Dispensing, Feature

Jumping from assistant to dispenser

A formal qualification can take an optical assistant to the next level of their career. CHEDY KALACH explains how a Certificate IV can be a valuable asset to both an individual and a practice.

Optical assistants can be great assets to a practice. They tend to manage all of your reception tasks, as well as many of your dispensing needs.

However, optical dispensers tend to be able to help your customers in more ways than assistants can.

They are able to interpret the prescription in more detail, and subsequently avoid any potential problems that may arise if the lens and frame selection are not suitably guided.

Dispensers are also able to gather more information about your patient’s lifestyle and visual needs, and take this into consideration when making recommendations.

Training to be an optical dispenser gives participants not only in-depth knowledge of optical technology, but it also provides all the essential customer service and sales skills needed to be a brilliant asset to a practice.

Multiple skill sets

Contrary to common misunderstandings of the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing (HLT47815), the course covers all optical theory in the same depth as previous versions. Topics include light propagation, spherical and astigmatic lenses and ophthalmic prism, to only name a few.

Importantly, this version of the course also covers the important non-optical related skills dispensers require such as working with diverse people, sales, customer services, communication, controlling inventory, marketing and how to analyse and achieve sales targets.

As any owner is well aware, these are some of the many extra tasks dispensers tend to perform around the practice.

Studying this mix of topics not only gives assistants more optical knowledge, but also builds on their sales and customer service skills.

To be a great optical dispenser you don’t just need optical knowledge; you also need to know how to relate to your customers.

We all know that person who has all the knowledge but is not quite able to communicate to customers and convert a browser into a sale.

They might have all of the optical knowledge, but little in the way of customer service skills.

On the other hand, we have all also had experiences of sales assistants with little to no knowledge trying to ‘make the sale’.

Optical dispensing training teaches both skills. This is ideal for an optometric practice, as businesses generally require a vast range of skills from a small number of staff members.

During workshops we regularly see the students linking the knowledge they are learning to their workplaces, and quickly realise how they can better serve their customers.

Practical practice

At ACOD we conduct various surveys of our students both throughout their course and after attending workshops.

We are finding that workshops are the highlight of the course, as they combines all previous learning in a work-relatable format which starts building the optical assistant’s confidence. A recent survey of ACOD Certificate IV students found they benefited from the training.

More than 90% said the course helped develop and identify ways to build on their current knowledge and skills.More than 95% mentioned that the training focused on relevant skills and prepared them well for work.

As the ACOD assessments are all based on realistic activities, the course successfully fine-tunes their current workplace skills and knowledge.

Throughout our course we are getting “ah ha” moments from students as they begin to see logic behind what they do at work.

They understand the reason why that customer had issues with that pair of spectacles, and know how to troubleshoot these issues or prevent them from happening.

This is when we see the optical assistant starting to take on the role of an optical dispenser. As a trainer, these are the moments we love to see.

Another survey conducted by a government body found close to 100% of ACOD students were being supported with all the resources and equipment they needed to complete their studies.

The survey noted that 95% of students found the training had meet their expectations, and that they had the required support to complete their studies successfully.

A trained optical dispenser, and not just a team of optical assistants, is an invaluable part of a practice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chedy Kalach is a director of the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing. Since 2009 he has lectured throughout Australia and New Zealand across a variety of topics such as ophthalmic optics and business management.