She made do while she established herself, and about a year ago, she began a complete optical overhaul that wrapped up in December. The results are bright and beautiful. She knew that she wanted Visually Sound Optometry to be an open, bright and modern space. She would also have to declutter. “There was so much frame vendor advertising that it was distracting.”
The frame displays themselves were the biggest overhaul. “I decided to go with black, white and gray displays. I wanted any color in the optical to come from the frames themselves. That really helps the colors pop. Now when patients and customers walk in, that’s what draws their attention,” she says.
RESETTING THE RECEPTION AREA
She understands why the reception desk previously cut the space in half; the odd angles and a rectangular desk don’t mix. “I had a custom reception desk made.” It’s long and thin, and most importantly, it’s easy for patients to move freely from the reception area into the optical.
The Old Layout
“We are in a high-end shopping center, so there is a large potential for people to come in to browse the frames. But in the earlier design, passers-by couldn’t see the frames. Now, some of our frame displays allow the frames to look like they’re floating in front of the windows,” she says.
That change has helped increase the walk-in traffic, as has the larger inventory. “We have customers who say that they could not find anything unique where they had their eye exam, so they come here with the prescription. For example, we are one of the only practices outside of the San Francisco Bay area to carry Celine.”
Patients have told the practice staff that they much prefer the new design because they feel like they’re welcome to browse the optical. “With the old setup, it looked like you weren’t allowed to go into the optical,” she says.
In fact, patients today routinely browse the optical before they’re called back for testing. “Probably 30% of my patients already have a frame picked out in their tray before I come into the exam room. They often come in a little early to do that,” she says.
The practice has made a few changes to the way the doctor and opticians manage the handoff, too. “I walk the patient out of the exam room and bring them to the optical. Ideally, I’ll hand the chart to the optician in front of the patient and review what we talked about. The patient hears me relaying our goals to the optician, who can then help them clarify their frame and lens options,” she says.
To enhance the concierge experience, patients can also order up to five frames to try on. For example, if they love a frame but hear that it’s available in different colors, the practice will bring those frames in. “We implemented that to be more competitive. It allows patients to try on a frame without the risk,” she says.
These strategies work well for the practice. Dr. Vavricek says that the average sale has increased as they’ve brought in more exclusive frame lines, and “our capture rate is close to 80%. That’s something I’m super proud of because it’s higher than the national average. We showcase our optical and make it exciting. So we have patients who ask us to call them when we get a certain frame or new frame line in,” she says.
Because she enjoys the optical space so much, she’s out there as often as possible. When she brings one patient out after an exam, for example, she’ll ask to see what frames other patients have selected. She also cuts lenses in the in-house lab. When she makes the eyewear, she likes to dispense it, too. “I have taken it over, and I really enjoy it. It is part of the concierge feel; those patients know that I had a hand in making them.”
It has taken a while to make the changes she wanted to in the practice. She has expanded on the previous owner’s interest in specialty contact lenses, adding scleral and hybrid lens fittings. She also added vision therapy services about two years ago. “The closest vision therapy office was 40 minutes away, so that becomes extra exhausting for patients to add a long commute onto vision therapy,” she says.
She made staffing changes slowly; two of the original owner’s staff stayed on for about three years. One left because her family moved; the other went to law school. But each change has brought her a little closer to the practice she envisioned.
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