Practice Management

Reframing your dispensary Part 4 | Anchoring, variety and matching product to need

By educating thoroughly, honestly, and confidently you establish yourself as an expert who is concerned with the quality of the eyewear with which your patients leave.
Published 3.28.2024

Variety and In-Line Sunglasses

Variety means different style options, not different names to choose from. Going deeper in a collection allows us to have more colors and styles - don’t be afraid to bring in a frame that will not sell every day. Some patients will fall in love with that lime green frame; some will hate it. That’s okay, it takes all kinds.

Another element of variety is the general appearance of your dispensary. Step back in your dispensary, look at it from 15 or 20 feet away – can you tell where one collection ends and another begins? A simple way of delineating between collections on your frame boards is to cap them with sunglasses.

Most designer collections today have both ophthalmic and sunwear available to choose from. Give your patients the opportunity to try those on whenever possible. Putting your sunglasses in-line with the clear will keep the sunglasses on the patients’ minds at all times.

As an industry, we routinely have fewer than 15% of our patients wearing prescription sunglasses. This begs the question: is that because only 15% of patients could benefit from having prescription sunglasses or are we not doing enough to make it a priority for our patients?

Match Product and Need

Present your patients with the best possible product you have available based on their particular needs. Simple. Easy. Logical. Right? This is not groundbreaking material. Nobody is surprised by this advice. I hope. The truth is, however, that this advice falls apart immediately in the real life scenario when your patients open the conversation with “I only want what my insurance covers”, or when they skeptically ask “How much are your glasses?”

As people, we gauge and assess tone, and often decide on a course of action based solely on what we think we hear and what would be most efficient in that moment. A patient telling you they don’t want to spend any “extra” money is a pretty clear indication that they don’t want the high end frames or sunglasses, right?


Even your most experienced patients often don’t know what their vision plan covers. This is your opportunity to educate them, not only on what their plans can save them, but on the products that their lifestyle and visual needs demand. Don’t think about price for your patient, think about their visual requirements and recommend products based on that. The patient will tell you what they are willing to pay for and what is out of their price range.

Whether or not they purchase all the products that you’ve recommended for them, your patient will appreciate being educated on their options. By educating thoroughly, honestly, and confidently you establish yourself as an expert who is concerned with the quality of the eyewear with which your patients leave.


Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely talks about the “Anchoring Effect” in a Ted Talk he delivered in 2008. In that talk, he provides an example that is really illustrative of the Anchoring effect and how it affects human decision making.

Dan gives an example of a company giving away a free all expenses paid vacation of their choice to either Rome or Paris. This would generally be a difficult decision to make, given the relatively similar value of both options. Dan adds a third option to this example: Rome without free coffee in the morning.

Obviously, going to Rome with free coffee is better than going to Rome and having to pay for your coffee; less obviously, and perhaps more importantly, Rome with free coffee becomes psychologically superior to even Paris with free coffee. Why? Because the decision maker sees that getting free coffee in Rome is of greater value than not getting it, while the coffee is always free in Paris.

Anchoring - In action

If anchoring is about providing the context in which an informed decision can be made by a customer, how does it apply in the optical department?

Mrs. Jones comes into the optical and says she wants black plastic frames. The optician, Susan, makes a recommendation for the office’s top quality black plastic frames without checking Mrs. Jones’ vision plan information or making a judgment based on her appearance. Susan is very familiar with these frames and can speak to their quality and construction.

When Mrs. Jones checks the price tag, they’re $350 frames and she asks Susan if there was a less expensive frame she could try on in a similar style.

Susan then pulls a similar frame for Mrs. Jones that retails for $250 but doesn’t have the same quality construction or particular benefits as the more expensive frame she looked at earlier. Now, Mrs. Jones sees that Susan is working with her to find a frame that she likes at a price point that she’s comfortable with; after looking at a $350 frame, the $250 one seems like a bargain and has built a measure of trust between Susan and Mrs. Jones.

This same principle will apply when Susan and Mrs. Jones discuss lenses: Susan will recommend the highest quality products for Mrs. Jones’ needs and the patient will tell her if things are too expensive. Susan is talented and confident enough to match the patient’s desires and needs to their budget. Everybody wins in this scenario.

What would have happened if the optician went in reverse order?

Wrapping Up

Next time on Reframing your dispensary, we discuss the Doctor's handoff, static frame boards and the related logistics. It's way more interesting than it sounds!

Steve Alexander
Steve Alexander, Head of Growth
Steve Alexander has been in the eye care industry for over 20 years and has worn many hats including optician, ophthalmic tech, lab tech, practice manager, regional manager, operations consultant, CE certified speaker and other in both private and corporate eye care settings. Over the last 8 years, he has been consulting with practices to find ways to better understand their patients, the ecosystems in which they work, and how to create a practice of which they can be proud. For the last two years, Steve has been Head of Marketing and Partnerships at Anagram, an industry leading tech platform driving change in Eye care with the explicit focus of increasing price transparency, private pay business, and improving the lives of patients and the people who serve them.

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