For checkAppointments user Nigel Coley getting glasses as an early teenager sparked an interest that lit a path. Many early teenagers, myself included, get really nervous when the annual eye test rolls around, having to cover the left eye then the right, squinting to read letters that were just a touch too small to make out and, despite it all, still trying to recite the row with confidence. But, for Mr. Coley, there was an immediate analytical click.
“At first it was the mathematical side of it that really struck me and it helped that a friend of the family was an optician who I could learn from,” Nigel, who is based in Cambridgeshire, UK, said. “The challenge of calculating a spectacle prescription or a contact lens design was very rewarding.” Initially Nigel concentrated on contact lenses fitting. “The satisfaction was tremendous as contact lenses can really change people’s lives, from maybe a shy teenager to a confident young person for example.”
It wasn’t until several years later when he bought Coley Opticians and then Squareazebras that he came to really understand and appreciate the customer service side of it and the importance of building rapport with your customers. Now that emphasis on customers plays as a huge role in his practice which, through the social proof and word of mouth advertising, receives a large percent of its business from repeat customers and referrals.
And after what I learned from just 30 minutes on the phone with Nigel, it’s no wonder why. I think we’re all fascinated by our eyes and how seeing shapes so much of our experiences, but many optometrists haven’t been able to level with me in explaining the ins and outs of those two sockets between my ears. So if you’re looking to learn a bit about protecting your eyes and some fast facts, here’s an optician that makes it accessible.
Why Eyes Don’t See Eye to Eye
One thing I could never make heads or tails of was how kids, whose day to day school lives follow similar routines, could wind up with such a span of vision. The lazy part of me always tossed it off to genetics, but in reality, “The evidence is pretty conclusive and supported worldwide that sunlight stimulates the release of retinal dopamine in the eye which inhibits growth, keeps it from becoming elongated and therefore developing shortsightedness,” Nigel told me, siting several studies in support.
“About 90% of children in Japan and China have shortsightedness because of the time spent inside. Whereas there’s 10% of shortsightedness in children in countries in Africa and in Australia. Natural daylight has proven to be the best thing you can do for your eyes.”
Yeah…but what’s the catch? “A lot of natural daylight when you’re young which inhibits eye growth is associated with cataracts later in life. There’s a high presence of cataracts in Australia and Africa, but Australia, for one, has changed culturally to encourage kids to wear good sunglasses and hats to protect themselves from UV rays.”
Oh Australia – not only the happiest place on the earth (three years running) but also quick to get preventative in their healthcare. “In Britain,” Nigel told me, “most children don’t wear good sunglasses and wearing cheap sunglasses that don’t block UV rays really doesn’t do much for you anyway.”
Eyes, Ears, & the Brain
Eye sight is a bit of a misleading term. The visual part is actually the brain which decodes the message the eye sends and makes sense of it for us. “George Stratton, an American psychologist, proved a lot about the brain’s adaptation of what the eye sees,” he said.
“Stratton wore upside down glasses for 8 days. At first everything appeared inverted and he was pretty nauseous, but by day 7 it was normal. His brain rewired the messages to present everything as right side up. 7 days after taking the glasses off, everything was back to normal again.”
This speaks to the oft-discussed untapped power of the brain which stands to greater wonders when you bring in the other senses.
“The eyes tell you a lot about where you are, but your ears and sound give you a lot of balance in movement,” Nigel said. “They work together to ensure you don’t fall down. One time my wife and I, on the only skiing trip we’ve ever taken, got to the top of the slope and experienced a ‘white out’.
“It was a blank canvas. The sky was just as white as the ground and we couldn’t see more than 2 yards in front of us. We skied down the slope and when we came to a stop we just fell over, almost in slow motion, a bit like Charlie Chapman. We had no idea of the angle of the slope we were standing on and without anything in sight to differentiate land from air we couldn’t keep balance.” Can’t say I blame the two of them for opting out of future ski trips.
5 Rules to Preserve the Eyes
Keeping it short and sweet (because as much as people ignore best practice advice, they ignore it even more when it’s long and drawn out), here are 5 rules Nigel would propose:
- Don’t smoke – In case you needed another reason to put down the pack, smoking cigarettes makes for an 8 fold increase in macular degeneration which is the leading cause of blindness.
- Wear glasses with UV protection – It’s not enough to just have those good looking shades, you have to wear them and get your eyes checked to make sure they’re helping
- Get out in the sun – Natural daylight is important, not just for young kids, but for all ages and helps strengthen eye muscles
- Take good vitamins – whether you get it naturally from your food or take supplements, nutrition is important for the eyes to lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts
- Change it up! – Stare at the computer screen for a long time each day? Whenever you can (or whenever you remember) look away and change up your field of vision so you don’t wear out those eye muscles
Online Scheduling for Coley Opticians
Nigel got the idea for online scheduling from an appointment reminder he received from his dentist. “I often did not have time to ring my dentist during the day and in the evening they were closed. So it could take several weeks before I got around to making that appointment. I thought that this could easily apply to my patients” Nigel started to think about making it easier for clients. “Lots of my business comes from sending out recall letters,” he said (for us Americans that’s appointment reminders) and, using online scheduling, patients could respond quickly any time of day.”
“It was also quite tedious each afternoon making phone calls to clients to confirm their next day appointment. With online scheduling this is done automatically using text or email. It is one chore my staff don’t have to do now.”
Easy and convenient, two things customers love and two things a customer-service focused business loves to provide. “So I sat down one Wednesday evening to try and get it set up, by Friday all of my staff was briefed and getting to know the new format. It was that quick. My clients have made a point of saying how much they like this facility!”
Coley Opticians has been a checkAppointments user since May 2013