Alan, Master Optician and Packers fan
Did you know that EVERY customer service agent on staff at FramesDirect.com is an optician? One of the greatest assets and distinctions of our business is the expertise of our opticians. They double check every order and are on hand to answer any question our customers may have. They have over 200 years of combined experience working with patients. The highest level of certification possible for an optician is to become a Master of Ophthalmic Optics. There are only around 300 Master Opticians in the United States, and one of them is our very own Alan. Here’s a look into what brought Alan to FramesDirect.com and some insights into his day-to-day at the company.
Q: How did your career in optics begin?
A: I’m originally from El Paso, TX and I started part-time in an optical laboratory there in 1975. My brother, who is ten years older than me, was an optometrist. When I was a senior in high school I went to school ½ days and I was his receptionist in the afternoons. And then every summer when I was home from college, I worked in my brother’s office or in the laboratory manufacturing the lenses.
After getting my BA in Biology in 1980, I wanted to stay in the business, so I completed a course at the American College of Optics, in Hollywood, CA.
When I came back to Texas, my brother and I opened a two door operation with doctors and optical in the same building. We called it El Paso Optical Center, and we were very successful. We opened in April of ‘81 and then we sold it in April of ‘14.
Q: What brought you to FramesDirect.com?
A: My brother wanted to retire and I had always stuck around El Paso so I wanted to try something different. I’ve always liked Austin and I felt this was our opportunity. I interviewed at a few different places. I knew I didn’t want work in a retail store in the mall, and I didn’t want to work mall hours. When I got offered the job at FramesDirect.com, I talked to my wife and she said “you know this is way things are going, look at all the stuff that people buy from Amazon.” A lot of people don’t like going in the stores anymore. I’m one of them, I hate going to the mall. So this was a nice change and its different here, different in a good way.
Q: What does it mean to be a Master Optician?
A: Well, first of all you have to be American Board Of Opticianry (ABO) Certified. I had to take a test and had to have been in the business for a certain number of years. I passed the test in 1998, then I took the masters exam and wrote my thesis. So now I’m one of 330 master opticians in the country. I knew my brother would want to retire eventually, so I wanted to get the highest possible credentials to have the flexibility to move on when that time came.
Q: How is helping FramesDirect.com customers different from working with patients in-person?
A: Its very similar to working with customers in the brick and mortar shop, you just have to be more descriptive on the phone. You’re not as hands-on physically but you are mentally. You’re still showing them the ins and outs of the process and the products.
Not having the patient there in front of you forces you to look extra carefully at their orders. For example, if they’re ordering two pairs of glasses and they’re different sizes, we need to talk to them about it. Sunglasses can be larger, but if the customer ordered two drastically different sized regular pairs of glasses, we have to call and walk them through what size would be best for them. Most of the time we can easily get the correct size from their old glasses.
Some of Alan’s cube decor
You have to be able to put the customer at ease and assure them that you actually know what you’re doing. That’s the biggest thing I’d want all our customers to know. When you call us, we are all opticians. Every person you’re going to talk to to place an order has been in the optical field. The newest one has 2 years experience, the oldest one, well…a LONG time. So many companies get laypeople on the phone and they’re just salesmen, they just process the orders but don’t know anything. That’s what sets FramesDirect.com apart. Plus, we are based in America, we are home-grown and not an outsourced call center.
Q: What are some common questions or concerns for customers?
A: They don’t think that they can order over the internet and get glasses that work for them (without seeing us person, seeing the glasses on them, or measuring for the no-line bifocals.) But with the algorithms that FramesDirect.com have developed, it works perfectly. In fact, when I started here, I had them make me a pair of glasses in a progressive lens (because I wear no-line bifocals.) I said “don’t measure me, I want you to do it the way you would for a customer online or on the phone.” And that’s what I tell customers to make them feel more comfortable with it. I’m able to explain to them that I went through it.
Q: What do you like best about working at FramesDirect.com?
A: We’re all here to work as a team and to help each other. Everyone is very competent, but if there is something they don’t know, they will put the customer on hold and ask somebody.
Punk rock never dies, neither does that dinosaur cactus.
Even the ones that have been here the longest will ask questions. Plus I like that I can wear jeans and Converse and I don’t have to wear a lab coat. I wore a smock for 34 years. I donated them all to Goodwill.
The camaraderie is my favorite thing about working here. We get the job done, but it’s laid back and we don’t have to work directly with doctors.
Q: Why does a Texan love the Yankees and the Packers?
A: Because we didn’t have anything in El Paso, you know where El Paso is? It’s way out there. I loved Mickey Mantle when I was six years old. I used to pretend I was him in the backyard.
And then with the Packers, I saw their quarterback get hurt in 1964 and I felt sorry for him so I became a Packers fan. When they carried Bart Starr off in a stretcher I felt bad for him and for the team, because they lost their quarterback.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Pizza with pepperoni and pineapple
Q: What is your favorite music?
A: The Ramones, I like punk (Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols.) It was what I loved in college and it’s what I still listen to today. I also love Elvis Costello and New Wave music.
Q: What is your favorite TV show?
A: Criminal Minds or anything baseball
Alan’s magnet collection shows his rock n roll spirit.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
A: Having my health and family. Spending time with my wife and son anywhere. Collecting baseball cards.