Performance Reviews: 11 Ways to Coach Your Opticians

Do you enjoy conducting performance reviews? If you answered ‘not really,” you’re not alone. Not many physicians or practice managers do. Why? Confrontation, unwelcome negative feedback, and trying to skirt requests for a raise are just a few drawbacks that come to mind. It’s no wonder that some managers and physicians try to knock out all performance reviews in 1-2 days once a year to just to get them over with.

But the appraisal process doesn’t have to be dreadful or awkward. There are ways to conduct performance reviews in which managers and physicians feel comfortable and confident, and that result in better performance from your opticians. Isn’t that the whole point, anyway?

Think of reviews not as just as a yearly trudge through the past, but as frequent, productive coaching that empowers your team to perform better in the future.

Conduct Performance Reviews Like a Pro

Before your next round of reviews, study these tips:

Give feedback early and often.

Opticians who receive continual feedback are less likely to feel criticized or shocked by something you want them to change or improve. This doesn’t mean you have to conduct formal, behind-closed-doors meetings often—that will only make everyone even more uncomfortable. Instead, give informal feedback while observing what’s happening on the sales floor.

If you notice that an optician could’ve handled a customer interaction better, tell him/her after the customer leaves. You might also conduct short, weekly team meetings with your opticians to allow them to ask questions, workshop problems with one another, and give you an opportunity to provide feedback.

Give as much positive feedback as you do negative.

Everybody does something right, and people learn just as much from their successes as they do their failures. You don’t need to tell them that they’re doing a great job all the time. But telling them that they developed a report correctly or made the right decision during a customer interaction is a great motivator.

Make sure to tie your positive feedback to a specific behavior. For example, “Jane, I was really impressed with how you handled Mrs. Johnson’s objections this afternoon. You showed a great deal of professionalism.” This statement holds much more value than, “Good job today, Jane.”

If you dread giving performance reviews, your retail optical probably isn’t performing at its best.

Ask strategic questions.

Questions shift the dynamic of the review from one where you are unilaterally controlling it to one where you and the employee are exploring information and solutions together. Questions can also reinforce good habits while preventing little issues from growing into problems. Asking things like “what do you think you did that persuaded the patient to buy multiple pairs?” help your staffer pinpoint what she did well so she can repeat the strategy again in the future.

Use facts.

During formal performance reviews, make sure that you’re prepared with facts to support your observations. For example, if you’re going to talk to an optician about his unprofessional behavior, make sure you have 2-3 examples of documented unprofessional behavior to show him. Those examples should not come as a surprise. He should have been made aware that his behavior was unprofessional at the time of documentation.

Have an open conversation.

If you’re doing all of the talking, your opticians will be more likely to tune you out or feel defensive, so give opticians a chance to talk. They know more about what happens in your optical shop on a daily basis than you do, so encourage them to offer their opinion. Ask questions like these:

  • What are your personal and professional goals?
  • What are your strongest motivators to come to work every day?
  • Do you think we should change anything about the processes we have in place? If so, what?

Create a specific, written plan of action.

For every area that you want your opticians to improve, you’ll need a written plan of action that includes specific goals, benchmarks, resources, timelines, and expectations. What will you do? What will the employee do? When will it happen?

In addition to using behavior and personality indicators to determine how well your opticians are doing, evaluate them on these benchmarks:

Capture rate: Target: 45 and above.

Tip: A capture rate is below 45 and indicates a need to assess your merchandising, frames mix, and sales process.

Optician’s average sale: Target: The median retail sale for a pair of eyeglasses is $227.

Multiple Pair Sales: Target: 15 percent is a realistic goal for most practices.

Anti-reflective Lenses: Target: 56-62 percent is a good goal for most practices.

Digital/Computer Lenses: 10 percent is a good goal for practices.

Don’t put off all of your reviews until the last minute.

Give employees feedback early and often in both formal and informal settings. If you put off your reviews or try to do them all in one day, you and your employees will feel rushed, preventing you from hearing your employees’ concerns and your employees from taking in and implementing your feedback.

Don’t rant about poor performance or gush about good performance.

Give balanced feedback. Pointing out too many negatives puts employees on the defense. Focusing only on where employees are excelling doesn’t give them any goals to achieve. For every point you make regarding a need for improvement, balance it with a point about what your employee is doing well or correctly.

The Money Conversation

Review time is usually when employees want to negotiate a raise. Money conversations are uncomfortable for a lot of managers, but they don’t have to be. Handling money discussions with confidence will help both you and your employees come away from performance reviews feeling empowered:

  • Opticians should know each of their job responsibilities and how they rank in importance. Write good job descriptions for every employee, and weight each responsibility according to its importance. Assign points to each responsibility that add up to a total number. Make sure they know the number of points assigned to each responsibility.
  • Use the point system to determine raises. If you’re giving feedback often, the point values shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Example: Say you create a job description worth 100 points. If your opticians get 95 points or more, they get a 6 percent raise. If they get 80-94 points, they get a 4 percent raise, and so on. This system keeps the process of giving raises objective and transparent.

  • In many practices, doctors are the owners and hold the key to the money. But they’re not the ones working with the opticians every day, so they don’t know who should receive bonuses or salary increases. When doctors and managing opticians prepare and present performance feedback together, the money conversation becomes much more well-rounded, data-driven, and open.

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