You’ve been Brainwashed

Robert Bell: You’ve Been Brainwashed

When did optometric practices decide to go into the insurance business?


Published in the March/April 2014 issue

When we work with a client, one of the first things we do is to scope
out the local competition with a “blind shop.” We gauge a variety of
things: Is the place well lit? Is it clean? What’s on the frame boards —
and is it organized? But the most important objective is to assess how
the staff interacts with a complete stranger who walks in off the

Recently, I walked into 11 separate private practices in an economically
booming Northern California town. At each one, I said, “Hi, my wife and
I are moving out to this area from New York. I’m just doing a little
house hunting and I was driving by and saw your place. My wife and I are
complete eyeglass junkies. Would it be OK if I just look around?”

Of the 11 practices, staff at each replied in a very similar way: “Sure,
what kind of vision insurance do you have?”

Are you kidding me? That’s the very first thing you ask a potential
patient? A potential customer who is a self-professed eyewear junkie, no
less? Was I in an insurance agency or an optometric practice?

When I explained that I’ve never had vision insurance, do you know what
happened? Nothing. With the exception of the very last office I visited
that day, nothing happened! And when I say nothing, I mean I was left to
my own devices at the frame boards for 20 to 30 minutes until I walked
out the door. In the last office, the optician/frame buyer went on to
explain to me the features and benefits of a vision care plan even after
I told her that I don’t have that coverage. At least she made an effort
to engage me on some level.

But why? How did she become so conditioned to immediately play the
insurance card with me? Why is it the first thing most ECPs talk about?

What’s that? It’s because a lot of your patients have a vision care
plan, you say? Not to be rude, but so what? Initiating the insurance
conversation is the path of least resistance. It’s a white flag of
surrender. What are you truly afraid of? (Tell me via email, if you’d
like. My contact info accompanies this column.)

Let’s look at this another way. Did you go to Insurance School or
Optometry School? Are you an insurance agent or an optician? It doesn’t
read ABC Optometry & Insurance on your sign, does it? Does it read XYZ
Optometry & Financial Planning? Yeah, didn’t think so. I can assure you
that insurance agents or financial planners are not asking their clients
about eyewear. Ever!

Look folks, I know you don’t want the insurance companies to dictate to
you what services and products you should provide patients. I know that
you don’t want these companies limiting your ability to do your job,
professionally or financially. And yet, you allow it. In fact, you
invite it! How? By initiating the insurance conversation with the

So, what to do?

Change the conversation!

Take control and turn it around.

If a patient doesn’t mention insurance, why bring it up? And if it does
come up, ask the patient whether they’re more comfortable with an
insurance company dictating what services and products they should have
— or would they prefer to follow the advice, counsel and guidance of
their eye doctor? Seriously. Ask it, then don’t say another word until
they answer you.

Here are a few EyeCoach “commandments” that may help you look at this in
another way:

Thou shall never initiate a discussion about vision care plans with the

Thou shall not tell a patient your plan “covers” this amount or your
plan “pays” for that amount.

Thou shall never say “your plan is like a discount.”

Thou shall substitute the word “contributes” as in “Your plan
contributes to the retail price of…” Amen.

ROBERT BELL believes in “uncommon sense” and challenging the status quo
of traditional selling methods. He is the creator of The EyeCoach
Selling System and managing partner of The Visionaries Group. To pick
his brain:

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