Interview with: Sheryl Doe, Joint Managing Director & Dispensing Optician at Allegro Optical
Can you tell me about your career background – why you set out to work in optics, when you began your training and your qualifications etc?
I kind of fell into optics! I’d worked as a chef/food, beverage manager and a publican for 20 years then got fed up and did a physics and maths degree with the Open University! Then I realised that the only real career with that qualification was teaching, and that is not me.
I applied for, and was offered, an optical assistant role as a stop gap in 2000. Then I ended up doing the Dispensing Opticians (DO) course. I’ve worked for the multiples and hated the conveyor belt attitude. I much prefer the more personal and customer focused Independent Market.
Tell me a little bit about your business Allegro Optical and your services – what do you specialise in?
Allegro Optical began in September 2016 after my husband and I had struggled to find a lens design which allowed us to see our music & our conductor clearly (we are both musicians). In or around 2015, we came up with a dispensing solution that allowed both of us to do both, and we helped out a few fellow performers. It became apparent the new approach worked and we turned it into a business.
Many opticians say musicians are hard to please, and we can be, but our approach works and many people began asking us for help.
We started online and visiting performers homes, then we opened our first practice in March 2017 in Meltham. Practice number 2 in Greenfield followed quite quickly in January 2019, and we currently are poised to launch number 3 in the New Year.
My proudest moments:
-when Allegro Optical became the first and only optician to gain registration with the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine in 2018
-when I won the Optician Awards Dispensing Optician of the Year in 2019
What you enjoy the most about being a dispensing optician?
The thing I enjoy most is helping musicians and performers continue in their playing career. Specialising in performing arts eye care is a real passion of mine and I love to see the smile on the face of artist when they can suddenly see the music again.
How are you different to other practices?
I think we’re the only optician in the UK to have pianos and string basses in the test room, I’d love a Harp but the FD won’t let me! It’s also not unusual for a dancer or choreographer to be twirling about while we try to correct their vision to read their dance notation while maintaining clear distance at the same time.
Putting the optics to one side, a great many of our clients are in the public gaze. A large number perform on stage or television so in addition to the need to see well they want to look good too.
This is where Eva at Eyewear Styling Academy (ESA) stepped in – we wanted to give all of our clients’ confidence when wearing glasses, especially if they are on stage in front of thousands of people. In a profession where everyone’s a critic, it’s essential to look your best.
Why did you decide to enrol your team on the Eyewear Styling Practice Programme with Eyewear Styling Academy?
Lacking confidence in frame recommendations was holding my dispensing team members back from reaching their full potential.
Many were making safe, yet uninspiring recommendations, and often it was more about the lenses than the frames. Team members were often presenting a bland selection of “safe” frames to clients.
I wanted to raise my dispensing team’s self-confidence and to help them become more productive and effective. By enrolling them all onto Eva’s Eyewear Styling Practice Programme, we have raised their morale and made them more comfortable when making frame recommendations.
Having completed the course our dispensing opticians are now making bolder recommendations, working with clients’ colours in mind. They’re not just taking face shape into consideration; they are complimenting facial features with their frame selections.
In fact, so successful has the impact of the course been on the dispensing team, we now put all staff members through the course, even the admin team!
What skills have you and your team learnt to assist you with dispensing eyewear more effectively?
I think the greatest skill I’ve learnt is that it’s not just about colouring, face shape and facial features – it’s about personality!
The course has taught me to get to know the client more, learn about their interests and shopping habits. The ESA personality questionnaire allows us to do just that. There is no point showing someone with a dramatic personality a frame suitable for a natural, even if it’s in their colour. If you match the frame to the personality, you’re much more likely to get a positive reaction
How has this impacted your business and your team? And how has this made you all feel?
There are at least two answers to this question:
- By building my team members confidence we have seen a dramatic increase in average order value, higher conversions and more sales.
- By building my team members confidence we have seen an increase in patient recommendations. As more clients enjoy the individual styling and one-to-one attention, they in turn recommend more of their friends. In short, more growth.
Have you and/or the team changed since becoming Eyewear Stylists?
We have regular meetings, and the general consensus is that every member of the team wants to make the whole experience of visiting the optician as enjoyable as visiting the spa, hairdresser or beautician, and less like visiting the doctor!
Since being part of the ESA Eyewear Styling Practice Programme our team members now like to make a fuss of our styling clients and make them feel special.
How has this impacted your clients?
Our clients enjoy the care and attention that goes into an Eyewear Styling Consultation and it has certainly driven and increase in AOV.
What do you value most about being part of the Eyewear Styling Academy Community?
The thing I really like about the Eyewear styling Academy Community is picking up snippets of wisdom from other styling opticians. I learn things I didn’t know!
The Monthly Zoom sessions are wonderful, and it is always good to hear what other practitioners are doing.
What advice would you give for someone wanting to join the Eyewear Styling Practice Programme?
I would say go for it – the benefits are enormous! We have found that our AOV increased, clients felt empowered to make multiple purchases and many come back throughout the year to make additional purchases. Since making the process of choosing glasses fun rather than a chore, we have also seen an increase in the number of recommendations we receive. Our styled clients frequently send their family members and friends to us for the styling experience.
Fashion and Style Focus
And finally, because we are champions of everything unique and personal about our clients – a little bit about you:
What style personality /personalities are you?
I am a dramatic (no surprise there)
What is your colour type?
I was a deep but I think I’m slowly turning into a clear (old age!)
What are your passions in life and how do you reflect this in your eyewear choices?
Music is my passion and performing, I love to be on stage making music. I have multiple frames in many different bold colours. I love a cat eye frame, and they are NEVER understated. I like my eyewear to be noticed.
What is your personal favourite accessory to wear right now and why?
Glasses, always glasses. I don’t feel like me without glasses as I’ve worn them all my life.
What eyewear says ‘Sheryl Doe’?
Okki Factory is my go-to brand. I love the bold colourful fabrics they use and the fact that every single pair is different.
Apart from Eyewear Styling, what do you love to do in your spare time?
Music, music, music. As Leopold Stokowski famously said; “A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”