Dear Ms. Specs in the City,

I have been an optician for quite some time now and am disheartened by the current trend of patient/newbie bashing on optical social media. What is going on?

Heartbroken in Hoboken

Dear Heartbroken in Hoboken,
Ms. Specs feels your pain. Let’s start with patient bashing on social media, and then we will address newbie bashing on social media in next month’s column.

I believe that we take things too personally in our work arena, and our social media rants are venting in a space where we expect like-minded outrage at the idiocy that we witness from customers. Take a deep breath and keep reading. Ms. Specs would suggest a tweak to your perspective. “It is not about you!” The patient’s behavior has nothing to do with you. Patients are under a lot of stress when selecting prescription eyewear. We are experts at this, and it is second nature to us. However, they experience the selection of new eyewear only every two to three years on average, and it is often an unsettling experience for them.

Let’s tackle a few common complaints. Do you find yourself getting upset when your patients:

  1. Ask for Transitions when they mean progressives?
  2. Expect you to know the ins and outs of their insurance benefits? (Ms. Specs must admit, while I know the name of my health/dental insurance, I rely on my doctors’ front desk people to have knowledge of what my insurance covers.)
  3. Ask to come back so a family member/friend can validate their frame choice?

Remember that the patient, no matter their state, is not the enemy, and your role is to help them have the best possible experience. Now it is all about you! It’s about always putting your “best you” forward. Never forget that the patient/customer is the lifeblood of the practice/business.

With this in mind:

  1. Please refrain from rolling your eyes when a patient asks for Transitions when they mean progressives. Eye rolling, even silently in our heads, will come out through body language. It is not their job to know the correct vernacular.
  2. Challenge yourself to become an expert in the most commonly used eyecare insurances… rise above the rest, and graciously give them the information they need.
  3. Instead of getting upset when after spending an hour for frame selection, they ask to come back with a family member, suggest that they get out their cell phone and take a selfie in the favored frame.

I am not a psychoanalyst, and one doesn’t need to be to apply the basic principles of EGO State to our situation. EGO States are the three states of mind that dictate our behavior as defined in Transactional Analysis:

  1. The Parent
  2. The Child
  3. The Adult

When our patients act in odd ways, they are likely in a child or a parent EGO State.

Parent State: “What do you mean it will take two weeks for my glasses to be ready… I am paying good money and want them immediately.”

Parent State: “I paid over $1,200 for my glasses, and the screw fell out, causing the lens to fall out and scratch… what do YOU plan to do about it?!”

Child State: “I… I left my eyeglasses on the bedside table last night, and when I woke up, they were on the floor, broken!”
Child State: “I opened my eyeglass case, and there they were, broken… I have no idea how it happened!”

We can go on and on. But let’s not. Instead, let us remember that no matter what EGO State our patients present, we must always stay in the Adult EGO State. Ms. Specs suggests that we petition the optical social media boards to have a separate site and offshoot for griping. Even better, go “old school” and meet your peers for a cup of coffee, tea, a glass of wine or a beer to vent if you must.

I stand with Heartbroken in Hoboken, the patient bashing on social media is out of control and very disheartening to those of us who go to these sites for education, encouragement and fellowship.

As much as I would like to quote Judith Martin/Miss Manners’ book, I instead hear my Mom’s voice: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

See Well and Be Well,
Ms. Specs in the City
Laurie Pierce, ABOM