Meet the Specsavers store partners who are guiding and supporting the pilot intake of Specsavers Fellowship Dispensing Diploma (FBDO) students, and hear why they believe the degree-level dispensing qualification is the future of the profession.

In Australia and New Zealand, the three-year FBDO syllabus is predominantly delivered through online modules and assessments, tutoring with a UK-based Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) teacher, and now – with Specsavers’ support – through locally facilitated, face-to-face workshops and examinations.

Importantly, the theoretical knowledge taught in the course is consolidated through practical, in-store application of advanced dispensing techniques with the guidance of a supervisor. For the three Specsavers students currently enrolled in the pilot intake of the local FBDO course, their supervisor is their store Dispensing Partner.

Nick White, Dispensing Partner at Specsavers Strathpine in Queensland, is supporting FBDO student Jamin Krine, while Sasha Kempen, who is the Dispensing Partner of two stores, is supporting Simone Ferrari and Jonathan Beiers of Specsavers Sydney MetCentre and Specsavers Sydney Central in New South Wales, respectively.

Heightened customer experience
Both Nick and Sasha are well equipped to supervise the students, having completed the qualification themselves.

“Having the FBDO qualification has empowered my career within optics,” Sasha stated. “It gave me the skills to understand the customer and their journey within our store, and understand the ‘why’ of dispensing.”

Nick White

Reflecting on his own experience, Nick said the qualification primarily helped him with his confidence. “Having in-depth knowledge of the subject helps me have the courage of convictions that the course of action I am taking is the best for that patient at that time.”

It is this deeper understanding of optics and how to better cater to a patient’s needs that the supervisors believe has led to a heightened experience for their customers – an experience that is now being amplified by the FBDO students in their stores.

“Having an FBDO trainee member of staff ensures a high level of customer service, which echoes throughout the team,” Sasha said. “The team member is more confident in the frames and lenses they are dispensing, with more thought for when things can progress into problems.”

She explained that this enhanced optical knowledge improves the problem-solving process in-store, both before and after the dispense. This, Sasha pointed out, not only benefits the customer by ensuring that their concern is dealt with effectively, but also saves both time and money for the business.

In addition to reducing remakes, Nick noted that these positive dispensing experiences would deliver benefits in the long term, leading to return visits and referrals of friends and family.

Skills development and career advancement
As an internationally-recognised, degree-level qualification, the FBDO course presents an opportunity for career growth and skills development, and Sasha reported that the course has provided “immense job satisfaction” for her FBDO trainees.

“The team members who are on the course are excited and inspired about the new skills they are learning, which brings a positive attitude to the team, creating a constructive work ethic and setting professional standards throughout the store,” she said.

“In the long term, this will reflect in the employees’ passion for optics, and may encourage further skills development in management, potentially leading to Pathway [Specsavers’ partnership development program]. I think the FBDO course will be an imperative competency for the next generation of Specsavers retail directors.”

Sasha Kempen

A requirement of the FBDO course is that the trainee spends 10 days out of practice for each year of the three-year qualification – two sets of five days for a Block Release workshop led by an ABDO teacher. Sasha indicated that this was a reasonable sacrifice considering the wealth of knowledge the team member would gain from the course.

“I feel the length of the FBDO course ensures the team member fully understands each competency, which is tested in their written exams, weekly assignments and practical examinations,” she said. “It empowers the staff with knowledge and gives me confidence in my team to deliver on our service promise to customers.”

The value of dispensing professional development
The FBDO course is not the only dispensing development option available. The Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing (Cert IV), which is well established in Australia and New Zealand, offers an excellent opportunity for dispensers to increase their knowledge and experience. The subjects covered in the 12-month Cert IV course complement and create a solid foundation for the topics explored in the Level 6 FBDO course.

Both store partners agreed that undertaking any dispensing professional development is valuable.

“The continued development of ophthalmic dispensing is currently not a particularly strong focus within the industry,” Nick commented. “It is important that we work towards changing this to enable us to meet the complex needs of particular patients who may currently not be receiving the most suitable eye wear.

“At a store level, more knowledge and passion for dispensing on the retail floor makes for a better store environment and a better customer experience. If we can ignite a genuine interest in dispensing within the team, then the customers will feed off the energy.”

Sasha said, “It is crucial to have staff well equipped with knowledge and experience within the team. This ensures customers receive professional and well-considered recommendations from the dispenser, and the team can understand the customer’s requirements at a deeper level. Cert IV- and FBDO-qualified dispensing staff also equip the store to effectively manage paediatrics, complex scripts and low-vision patients. Qualified staff support customers’ faith in our brand and products, ensuring our patients return to us every time, knowing they will receive first-class service.

“I am proud to be a qualified dispensing optician, and would encourage store partners to support their staff in undertaking the FBDO course as it benefits both the store and their team members’ future development.”