Feature, Optical Dispensing

What makes a good dispenser great?

How dispensers interact with patients can create new opportunities for increased revenue and customer retention. TRACEY BANNISTER spotlights the importance of exceptional communication.

Have you ever come across someone that you are instantly drawn to, but can’t decipher what it is that makes you gravitate towards them? What is this invisible pull we feel and why does it happen? Let’s unpack these questions and get to the source of what makes a good dispenser ‘great’ and how this can translate into the success of our business.

Optical dispensers are the lifeblood of the practice and are on the frontline serving our customers and offering product advice. And although we spend time and money training our staff and ensuring they gain a qualification, a good dispenser versus a great dispenser is not all about the technical skills or knowledge. It enters a whole different realm.

Tracey Bannister.

The essence of a great dispenser incorporates several key elements and they may not be what you expect. And once pointed out, they may seem obvious, simple, or even basic. But not everyone exhibits them and therein lays the difference.

I believe the most important skill any dispenser should develop are exceptional verbal and non-verbal communication skills. These are first and foremost what the customer will experience from us even before we serve them.

When I am shopping and looking at the various staff members to see who I want to assist me, it quite often comes down to what I am seeing and hearing in those moments.

For example; their facial expression, do they have a smile that reaches their eyes and can be heard in their voice?; their body language, are they holding themselves upright and not slouching?; how they move their body, are they demonstrating open body language by facing the customer and maintaining eye contact?; and their tone of voice, is it clear, friendly and engaging?

These elements demonstrate they care about the customer and are happy to serve them. All of which are attractive and makes the customer want to connect with the dispenser.

No less important than communications skills – but essential to dispensing – are relationship building skills. Assuming, between two dispensers, they have the exact same knowledge, skills, and years of experience, what makes one dispenser the kind of person customers keep coming back wanting to see?

The answer is they know how to connect with customers on a basic human level and build valuable relationships. They do not come across as a ‘sales’ person, but instead are a ‘people’ person.

Active listening and coaching skills are essential in the dispensing process too. Active listening, not to be mistaken for just listening, enables you to gather and clarify the information you need to be able to effectively recommend appropriate products and services (which generally results in higher order value).

But a great dispenser does not just recommend products without first ensuring they have coached the customer about the products; clearly explaining the features and how they relate to them. They know how to deliver and impart their knowledge in a way that customers will understand. They are educating the customer.

How you interact with customers and deliver information to them opens up new opportunities and possibilities for your business in terms of increased revenue and customer retention.

So, are you a good dispenser or a great one? Do you demonstrate the above elements? You might be thinking to yourself ‘Oh yeah, I do that’. But do you really? And how effectively are you doing it?

Next time a customer comes into your store take note of your verbal and non-verbal communication. Analyse if you are listening to your customers or demonstrating active listening skills.

Are you building relationships or just trying to make a sale? Are you coaching customers about products or telling them? Because, like the example I gave above about choosing which staff members to assist me, your customers are doing the same thing when they walk into your optical practice.

Consider the skills of you and your team to determine where there may be gaps relating to these key elements; verbal and non-verbal communication, relationship building, active listening, and coaching. Develop a plan of action to create awareness around these. Then witness the effect they can create and see your good dispensers achieve greatness.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tracey Bannister is the director of Victorian-based Emerald Eyes Optical. She is an optical dispenser, practice manager and trainer with 29 years’ experience.

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