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Strategies to Solve The Top Training Issues For New Eye Care Associates

New associates play a vital role in continuously improving the eye care industry. Yet too many leave after a few months due to insufficient support and training. We need their fresh perspectives and ideas to bring renewed energy and enthusiasm to the workplace. While we live and breathe eye care, it is the newbies we need to lift and train correctly to ensure retention.


In this Eyetastic Blog, we have researched new associates' most common issues when starting in the optical industry and the best ways to handle them during your training. While there is never a one-size-fits-all when it comes to training, we have numerous solutions for your practice where you can expand and be creative. Let us work on being proactive instead of reactive to give the new associate the best chance at success.


Adjusting to the Fast-Paced Environment

Adjusting to a fast-paced environment as a new optical associate can be challenging, but with the right strategies and mindset. Everyone comes in all at once in the optical, so how do you handle this with new associates? Here are some tips and ideas to help new optical associates thrive in a fast-paced environment:

  1. Offer training books on all things optical for some of the most common issues. It is crucial to have a solid understanding of the optical industry, including different types of lenses, frames, and vision correction options. This knowledge will allow them to work effectively and efficiently, confidently answer customer inquiries, and make informed decisions in a fast-paced environment.

  2. Time management is vital to success in a fast-paced environment. Create a daily to-do list, set realistic goals, and prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. This will help them stay organized, meet deadlines, and provide excellent customer service. Check out Canva for some great templates.

  3. Clear and concise communication is essential when working in a fast-paced environment. Ensure they proactively seek clarification, ask questions when in doubt, and actively listen and communicate to customers and colleagues. Good communication skills will help them understand customer needs quickly and accurately, reducing the chances of errors or misunderstandings.

  4. Multitasking is often necessary in a fast-paced environment. Teach them to juggle multiple tasks without sacrificing quality or service. Prioritize tasks based on deadlines and importance and allocate appropriate time for each task. By managing their time and resources efficiently, they can handle multiple responsibilities effectively and ensure all tasks are completed on time.

  5. Fast-paced environments can sometimes be stressful, but it is vital to remain calm and composed. Take deep breaths, focus on the task, and remind them of their abilities. Practice stress management techniques like meditation or mindfulness to help them stay centered and perform at their best, even in high-pressure situations. Practice zen 🧘


Learning the Intricacies of Different Optical Equipment

Learning the intricacies of different optical equipment can be challenging for new optical associates. You would be surprised how many technicians we trained were too scared to use the lensometer or non-contact tonometer. However, with the right approach and resources, they can quickly gain the necessary knowledge and skills to become proficient in working with this equipment. Here are some effective strategies to help new optical associates learn the intricacies of different optical equipment:


  1. Optical associates should participate in comprehensive training programs that you have designed to familiarize them with optical equipment. These programs can provide hands-on experience, reading material, theoretical knowledge, and practical tips to enhance their understanding of equipment like lensometers, autorefractors/keratometers, slit lamps, etc...

  2. New optical associates can significantly benefit from shadowing experienced professionals with different optical equipment. By observing how these experts operate, communicate, and troubleshoot the equipment, they can gain valuable insights and learn best practices.

  3. Numerous online resources, such as instructional videos, articles, and forums, offer guidance on adequately using and maintaining optical equipment. New optical associates should use these resources to supplement their training and expand their knowledge. Set up weekly luncheons where you provide lunch and watch videos. Spexy is excellent and inexpensive for training!

  4. Optical technology constantly evolves, and new optical associates must stay updated with the latest advancements. Continuing education courses and workshops can provide valuable information on new equipment and techniques, helping them stay ahead. Tip: Make it fun and post the associate's training on social media!

  5. Hands-on practice is invaluable for learning the intricacies of optical equipment. New optical associates should actively seek opportunities to work with different types of equipment, honing their skills and familiarizing themselves with each device's nuances.


Balancing Multiple Tasks and Responsibilities

New optical associates often juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities as they navigate their roles in the optical industry. While we love new associates, they can be slightly slower as they learn the field and build confidence. Balancing these various tasks can be challenging, but it is possible to manage them effectively with the right strategies and approach. Here are a few tips to help new optical associates balance multiple tasks and responsibilities:


  1. Start by identifying the most critical and time-sensitive tasks. This will help you effectively allocate your time and energy to training. Make a to-do list and rank tasks based on their urgency and importance. By focusing on high-priority tasks first, you can ensure that essential responsibilities are taken care of promptly.

  2. You may have colleagues or support staff to assist you with specific tasks. Don't hesitate to delegate responsibilities that others can handle. Doing so can free up your time to focus on more complex or high-value tasks.

  3. Leverage available technology to streamline tasks and increase efficiency. Optical software programs, for example, can help manage appointments, inventory, and patient records, freeing up more time for better patient care. Utilize productivity apps, project management tools, and calendar reminders to stay organized and on top of your responsibilities.

  4. Explain the expectations concisely. Lead by example to show your new associate how to multitask with patients.

  5. Effective communication with colleagues and superiors is crucial in managing multiple tasks. Regularly communicate your workload, progress, and any challenges you may face. Collaborate with your team to ensure a smooth workflow and share responsibilities when necessary.


Understanding Insurance and Billing Processes

Understanding insurance and billing processes is crucial for new optical associates to provide exceptional customer service and effectively manage patient accounts. We remember coming from corporate to a private practice where we had to do all the insurance manually. It was a nightmare! If you do not outsource or make it simple for the staff, they must be masters in all aspects of vision benefits and medical insurance. Here are some steps they can take to gain a better understanding:


  1. Optical associates should learn the basic insurance terms such as co-payments, deductibles, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket maximums. This knowledge will familiarize them with communicating effectively with patients and insurance providers.

  2. Optical associates should familiarize themselves with the various insurance benefits that patients might have, such as private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or vision insurance. Each plan has different coverage options and limitations; understanding these nuances will help associates provide accurate patient information.

  3. New optical associates must understand the billing process and how claims are submitted to insurance companies. They should also be familiar with standard billing codes used in optometry. If you do not already have this, please make a spreadsheet or use Canva to make the standard codes more accessible for new hires. It is even better if you test them on it.

  4. New optical associates should communicate effectively with the billing department within their practice or organization. This will allow them to seek guidance or clarification on insurance-related matters, such as verifying patient coverage or resolving claim rejections.

  5. Ensure this is on the training protocol, as it is one of the most complicated areas of the optical. Have the associate work on everyone's insurance for one week, billing on another, and account receivables on the last. If you have them make a training presentation for you, this will help it sink in. Think of when you were in school, and they had you research something to present. I can tell you I still remember the Bubonic Plague from the 9th grade 🏫


Handling Challenging Situations Like Remakes and Troubleshooting Eyeglasses

Handling challenging situations like remakes and troubleshooting eyeglasses can be a common occurrence for new optical associates. Remakes are the most controllable expense that is missed due to improperly trained associates. They must be well-prepared and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle these situations effectively. Here are some strategies that new optical associates can employ:

  1. Effective communication is key when dealing with challenging situations. New optical associates should be able to listen to customers' concerns and empathize with them actively before, during, and after the visit. They should ask relevant questions to gather all the necessary information and ensure clear communication between the customer, themselves, and the lab technicians.

  2. New optical associates should understand eyeglass components, lens materials, and prescription requirements. This knowledge will enable them to troubleshoot and identify the root cause of the issue.

  3. Challenging situations often require quick thinking and problem-solving abilities. New optical associates should be able to analyze the situation, evaluate possible solutions, and make informed decisions. If they cannot, they must observe a more seasoned employee and ask questions once the patient leaves to ensure success in the following troubleshooting.

  4. New optical associates should be calm and patient with customers and strive to provide excellent customer service. Never let them get defensive; they should always remember they are professionals.

  5. The optical industry is constantly evolving, and new optical associates should be committed to ongoing education and staying updated with the latest advancements and techniques. This will enable them to provide the best possible solutions to customers.

  6. Ensure you have a form for remakes. This helps the new associate understand the process and can quickly solve most remakes until they become experienced. Further, you can use the form for data analysis to see the most common remake issues.


Staying Updated With the Latest Trends and Technologies in the Optical Industry

Staying updated with the latest trends and technologies in the optical industry is crucial for new optical associates to remain competitive and deliver the best possible service to their customers. Too many new employees, especially those in unlicensed states, are always asking questions about the latest and greatest designs, or they do not know about technology that can improve their patients' lives. Here are some effective strategies for staying informed:

  1. Conferences and trade shows provide valuable opportunities to learn about the latest trends, technologies, and advancements in the optical industry. These events often feature expert speakers, breakout sessions, and showcases of new products and services. Optical associates can gain insights, network with industry professionals, and stay updated with the latest developments by attending these events.

  2. Numerous industry-specific publications and newsletters provide valuable insights and updates on the optical industry. Optical associates can receive regular updates on new products, emerging technologies, industry news, and best practices by subscribing to these publications.

  3. Networking is crucial in staying updated with industry trends and technologies. Joining professional associations, attending local meetups, and participating in online forums or groups dedicated to the optical industry can provide opportunities to connect with industry professionals, share knowledge, and exchange information about the latest trends and technologies.

  4. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent industry updates and insights sources. Optical associates can stay informed about the latest trends, technologies, and innovations by following influential industry leaders, key organizations, and reputable eyewear brands on social media. These accounts often share valuable information, research studies, and updates.


Handling Optical Sales and Additional Pairs of Eyeglasses

Handling eyeglass sales and second pairs or more is a crucial part of the role of new optical associates. It would be best to have an area in your training guide on the best practices for consulting with patients on optical sales, including additional pairs. To effectively sell eyeglasses and upsell to customers, there are a few key strategies that can be implemented:

  1. The first step is to listen attentively to the customer and understand their specific requirements. By asking open-ended questions and actively engaging in conversation, optical associates can gain insights into the customer's lifestyle, preferences, and any specific visual challenges they may have. This knowledge will help in recommending the most suitable eyeglasses and additional products.

  2. Optical associates should have comprehensive knowledge of the eyeglass products they sell. This includes understanding different lens types, frame materials, coatings, and the latest advancements in eyewear technology. This knowledge will enable them to educate customers and explain the benefits of different options.

  3. Tailoring the shopping experience to each customer enhances satisfaction and increases the likelihood of upselling. Optical associates can suggest frames that best suit their needs by considering the customer's style preferences, face shape, and budget. Additionally, offering customization options such as lens upgrades, lens coatings, and accessories can enhance the shopping experience and increase sales. Customization options like polarized lenses or mirrored coatings add a unique touch.

  4. Optical associates should be skilled in effectively communicating the features and benefits of eyeglasses to persuade customers to purchase them. This includes using clear language and visuals to explain how specific features address the customer's needs.

  5. Introducing incentives and promotions can encourage customers to consider upselling options. For example, discounts on lens upgrades, package deals for multiple products, or loyalty rewards for future purchases can be offered. Optical associates can effectively upsell and increase sales by highlighting the value and savings associated with these offers.


Lack of Product Knowledge

For new optical associates looking to enhance their product knowledge in lenses and frames, there are various avenues they can explore. While most of this will come in time, they need to understand the products you provide before working with patients. Here are a few practical ways to learn more about optical products:

  1. Many optical vendors offer comprehensive training programs for their customers. These programs cover topics such as lens technology, frame materials, lens coatings, and the different types of lenses and frames available in the market. New associates can learn from experienced professionals and gain hands-on experience with the products.

  2. Optical manufacturers and vendors often provide optical associates with detailed product information, guides, and training materials. These resources can be accessed online through the manufacturers' websites or by contacting their customer service departments. Manufacturer resources provide valuable insights into the features, benefits, and specifications of different lenses and frames.

  3. Optical associates can further their knowledge through continuing education courses. Different organizations offer certification programs and workshops that cover a wide range of optical topics, including product knowledge. These courses provide in-depth knowledge and help associates stay updated with the latest trends and advancements in the industry.

  4. Joining professional state associations, attending industry conferences, and participating in optical forums can provide opportunities for networking with experienced professionals. Engaging in discussions, asking questions, and seeking advice from seasoned opticians can significantly enhance product knowledge. These interactions can also lead to mentorship opportunities, where experienced opticians can guide new associates in their learning journey.

  5. Actively engaging with the products is crucial for better understanding them. New optical associates should take advantage of opportunities to handle different lens materials, try on various frame styles, and learn about the different lens designs and prescriptions. By working closely with customers and assisting them in choosing the right lenses and frames, associates can gain practical experience and improve their product knowledge.

  6. Numerous online resources provide valuable information on lenses and frames. Blogs, articles, and educational websites dedicated to optics and eyewear can be excellent sources of information. Additionally, online communities and forums allow optical professionals to share their experiences, discuss products, and provide insights into industry developments.

Difficulty in Understanding Prescriptions

New optical associates can learn more about understanding eye doctor prescriptions for contacts and eyeglasses through training, practical experience, and self-education. Plus cylinder or minus cylinder? Myopic or Hyperopic? Here are a few practical ways to learn more about prescriptions:

  1. Optical associates should undergo comprehensive training programs that cover topics such as eye anatomy and physiology, common eye conditions, and the basics of vision correction. These programs should include modules focused on understanding prescriptions and how they relate to recommending the right patient lenses.

  2. Hands-on experience is crucial for optical associates to fully grasp the intricacies of understanding prescriptions. Working closely with experienced optometrists and opticians allows new associates to observe the process of evaluating prescriptions, interpreting numbers and abbreviations, and determining the appropriate lens options for different prescriptions.

  3. Optical associates should take the initiative to educate themselves further about prescriptions and their significance. They can access various online resources, journals, and textbooks that provide in-depth information about vision correction and prescription interpretation. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter (in the header), as we will share our knowledge and experience in optics to help new optical associates further.

  4. They can also learn about different types of contact lenses, their parameters, and how to match them with the prescribed values. Moreover, attending industry conferences, webinars, and workshops can allow new optical associates to learn from industry experts and stay updated with the latest advancements in vision correction.


Challenges in Frame Selection and Fitting

New optical associates can work on the challenges in frame selection and fitting by following a systematic approach and considering various factors. Our biggest pet peeves are bridges that are too small, lenses that are too big, and temples that do not fit! Err! Please ensure the proper fit is always maintained during the frame selection and consulting process. Here are some strategies they can implement:

  1. Optical associates should communicate effectively with customers to understand their needs, preferences, and lifestyle. This will help narrow the options and find frames that align with the customer's style and requirements. For example, a customer who leads an active lifestyle might prefer lightweight and durable frames.

  2. Different face shapes and features require different frame styles to enhance or balance appearance. Optical associates should familiarize themselves with the different face shapes (e.g., oval, round, square, heart-shaped) and recommend complementary frames.

  3. Proper frame sizing is crucial for comfort and optimal vision. Optical associates must accurately measure the customer's pupillary distance (PD) to position the lenses correctly. They should also consider the frame width, bridge size, and temple length to ensure a comfortable fit. Adjustments may be necessary to align the frames with the customer's eyes and make any necessary modifications for comfort.

  4. Optical associates should also understand lens options and their interaction with the chosen frames. Prescription, lens thickness, and coating options may impact frame selection. Have the new associate observe a more seasoned Licensed Optician to ensure that they can find the best frames for the patients to ensure the patients will return year after year 😊

  5. For every patient looking for frames, the optical associate must have them try them on. They need to check the bridge, frame front, temples, etc. Not only is this their job, but it is a huge disservice to patients to have ill-fitting frames.


Overcoming Challenges and Thriving as an Optical Associate

New optical associates often face various challenges when starting their careers. They are scared, eager, excited, anxious, and, most importantly, want to be the best! However, they can overcome these challenges by implementing specific strategies and thriving as an optical associate. Here are some critical steps to help new optical associates excel in their profession:

  1. Optical associates should strive for professional development and stay updated on the latest optics, eyewear, and vision care advancements. They can achieve this by reading industry publications, attending seminars, and participating in relevant online courses or webinars. Optical associates can confidently address customer queries and provide accurate recommendations by continually expanding their knowledge base.

  2. Successful optical associates focus on building solid relationships with their customers. They can establish trust and loyalty by providing exceptional customer service, leading to repeat business and positive reviews. They should actively listen to customers' needs, offer personalized recommendations, and ensure a pleasant shopping experience. Going the extra mile to address any concerns or issues can help create a lasting impression.

  3. Communication skills are crucial for optical associates to effectively convey information about lens options, frame styles, and eye care recommendations. They should be able to explain complex concepts clearly and concisely, ensuring that customers understand their options and make informed decisions. Developing strong verbal and written communication skills will enable optical associates to provide excellent customer service and build customer trust.

  4. Optical associates must be familiar with technology and digital marketing strategies in today's digital age. They should feel comfortable using electronic health records, point-of-sale systems, and other software tools commonly used in the optical industry. Additionally, they can use social media platforms to showcase their expertise, share educational content, and engage with potential customers.


Patience is a Virtue

Eye care professionals must remember that while they may live and breathe the intricacies of the field, new associates are just beginning their journey. By acknowledging their lack of experience and providing the necessary training and motivation, we can set them up for success. Moreover, hiring the right individuals from the start can prevent these issues.


New associates' eagerness to learn can be harnessed through comprehensive training programs that equip them with the necessary technical skills and instill a sense of professionalism. By investing time and effort into training and supporting new associates, we can create a team that is skilled and passionate about providing exceptional eye care. Together, we can build a thriving practice that puts patients' vision first.

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