Last year there was widespread condemnation of sales practices in the banking industry, and most recently in December when Lloyds bank was fined a record £28m by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Sales staff across Lloyds, Bank of Scotland and Halifax had been put under pressure to hit certain targets when selling investments and insurance to customers and this was uppermost in their minds rather than any focus on what consumers needed or wanted. The FCA said that the incentive schemes created a ‘culture of mis-selling’. Such was the pressure exerted that some staff sold products to themselves, family and colleagues to prevent themselves being demoted. The outcome of all this is even less trust in the banking sector. What relevance has this to optical practice? Any responsible group will look at what goes on elsewhere to consider what it can learn from others and whether there are similar threats in their industry. I’m sure many practitioners will be used to the daily practice meeting to discuss plans and set targets for metrics such as conversion, spectacle order value, contact lens fittings or lens coatings. This raises the profile of these issues in the minds of practitioners and on the positive side encourages them to explain clearly to patients the options and available choices. It is vital that we guard against the pressure to hit targets which can lead to practitioners prescribing where there is no need or recommending unsuitable products. I have no direct evidence that this happens in optical practice, although there is often an undertone from some practitioners that they feel pressurised to focus on what they see as commercial rather than clinical aspects of practice. It may be that they are simply being asked to ensure they offer options and make recommendations as they should and they do not see discussion of the types of lenses available as part of their clinical routine. This is not an independent versus multiple argument. The independent practitioner has bills to pay, hence a very direct link between what goes in the till and what they recommend to patients. A multiple, meanwhile, will often have a practice manager whose job is to monitor and improve practice performance. So there are incentives and pressures in both modes of practice. Patients will not return if they have bought a product that they perceive has no value, leading to lack of retention in that practice, or even worse, tarring all with the same brush and not returning to any other practice. ?
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