Who Should Get Basic Training?
We get asked a lot, when we bring our training programs to practices around the country, “Who should I train?” The correct answer is “as many people as possible.” Yes, this means your techs, your optical assistants, and even your administrative workers. While making product recommendations or repairs doesn’t necessarily fall under some job descriptions in your practice, some pretty important things happen when everyone on your team has basic training – things that can radically transform your practice.
Nothing erodes confidence in your practice from the patient standpoint faster than a non-answer from the staff. By “non-answer,” I mean a response that sounds like a verbal shrug. This can include anything from a blank stare to a redirect like “just ask the doctor/optician.” Consider the underlying message, which is basically “I don’t know,” but can also sound like “I don’t care” to your patients. At the same time, you don’t want staff members speaking incorrectly about products or vision needs, right? The answer’s actually easy; provide basic product education to all of your staff, and back it up with personal experience.
Patients ask questions, it’s just who they are. It makes sense, if you think about it; patients assume that the people working in your office know more than they do about vision care, eye health, and product options. Why not give your staff the best tools for their jobs, so they can present the best face for your practice? Schedule trainings or lunch-and-learns with key vendors to discuss products and the latest vision technologies with your staff. If you have specific dialogue that you want to use around options like blue light, polarized lenses, or photochromatic options, make sure all your staff members learn to use the “party lines” correctly. Help them speak with authority to your patients, using the language you prefer in your office.
Bolster your product conversations in your office by putting your staff into optical products that you want to recommend to your patients. One of the most effective ways to sell good add-ons, like blue light protection or premium AR, is to fit your staff with them. There’s no doubt, great vision products make for a better visual experience, so your staff will be able to speak from personal experience, not just “training knowledge.” Even if your staff doesn’t require correction, fit them with quality plano lenses in good frames, and let them become walking billboards for your optical.
Cross-Training for Intra-Office Support
Who is the most expensive person on your staff? Chances are good it’s either your optician or your optical manager, the person who literally drives the sales in your optical. Even if they’re not at the very top of the pay ladder, they’re probably making more than many others in your office. They get paid more for a number of reasons, including education, expertise, and experience. They also get paid more because they are creating revenue, and frankly, that’s where you want them to spend most of their time – driving the bottom line in your product sales.
Unfortunately, as the technical experts, they are often called on to perform small tasks that generate good will, but not necessarily direct revenue, like adjustments and small repairs. While some tasks are restricted to licensed personnel in some states, there’s no reason that your non-optical staff can’t learn to do some of the small stuff that can sideline your optician. It’s just smart to free up your prime salesperson when there’s a glut of patients in the optical. Train your techs and administrators to handle minor adjustments and repairs, like replacing nose pads, or assisting patients who are trying on frames. That way, when the optical is busy, someone else can step in to help, leaving the optician and sales team free to focus on new sales. Added bonus, a walk-in patient who just needs a small fix is less likely to have to wait 20 or 30 minutes while the optical staff finishes a 3-pair sale. Prompt, efficient service is a real plus in patient satisfaction and retention.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work – For Real
Training and cross-training help your staff become a team. If you create, implement, and maintain a cohesive environment, where everyone understands the what and the why of your business, then they become better aligned with the goals of your practice, and with each other. Compartmentalization can instigate a subtle “not my job” attitude among your staff, but inter-dependency gets everybody working in the same direction, toward the same target. Help them to get on board, believe that we’re “all in this together,” and they’ll do a better job of pulling together.
There’s also plenty of evidence that professional development fosters longevity among your employees. Those who are well-trained and have the chance to build their skillsets tend to regard their position as part of their career, rather than just a job, which is interchangeable with any other job somewhere else. Your staff will tend to stick with you longer and do better work if they understand the value of the contribution they make in your practice, and to your patient care.
Supporting Each Other Supports Your Business
Cross-training, product knowledge/experience, and professional respect will open entirely new channels of communication and camaraderie in your practice. Your staff will perform better as a team, your patients will get even better service, and your bottom line will see big benefits.
Imagine a patient asking you for premium add-ons because they heard about them at the front desk, or referring a friend because the service in the optical is so fast, and they “always have time to take care of me.” Picture your techs speaking knowledgeably to your patients about why we perform basic tests, and how important it is to protect their eyes from UV or blue light.
Your best asset is a highly-trained staff, working from a place of confidence, and actively providing the best care and products possible to your patients. Build your team by providing basic competency training in their field, and providing them with consistent, regular opportunities for professional advancement.