly 20 per cent of his shop’s sales involve pediatric patients. “Now, we are always talking about UV protection, AR coating and, of course, scratch-resistance. Children require as much attention and knowledge of lens options and technology as adult patients, if not more. Eye protection and safety are vital for them.”

Polar(ized) Express

By Brian P. Dunleavy

LensFocus

To paraphrase a certain well-known frog puppet, It’s not easy being… well, gray or brown.

Indeed, although there is little doubt about the performance of prescription polarized sunlenses in reducing glare and protecting the eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, a high percentage of Rx eyeglass wearers have gravitated toward other sunlens options – such as specialty tints – because of the lack of colour options available in polarized. Historically, the technology has only been available in gray or brown.

“I’ve had a lot of clients move away from polarized lenses because they don’t want gray or brown lenses,” notes Bruce Tobin, optician and owner of Optical Excellence in Ottawa. Still, Tobin says, more than 60 per cent of the prescription sunlenses he sells are polarized. “Once you explain the benefits,” he continues, “patients will realize, ‘That’s the lens for me,’ just for the glare reduction in all seasons. I’ve even found that clients who have had difficulty wearing sunlenses in the past – because they are too dark – like them. Once you add anti-reflective (AR) coating to a polarized lens, it’s like you’re not wearing sunlenses at all.”

Now, the sales pitch should get even easier.

In recent years, lens manufacturers have worked to enhance polarized technology, improving the performance of polarized filters (to block more reflected glare) and making the lenses more durable (scratching, peeling or chipping were issues with the products of the distant past). And finally – and perhaps most importantly for optical shops with fashion-conscious Rx sunlens wearers – they have also begun to make the technology available in an expanded colour palette, including mirror-coated, rose and gray/green, as well as lenses that combine photochromic and polarized technologies and change shades in response to light. More new colours are reportedly in development.

All of these changes mean that the core market for polarized sunlenses has expanded to include not only outdoor sports – particularly water sport – enthusiasts who have traditionally embraced the technology, but also golfers and cyclists as well as those who spend a lot of time driving during the day (for work or leisure). In addition, as Tobin notes, polarized lenses (with AR coating) are also an excellent option for patients who have had difficulty wearing prescription sunlenses in the past or who are light sensitive as a result of light exposure or cataract surgery.

Opticians such as Trina Mendria, owner of ArtSEE Eyewear in Victoria, B.C., who says that polarized lenses already account for 80 per cent of the Rx products she dispenses (including custom clip-ons), hope to see the potential wearer population expand further as manufacturers add to the lens designs and materials available with the technology. The selection of progressive lenses with polarized filters is limited, she notes, particularly among specialty sunlens manufacturers.

“They may have a polarized lens in a progressive design you don’t use, or in a design the patient isn’t used to wearing,” she explains. “In some cases, the available design can be a huge departure from what the patient wears [in their clear lenses].”

According to Mendria, manufacturers will eventually have to address how digital displays are viewed through polarized filters. Some digital displays use light that polarized lenses are designed to filter, making them difficult for wearers to read. As digital displays and LCD screens are almost ubiquitous and are now often found on the dashboards and control panels of vehicles, this has become a major issue.

“I’ve even had boaters come back and return their polarized lenses,” Mendria notes, referring to what has been a key market demographic for the product. “It’s a new development and it has been challenging, but it’s really the only drawback with polarized lenses. Once people see the difference – and we have a display that shows them – they see the benefits.”

Senior Moments

By Brian P. Dunleavy

lensfocusHistorically, dispensing premium spectacle lenses to senior citizens has presented opticians with many unique challenges but eyecare professionals with the right approach and mindset can find success up-selling premium lenses to this unique demographic. Here are some things to consider:

1.     Think progressive, even with long-time standard bifocal wearers. In the past, standard bifocal wearers switching to progressives have often ended up being non-adapts; the two lens types are just too different. However, today’s free-form technology has reduced problematic peripheral distortion in progressive lenses and enabled the creation of prescription lenses that match exactly with wearers’ visual needs – as a result, fewer non-adapts. “Nothing drives me more crazy than hearing someone say they can’t switch older bifocal wearers to progressives,” says Gisele Klein, optician and owner of Impressive Eyewear in Surrey, B.C. “It’s just not true.” If you can convince older patients that the visual benefits of free-form progressives are worth the extra cost – not always an easy thing to do – you’ve done the heavy lifting, she adds.

2.     Talk treatments. As seniors are often plagued with ocular health issues such as cataracts, dry eye and/or allergies, glare protection is important in this patient population. Gray and/or pink tint treatments for spectacle lenses were once popular among elderly patients for this reason. Now, however, seniors are more interested in photochromic lenses, both for their convenience and glare-reducing capabilities outdoors. Anti-reflective coating is obviously a must for older eyeglass wearers, to soften glare and halos, particularly at night. In addition, ultraviolet coatings eliminate the danger of damaging sun exposure to the eyes, which has been linked to the growth of cataracts and the incidence of eye diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

3.     Take it light. Older patients can be bothered by heavier specs, either because they tend to slide down their noses more or irritate their thin, sensitive skin. High-index plastic and polycarbonate lenses address these issues, and improve wearers’ overall look as well.

4.      Explain yourself. When fitting older patients, it’s important to be polite and respectful without being condescending. Not all senior patients are going to understand free-form and other state-of-the-art lens technologies. However, given that you will need to take several measurements in order to fit the newer lenses – a process that may be taxing for some older patients – it is important to explain what you are doing and why. Keep them engaged.

5.      Measure up – or, in some cases, down. Many older people slouch when seated, or are hunched over due to arthritis or other physical ailments; still others are wheelchair-bound or use walkers. All of these scenarios make fitting at a conventional dispensing table difficult. Opticians should not ask or expect these patients to conform to the dispensing table; rather, they should seek to fit according to how their elderly patients sit and/or position their heads (and eyes) when reading, watching TV or engaging in other activities (such as playing card or board games).

“You need to get down to their level,” Klein explains. “If that means crouching down to them and moving my tools to accommodate them, I do it and I ask them a lot of questions to make sure I’m fitting them according to their needs. For example, I ask, ‘Is this how you sit when you read?’ I don’t try to change their posture; I want them to see in my shop like they’ll see at home in their new eyewear.”

Fitting elderly patients with premium spectacle lenses may take a little extra time and effort, but in the end you’ll reap the benefits of happier patients – and healthier sales.

POP Art

The right marketing materials can help simplify dispensing premium lenses

By Brian P. Dunleavy

lensfocusLet’s face it: Selling frames is easy – at least when you compare it to pitching lenses. Frames are the first things patients see when they walk into most optical stores. They can shop the frame boards, pick out styles they like and check a nearby mirror to see how they look. Computerized frame-on-face programs have made the process even easier. Sure, opticians have to deal with stubborn or overly price-conscious patients now and again, but the benefits of frames are tangible and, thus, easy to demonstrate.

Not so lenses. Yes, lens manufacturers and optical laboratories have done their best to develop point-of-purchase (POP) materials that highlight the unique selling points of their products, but it’s difficult to demonstrate exactly how patients will see out of their new lenses before they have been processed according to their individual prescriptions.

“Given all the new technology available, having effective lens displays is more important than ever,” notes David Watson, an instructor at the BC College of Optics in Surrey. “Opticians really need to sit down with patients and discuss their home and work environments to properly assess exactly what lenses and coatings are best for them.”

According to Watson, having the right sales aids at your disposal can make this process easier. Here are some tips:

  • Too much or not enough?

Watson cautions against having too many lens-related displays in the store, as they can ultimately confuse patients. Study your patient base. Does your optical/practice have a pediatric focus? Then make sure you have POP for polycarbonate. Have a lot of young, fashion-conscious patients? Then high-index and free-form sales aides are a must.

  • Ask around.

More and more lens manufacturers and labs are creating POP for their customers. Find out what’s available. Watson also recommends visiting optical stores in other markets – he likes to do this while on vacation – to see how they display lens technology.

  • There may be an app for that.

With the advent of free-form lenses, lens manufacturers have created special applications for smartphones, tablets and other devices to enable eyecare professionals to easily collect the additional measurements – including monocular PDs, fitting height, vertex distance, wrap and pantoscopic tilt – needed to fit these products. While not POP per se, these apps demonstrate to patients the high-tech nature of these lenses better than any samples, says Brian Paul, OD, an optometrist at Brantford Medical Centre in Ontario. “When they see that, they know they are getting something special: a lens with customized optics and cosmetic benefits,” he explains. “It’s the best sales tool [for free-form lenses], even though it’s really not a sales tool.”

  • Take questions.

What patients ask about lenses can be a guide to what lens POP you need in your store. If a lot of patients come in asking about how photochromics work, for example, it might be time to ask vendors about any available displays – or create your own.

  • If you like it, frame it.

Lens POP you create yourself doesn’t have to be that elaborate: a nice, trendy frame with an uncoated regular plastic on one side and an anti-reflective coated high-index lens on the other can be very effective. “It’s a simple way to let customers see the difference in thickness, weight and cosmetics,” Watson says.

Whether you use premade POP or create your own, it is imperative that the materials fit the design and tone of your store – and match the priorities of your patient base. Even the best lens sales aides won’t be as effective as frame boards, but they can make dispensing spectacles easier.

“Whatever you do, it must be creative and eye-catching – something that will draw a customer, like a wall display with lenses as art,” Watson notes. “Displays are effective at getting patients to notice what’s available, and the best ones work so well a patient will ask about a product instead of the optician having to start the conversation.”

The Battle to Understand the Sexes

There are differences in lens preferences between
men and women – but successful dispensing involves
more than being gender-centric.

By Brian P. Dunleavy

Gisele Klein, optician and owner of Impressive Eyewear in Surrey, B.C., remembers when a male patient came into her shop with a specific frame brand and lens budget in mind – and that he almost walked out when she advised him to change.

“I said, ‘Give me a chance,’” she recalls. “We put him in a completely different frame, and when I explained to him the technology behind the best lens for him, he said, ‘Yeah. Done.’ He came in with a budget of $500 or $600 and left spending $1,500.”

Klein, who has been an optician for almost 30 years, has noticed a marked change in the way men shop for eyewear products – both frames and spectacle lenses—in recent years. Historically, for example, male patients have tended to be more price-conscious than women when it comes to spectacle lens purchases. Now, though, opticians such as Klein have found men who come into their shops or optical departments to be more willing to explore new frame and lens options. Before asking about price, she says, men are asking about specific lens designs for their work and leisure-time activities.

“If they know they have choices, men are much more willing now to get out of their comfort zone,” Klein explains.

Although men are becoming less price-conscious, they still want spectacle lenses that are low maintenance – and that they won’t have to replace in a few months because of scratching. “Men want lenses that are more durable, more scratch-proof, whereas women will ask for thinner lenses, or inquire about what hue an A-R coating might cast,” says Alan R. Boyco, OD, owner of Image Optometry, a 14-location chain of optometry clinics in B.C. In general, though, any gender differences in lens preferences simply serve as a reminder of three core concepts in spectacle dispensing:

1. Be prepared, but don’t pre-judge.

Madelaine Petrin, R.O., B.Sc., professor of opticianry at Seneca College in Toronto, discusses gender differences with her students, but she also advises them to be sure to listen to individual clients. “It is smart to listen to what matters to the client,” she notes. That said, even though she acknowledges that assessing clients based on gender is “stereotypical and simplistic,” it can often be the quickest way to read them. “Sales are done in a short time and it pays to understand what the client thinks is relevant,” Petrin explains.

2. Assess patient personality.

To that end, Klein says she tries to go beyond gender stereotypes and read the personalities of individual patients. As a new business owner, she has been taking management classes, and has learned a system for colour-coding personality types. “Blue” personalities, for example, tend to be more caring and sincere, while “red” personalities wield power and rely on logic. “When selling to different personalities you should try to take on some of those same traits,” Klein explains. In other words, talk technology to “reds” and focus on cosmetics with “blues.”

3. Be timely with your tech talk.

As impressive and important as the latest and greatest lens technology is, not every patient is interested in it. No matter the gender or personality of the patient, opticians and optical staff need to be knowledgeable enough to answer the toughest questions of the tech-savvy, and astute enough to observe when a patient is overwhelmed or bored by discussion of the science behind lenses. With that in mind, Petrin believes all optical shops should have a diverse staff. Male opticians, she says, are generally more comfortable explaining the technology than their female counterparts, who prefer the cosmetic side. She says, “I love the way some male opticians will explain in great detail how digital lenses work – to other males who are equally interested, like guys looking under the hood of a car.”

Finishing Line: On-Site Edging Shouldn’t Mean a Change in the Lenses You Dispense

By Brian P. Dunleavy

Daniel Bédard, OD, knows how to work an edger, the central piece of equipment used in lens finishing. He also knows that any piece of equipment an eyecare professional (ECP) brings into his optical store needs to work well with the lenses he dispenses. At Dr. Bédard’s practice, for example, 90 per cent of the lenses dispensed are treated with anti-reflective (AR) coating and a high percentage of patients opt for free-form lenses in both single-vision and progressives. Yet, the optometrist says the practice is still able to finish 99 per cent of the lenses it dispenses on-site.

“Finishing equipment has improved so significantly that we can do drill mounts, wrap sunglass lenses or lenses for frames with unique geometry fairly easily,” explains the partner at Kanata Bridgewood Optometric Centre in Kanata, ON. “The technology has enabled us to provide our patients with fast service, without compromising on quality.”

Finishing lenses is nothing new for ECPs – the technology has been around for more than 25 years – but the ever-expanding array of new lens designs (think free-form) and materials (high-index, mid-index) has presented new challenges when it comes to bringing service into the practice. However, thanks to new technology and software upgrades, optometrists and opticians who want to speed up eyewear turnaround time by installing a finishing lab don’t have to change the lenses they dispense to make the labs viable.

Today, most finishing systems – which include a tracer, a blocker and an edger (costs for all the equipment typically run in the $30,000 to $60,000 range) – run with on-board computers that can be programmed to work with almost any lens product and frame design available, and they can be operated with minimal training. Most optometry practices that finish in-office have an optician on staff run the lab (Dr. Bédard recommends cross-training all optical department staff in dispensing and lens processing, both to increase efficiency and develop a working knowledge of lens and lens finishing technology and processes). Opticians who run their own shops typically train multiple staff members as well.

Before he decided on his current finishing system, which he purchased last year, Dr. Bédard visited Vision Expo East in New York in March 2012 to try out the equipment himself. His practice has had its own finishing lab for more than 10 years but it was time for an upgrade. The equipment they had been using couldn’t provide them with the needed throughput, or capacity, and some new frame designs (with unique shapes) were giving them problems.

Given that a finishing lab is a significant investment, he wanted to make sure he was purchasing equipment that wouldn’t be outmoded with the release of a new lens design or material. For his practice, finishing on-site hasn’t meant a change in the lenses they dispense, only in the services they offer the patients who buy them, and that was key. In particular, he notes, he sells a premium free-form progressive design and wants to be able to finish these lenses in order to offer his presbyopic patients the same convenience as his single-vision patients.

“Today, time is money,” he says. “Finishing our lenses here has enabled us to speed up delivery to our patients. We can give lenses back to some of them the same day, which has meant a huge increase in patient satisfaction. I am very happy with my decision on the new equipment, and I think my patients are, too.”