Clients v.s Patients Is There a Difference?


jody-shulerRecently I was asked what makes me more successful as an Optician. In pondering that question, I believe it comes down to how I treat people. I like to treat people how I want to be treated. When making a purchase or going to my doctors office I want the people serving me to care for my needs. Not simply just filling my order and doing what was asked of them. In other words I like it when people gets to know me so they can anticipate my wants as well as my needs during any transaction to be made. So I look at each person who walks into the optical department as a client not just a patient.

What is the difference and why is this important? First lets define Patient: somebody given medical treatment. Now the definition of Client: a person or organization taking advice from a professional person. Think about this in terms of giving an amazing customer service experience. What would you rather build a patient list or a client list? When you consider that people come to us as clients seeking advice from a professional person, it takes what we do to a level different from a simple medical treatment. Don’t take me wrong we do assist in medical treatment, but people seek us for our advice. The doctor gives us the Rx we now have the opportunity for a discussion with our new client or perhaps a returning client. They want advice on how to take this Rx (the medical treatment) and help them both see better and look fabulous (the advice). This idea of being a client of a professional gives a more upscale concept to our dispensing rather than just filling a medical need as a patient.

So to begin make the client feel comfortable. Introduce yourself, a simple “hello my name is — I will be assisting you today.” Offer to pull out their chair, if available, offer them a beverage, make them comfortable. Now open the discussion with questions about their work, social activities and hobbies. As you allow them to talk, you will ascertain their needs.

Now analyze the Rx and visualize what you think will look attractive on them and of course suit their Rx properly. Then I like to take a PD measurement, I explain this measurement will assist me in finding the right sized frame for their face and Rx. Before I leave them to select the frames, I ask my client, “Is their anything you like or dislike about your current eyewear?” This allows them some input without allowing them to take over the selection process. Remember you are the professional, you know best. Don’t be pushy.

Then, show the client that you listened to their thoughts by showing them eyewear that fits what they said they liked and disliked. Perhaps they said they love that their current frames have spring hinges. Show them a couple of frames with spring hinges, but also some without and  explain why you selected that frame design. We all know what is best for them but allow them to feel like they are a part of the process. Perhaps as they told you about their work and hobbies you were able to uncover a need for near to intermediate eyewear or they drive a lot for work so a great pair of driving lenses.

As you explain these needs you are also showing your client that you listened to them as they told you about themselves. Your client may not purchase everything you have suggested, but you will plant a seed. They will no doubt express that no one has ever shown so much interest or given them such great advice. What you just did is treat them as a client, with respect, and not just a patient. When they are ready they will return to you for more advice.

Many of our peers still treat what we do as medical and all they offer is a medical treatment. This is the difference between being an Optician and a well educated Optician. I know that can seem harsh to some, however I am passionate about what I do and by educating myself to the variety of options we have to fulfill the needs of our clients. I feel as though I am a better for it. Remember Plato- “All learning has an emotional base”. Be PASSIONATE! We are working in difficult times with competition from a variety of sources. We must be better! We need to elevate ourselves in a sea of mediocrity. I encourage you to continue to educate yourself to offer amazing experiences to your CLIENTS!

 encourage one and all to continue to learn. Be the best you can be. If you are interested in rediscovering passion for your job and our industry, please contact me Jody A. Shuler at jodyshuler@gmail (dot) com. I have been in the industry for 23 years and an LDO for 18 of those. I would love to help and motivate. 


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  1. I believe there is a difference between patients and clients within the same ECP practice . Doctors work in a professional setting with their patients in the Clinical side of the Practice. Opticians work with clients in a professional setting in the dispensary side of the practice. BOTH are important team members ……just like a good PBJ ( peanut butter and jelly ).

  2. […] yes we do sell eyewear. As opticians we do so much more: I like to view what I do as as process of educating my clients. Remember what a client is: someone who seeks the advice of a professional. We are professionals. […]

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