“A world all around you” said the advertisement of a banking institution in which with a stick the protagonist drew a circle around himself. Besides the publicity that gesture has always appealed to me not because it marks a boundary, but because it draws the central role that each of us should have in our personal and even professional lives. The healthy, natural and human intersection with other worlds should not, however complex and necessary, distort that circle by moving the tip of the compass. In an ideal world everyone should always be the protagonist of that circular space.
In this galloping 2021, we have necessarily turned the page, or rather we have moved forward – the only possible direction – and now we are already living in the effects of the change of course, in the fold of things after the turn, in the result of the time that passes and sediments the new experiences. The reflection I want to share with you is about that circle and the central point that falls overhanging the head of every optician who calls himself such.
Post-pandemic the view of this is even sharper.
Let’s face it, opticians have rediscovered their “necessary” role in the current difficult times, and this has awakened a primordial instinct of this profession, that of being the pivot of their activity, the point of the compass on which to draw the circle around their world. A role overshadowed and somewhat forgotten by the protagonists (the opticians) and instead an object of great interest to providers and the entire galaxy of consultants who gravitate around that circle. It’s been years that more and more insistently in the communication to customers of the our activities in various traditional and digital media, all the “gravitators” call the partner optical stores “my/our optical centers”. In addition to the hives that I confess I get every time I notice the improper use of this expression, I find that there is nothing more wrong than using a possessive adjective where there is a normal commercial exchange that simply does not move property and skills to those who offer you a product that you select or offer you a service that you pay for.
It is my belief that the role of the optician has greatly changed the first time they lost the feeling of being at the center of their world by becoming a “center optician” and not the optician “at the center” of their business. The precise moment when he decided not to enter into a decision, a selection, a communication, any choice that defined his business because he accepted turnkey. I’m not talking about the need to do everything yourself, growing up means collaborating and the ability to delegate is just as important and critical as role centeredness. I’m talking about the need to always find the time to look carefully at every single aspect that defines what lies within our circle, even and especially when in the business proposals of suppliers and consultants we work on the identity of the business.
I’m talking about the healthy curiosity to understand what’s inside, behind, on top, underneath and to the side of all the things that arrive in the store or in the actions they propose us to do on which our name will stand out.
Whether the gaze is direct or indirect, because businesses are big and our eyes multiply into those of co-workers, the purpose of getting into all the choices should be defended to the sword. The business, the changing world, technology, the strategies above our heads have shifted the focus not on choices but on numbers, on the extra zeros of the “turnkey”, on minimum effort maximum yield by leveraging the difficulties of the increasingly intricate reality that we have built around us.
Warning!!! Let me be clear: I’m not demonizing earning money, on the contrary, without it no work can be called as such. But I’m convinced that money without the value of everything you do to make your work meaningful, without the ethical depth of knowing what you’re selling to the point of guaranteeing it and being personally responsible for it, without the personal gratification of having gained experience from the successful selection of a product, from the response to a thought-out and reasoned communication, from the satisfaction of having solved a customer problem even if only with a repair, is really nothing. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
The lack of attention and curiosity, the lack of choices and direct looks have led the whole world that previously communicated to end customers through opticians to do so in person, definitely moving that compass and the whole circle around themselves. Often when I stop to talk about it with someone in the industry I hear “companies, consultants are doing it because opticians are no longer able to do it”. Of course I say to myself, they are not anymore because in front of the changes they have been invited to keep silent and not to care about many things in the last 20 years, they have been diverted from all the choices of their prerogative that they have not made and now the justification given to the shift of the centrality is that they are “unable” to support it.
I’m not on it.
The language used by those at the center of the circle has accustomed end customers to “unpacked” products, i.e. just lenses or just frames in superfast mode, and the synthesis and speed has led them to evaluate by the numbers: age discounts, freebies and family-size product multiples. Commercial communications summarize the technical aspects and performance of high-tech products that are difficult to transfer into fast & chic mode; frames viscerally linked to the fashion, which must comply with the trends of the VIPs or those who propose them, the “must have” that shift the interest from the individual to the trends built at the table, all In the space of a commercial, a post, a tweet, a story, a reel. The Internet for better or worse has done everything else. The result of all this is a polluted market where anyone can enter bragging about quality and performance, just say it in the spectacular, catchy, trendy, fast and easy way to which end customers have been accustomed. Now they sprout like mushrooms realities that affiliate opticians who are employees in their own stores, ridiculous eyewear offers that trivialize the whole wonderful world of vision and visual well-being, junk products that are not even worth commenting on.
What and how much do we lose in this whole decentralized world?
So much. And the craziest thing is that we all really lose out.
Glasses are not bread. You don’t buy them every day, even though today’s needs make it necessary to have a variety of them for different purposes; however, they are not a daily purchase, just like bread. If in the past it was necessary to take the time to explain and transfer technical concepts to customers, today it takes even more time because customers are more involved, more informed, more curious….they get into everything they buy (sometimes too much!). Fortunately, opticians “at the center” still exist. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) They sit patiently at the counter with customers in front and transfer filtering like a sieve (sum and synthesis of experience, competence, ethics and professionalism) all technical topics, technological innovation letting them be used in a versatile and empathetic language in a space without advertising. Customers who buy glasses listen, ask lots of questions followed by lots of answers, trust and rely on them. The work is complete, the dedication also, the service, the after-sales consulting, the support in maintenance or in emergency. A slowness that pays those who work because they do it well and those who buy because they are guaranteed an excellent final product, a synthesis of competence in designing, studying, assembling and making efficient with their technological work ophthalmic jewelry supported by the combination of quality frames, beautiful, durable, suitable for the customer and all his needs. All “components” live perfectly in tune with each other thanks to the central work of the optician, otherwise they are components and that’s it.
In conclusion, in the knowledge that times have changed and the fragmentation of communication is now a process from which there is no turning back, it is essential that all players in the sector pay close attention and preserve the central role of opticians without giving in to the temptation to replace them. It would be good if this were to happen for real and not just in words and smoke and mirrors, because it suits them too. The risk is that we’ll all end up like so many empty boxes instead of stores, no longer virtuous circles but large, easily stackable cubes ready to be catalogued and counted…..unless that’s exactly what the purpose is! Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Of course, it’s increasingly difficult for opticians to work in the center of their store without risking being sucked into the gravitational force at work. To counterbalance the aforementioned myriad of low-level initiatives, there are manygiants some of which today are stretching their tentacles in every direction in our sector by sinking their hands into the “living land” of the world’s leading acetate in the field of training excellence. I respectfully look them straight in the eye as fellow independents with a big pile of money.
Money has only one purpose in their lives: to buy.
However, they can only buy what you sell.
For everything else…there are still opticians with their stores around.