Visiting the eye doctor can be stressful for patients, and that anxiety doesn’t stop once they’re out of the exam room—the optical can be particularly anxiety-inducing. They feel like a fish out of water, notes Mark Hinton, owner of eYeFacilitate and a presenter at 2018’s Vision Expo West in Las Vegas. They don’t know what they need, why they need it, or how much it’s going to cost, and they feel like they have no control, he explains. At best, the result is “I only want what’s covered by my insurance.” At worst, the only thing the patient leaves with is their prescription.
Traditional optical retail practices are of little help, notes Hinton. Vision plans, lens options, long lists of add-ons, and complicated optical pricing make purchasing glasses akin to buying a car (you’ll notice that most people are excited about having the car—not buying the car). A simplified pricing strategy, what Hinton calls “integrated pricing,” eliminates patient confusion and most of their objections along with it. Make the process easy for them, and patient will buy more, more often. That’s good for their eye health, and also good for your bottom line.
Turn “Maybes” into “Must Haves” with Integrated Pricing
Integrated optical pricing is simply about combining your preferred lens choice with lens essentials. Lens essentials are enhancements that assure the patient achieves optimal vision with their eyewear: AR coating, UV protection, material index, photochromic coating, and more. These are features you may refer to as add-ons, but Hinton encourages physicians and optical staff to shift their perspectives.
Think about it this way, posits Hinton: When you go to buy a shirt, you see one price. You don’t see a price for the material, a price for the buttons, an option for how many buttons you want, and prices for different types of stitching. Listing add-ons as separate line items with separate costs confuses patients. Because the focus is on cost, the patient buys less, says Hinton.
For example, it’s true that AR coating reduces glare, but if that’s how you’re explaining it to patients, you’re selling your optical short. AR coating optimizes vision by allowing more light to pass through the lens to the eye. Light won’t be lost due to reflections, and reflections reduce visual acuity. If the patient wants to see just as clearly as they did in the exam room when they were being refracted, AR coating is an essential.
Because you know that patients need certain lens features to obtain their best sight, package these essentials together and present them to the patient as one choice, Hinton recommends. You’ll have less focus on cost and greater patient acceptance.
The Case for Integrated Pricing
There is an inverse relationship between the time patients spend in your practice and the amount of money they spend in your practice, notes Hinton. Integrated pricing can significantly shorten the time it takes you to look up prices. “When people want a price, they want it quickly,” he says. The more time it takes you to come up with a price, the more time the patient has to become anxious and have second thoughts. Take too long, and you’ll lose the sale.
Integrated pricing also reduces costly mistakes, Hinton says. The more numbers you have to add up and payments you have to calculate, the greater your chance of making an error. With integrated pricing, you’ll be less likely to:
- Forget to collect a co-pay, and have to call the patient to tell them they owe more.
- Leave an add-on off the order, resulting in a remake and an unhappy patient who has to wait longer for their glasses.
- Overcharge the patient, which can lead to issues should you undergo a managed care audit.
Implementing integrated optical pricing is similar to how you’d introduce a package plan. You’d start with your best lens technology and the lens essentials, and that would be your “best” package. Then you’d have your “next best” package, and after that you’d have your value package. The difference between integrated pricing and regular pricing is in how you present these options to the patient.
Zip your lips.
The longer a patient is in your optical, the more likely they are to walk away without purchasing, warns Hinton. Keep the chatter to a minimum, he advises. If they want education—if the patient wants to know exactly how something works—they’ll ask. Yes, a certain amount of patient education is necessary, but don’t overdo it. “The average person doesn’t not know geometrical optics and they don’t want to learn it,” says Hinton. “They just want to know what’s in it for them.”
Example: Instead of talking about the lens index, just tell the patient “I’m going to be sure your lenses are thin so that you love the way they look and feel when you are wearing them.”
Choose your words carefully.
Go through the scripts you use with patients, and carefully consider the words you use. Then take out all the “ugly” words and replace them with positive words, recommends Hinton. Stop referring to vision plans as insurance. Insurance is something people buy that they don’t want to use. A vison plan is a benefit, reminds Hinton—like the patient has bought into a really good club and they get all these great benefits that they can’t wait to use
Eliminate the phrase “out-of-pocket.” This prods the patient to say “I just want what my insurance covers.” Instead of telling the patient what they’ll have to pay “outta pocket” say something like “Show me what you really love and then I’ll maximize your benefits for you.” A few other no-nos from Hinton:
- Allowance: This word makes the patient feel restricted and not in control. Use “affords” instead, because it sounds like a gift—something the vision plan is offering them.
- Covered: If something is covered, that means it’s free, right? Just use “free,” because everyone loves “free.”
- Unfortunately: Always frame limitations in terms of what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Focus on the Savings
Patients do not want to hear you say “Your total after insurance is $367.” You will lose sales that way, warns Hinton. People love to feel like they’ve gotten a deal, so you must focus on how much the patient is saving, not how much they’re spending.
Once you’ve set up your integrated pricing, Hinton recommends incorporating a “quick reference” guide to pricing—something that you keep on the desk but out of sight of patients. This type of chart will help you quickly pinpoint the patient’s savings. No digging through catalogs, no frantically punching on the calculator while the patient waits. And leave that calculator out of sight, urges Hinton. If you do need to pull it out for some reason, tell the patient that you’re “calculating their savings,” he offers.