You may have felt a disturbance in The Optical Force. However, it was not the Death Star incinerating Alderaan, but Jody Shuler initiating secret plans whereby rebel opticians could deploy a new technology to free themselves from the tyranny and oppression of the medical-optical model. Ewoks everywhere rejoiced. ODs were not amused.
Jody, an independent optician, who runs EyeCrave Optics in Watertown, NY recently began offering on-site, real-time, auto-refractions for his customers without a doctor at his location!
Jody chose the Smart Vision Labs SVONE Pro system, which is a combination wave-front abberometer and cellphone interface. His customers receive a carefully guided auto-refraction which is then reviewed off-site by a doctor of either ophthalmology or optometry. Depending on the availability of a reviewing doctor, the lens order is usually available within a few hours.
Jody is offering his customers refraction not an eye examination. He makes no claims otherwise I urge you to keep an open mind and see what Jody has done, opening an entire new world of possibilities for opticians.
I had a chance to speak with Jody last week.
John: I’m out on social media telling people that you are a brave man, breaking new ground for all of us. I see you as potentially shifting the entire field of opticianry as we know it. Is that how you see yourself and don’t be modest?
Jody: I do like to consider myself as being at the forefront of things. If I can do it and it will benefit my practice, I’ll try it. I guess you would call me an early adopter. As to shifting the entire field, yes, I’d like to see refraction removed from the hands of the doctors and made available to all of us.
We must recognize that piece of paper that we call a prescription is just a set of numbers that work as a lens order. Nothing more. Do I want to see the scales balanced a little? Yes, I do. It seems like the ODs want to have it all these days, they want to take on more of the medical side and control more of the optical side too.
John: I hate to dive down the rabbit hole, heck it is more like a black-hole, but these types of apps have really ruffled some feathers especially in the optometric world. Can you, briefly, tell us a little bit about how you see it?
Jody: If I met an OD that wanted to have a genuine conversation, I would tell them that this device is not going to harm them. In fact, if we could learn to work together and use it as an education tool, it would actually help them. I like to stress that those numbers we get from refraction and eye health go hand-in-hand, but there is no reason that they must be performed together. As you say, too many ruffled feathers right now to have a real conversation. I’m just glad to see things changing.
John: I see that you are tucked up pretty far north in NY. Was basic doctor availability one of the reasons behind going this route?
Jody: Yes, absolutely (laughs) this isn’t New York City! It is a nice town and growing a little but it can only support so many ODs right now.
The bigger problem is actually what I call the small town syndrome. With just a handful of eye care providers, you are stuck with the same problems over and over again.
Funny thing is that sometimes that problem is a doctor trying to be a nice guy! For instance, if the doctor doesn’t sell eyewear he may well say, “Mrs. Smith, you are seeing good, 20/20 on the chart, you seem happy, great, skip buying glasses this year.” Meanwhile her lenses are scratched, a six-year old design, and the frames are dated.
John: Let’s go back a second I think I just heard another ground-breaking piece of this new idea. I think I just heard that it basically allows you to get second or even third opinions from a doctor outside the ones you would have to rely on, if you stayed in town.
Jody: Yes, exactly. I’m not saying that we don’t have great doctors here. I’m saying that a few of them are set in their ways and that is not always in the best interest for my customers. Some of them also keep more traditional hours and that can make working with them a little more difficult. So, yes I see the SVONE as allowing me the freedom to choose the best doctor I can work with.
John: As an optician I just have to ask, “What about remakes, tweaks to the lens order etc?
Jody: I’m very careful about watching for anything that might create a problem. Unlike the usual relationship, I’m the one giving advice on the numbers and the customer to the reviewing doctor, not the other way around. I’m confident enough in my own skills that I’m good with that. I can add notes to any data that I’m sending out for review. My remakes are virtually zero.
John: Last question, how are you physically presenting the SVONE and how are you integrating into your business? Is it a nice add on or the centerpiece now?
Jody: It is another tool for me. I mention it to all my customers and I am “talking it up” where I can, but I see it more as being able to offer an alternative to a visit to a doctor’s office. I hope it leads to being a central part of the business but only time will tell. Like I said, I’m willing to try new things.
Director of Education
Back in 2014, before I worked for Laramy-K, I visited a mid-sized, wholesale lab in Virginia that did in-house AR coating. I was privileged to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process. I must admit, while I thought I knew quite a bit about AR application, it turns out I was wrong.
The cleanroom where the lenses are prepped was bright, shiny, clinical and high-tech. It was full of digital readout panels, fancy dials and switches, bright colors, all with a whiff of science about it. One of the most startling revelations was this sort of, Wizard of Oz moment, when we opened the door (pulled back the curtain) that led to the area behind the cleanroom. There, in a room the size of a small garage, it looked like a cross between a power station and an oil refinery, complete with huge pipes, large motors, bulky valves, hefty fittings and thick wiring.
“OK,” I thought, “there must be more to this AR application process than I imagined.”
I believe that many ECPs think of AR as being pretty much sprayed onto the lens, not unlike grabbing a rattle-can of Rust-Oleum. I think they see it as just another routine lab function. The reality, of course, is something completely different.
Recently, I decided to learn more. So, instead of talking with people who sell AR, I decided to find the people who actually make AR and the associated processing equipment—the engineers and science people, like Norm Kester, owner of Quantum Innovations. Quantum is the company that provides the equipment and materials Laramy-K Optical uses to produce ICE (colorless AR), TKO, and UVARity premium coatings.
In my talk with Norm, he does a wonderful job explaining some of the extraordinary, complex and fascinating parts of the AR application process. A better understanding of the intricacies involved may give you a greater appreciation and better understanding. You might also find greater confidence in selling and recommending AR coatings to your customers.
John: For my own curiosity, what is the right term or terms, to be using when we talk about AR. Is this process happening at the molecular, nano, microscopic or some other level?
Norm: I guess the right answer would be “all of the above.” Most of what we are doing is at the atomic or molecular level. We are evaporating inorganic materials (ZrO2 zirconium dioxide, SiO2 silicone dioxide, Chrome or chromium, ITO indium tin oxide, etc.) by heating them to their melting or sublimation point to put them into their vapor or gas phase. We are then growing the materials back onto the lens. During the process, we are counting the molecules as they are being deposited onto the lens. The result of this action is measured in nanometers. You can’t see any of this with the naked eye or even standard microscopes. To see a layer of an AR coating, you must use an electron microscope or similar.
Sidebar: A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. To put it another way, that’s one millionth of a millimeter.
John: I saw that the lenses are mounted in razor edged holders and then placed in a vacuum chamber. Is that the right term?
Norm: Yes, it is a vacuum chamber. The lenses are mounted in lens rings. The edges of these rings are made very thin and hold the lens closely so that the vaporized material is not obstructed. This has to be done very carefully or the outcome will be compromised.
John: On my visit to the lab that day, they mentioned extremes of temperatures used in the process. If I understood it correctly, part of what I was seeing in the back room was the equipment that could produce the extremes necessary. Can you tell me what the range is and why you need such extremes?
Norm: This is not an often talked about area of the AR process. But, to heat many of the coating materials to their melting or subliming point, it takes a great deal of energy. The heat required is sometimes thousands of degrees (that is 1400+ in Celsius and 3000+ in Fahrenheit). Of course, cooling becomes extremely important too. Thankfully, all of this is done in a vacuum so heat doesn't transfer easily. The bulk of that equipment you saw in the back room is actually there to pull and maintain the necessary vacuum.
John: Are there other extremes involved in the process? I think I recall some very intense lighting being used inside the chamber?
Norm: There are many crazy things going on in the process. We are bombarding the lens with positive ions with an ion gun and we heat the lens with light/lamps. The entire process is done in a vacuum or negative pressure region and we are using electron beam guns to heat up the coating materials. There are many extremes to pulling off this art of thin film coating.
John: Wait, wait, did you just say ion gun? This is starting to sound more like Star Trek than the Wizard of Oz.
Norm: Yes. The ion gun helps prepare the lens surface for the best possible application results.
John: Speaking of surface preparation, if I have it right the lens is “etched” or roughed up at the surface level to increase coating adhesion. Am I right that it is done in an acid bath?
Norm: Actually it is a high PH, alkali bath that does the etching prior to AR coating. Keep in mind that we are putting molecules of material onto the lens to “grow” the material from the gas phase back into a solid on the surface. So, any material or aberration on the lens surface can destroy the coating. The lens has to be pristine and be prepared to receive the material in the proper way to promote adhesion. We also have the ION source in most AR systems to further promote adhesion by atomic level bombardment of the surface of the lens.
John: Does every material get the same bath?
Norm: We wish that it was that easy. Unfortunately, there are many characteristics to the variety of lens types that are used. Some of them are not really suitable for high PH situations, high heat situations and in some cases for AR coating. But, because of light loss due to the refractive index of the lenses, we must put AR coatings on them. To do this, we must carefully navigate the many pitfalls associated with all of the myriad different lens material types. This is somewhat of an art form and we have pages and pages of data and processing techniques to ensure success. Every time a new lens or lens type comes out, we must learn that one as well and create processing method for it.
John: I was amazed that the coatings are made up of, am I using the right word, “elements?”
Norm: Inorganic compounds such as silicon dioxide and zirconium dioxide are typically used. We generally refer to them as coating materials. There are literally hundreds that could be used as well as some organic compounds. Keep in mind that AR coating is a tiny niche within a much broader industry of thin film, vapor applied sciences. Many, many things get thin film coatings: the ink on our money, telescopes, windows, windshields, watches, phones, TV’s, semiconductors, microprocessors, hard drives and everything in between.
John: Can you tell me anything about the different elements that make up the different layers of the stack?
Norm: I think that most people do not recognize the compounds (as listed above). These compounds are in a lot of things you are surrounded with on a daily basis. But, as I was before coming into this industry, most are unaware of their existence.
John: So the elements are combined like a recipe for for baking. Mix the right elements together and you get a certain type of AR or a certain type of layer?
Norm: Yes. “Mixed” isn’t probably the right term but we do call them recipes. “Layered” is probably a better term. Keep in mind that we are trying to bend light by creating a refractive index that is correct to create a reflected wave of light that is out of phase with the arriving wave of light. To do this, we have to create the correct layering of materials. Each of these materials has a refractive index to bend light subtly until the desired effect is achieved.
John: Then the elements are vaporized to become a gas?
Norm: Yes. The materials are heated to their evaporation point and the vapor then is “airborne.” I put that in quotes because there is no air in a vacuum. But, you get the point. Because we have removed most of the molecules from the inside of the vacuum chamber, the molecules are free to move unimpeded. This allows them to go from the evaporation source to the lens. The vapor is then grown back into the original material until we achieve the proper thickness of that material. The process is repeated until all of the layers have been deposited onto the lens.
John: That gas then settles on the lens surfaces and becomes the coating. What makes it “stick?”
Norm: This is a complicated question. We are not bonding the material to the lens, but there is adhesive strength between the arrive particles/molecules and the lens surface considering the process has been done properly. Depending on many variables, the adhesive strength is at best variable. This is closely controlled by lens heat, kinetic energy of the arriving particle, ION etching, ION assisting, etc.
John: Does the order in which the elements are vaporized determine the layer or AR stack?
Norm: Yes. This is written in the recipe. The recipe is dictated by the refractive index of the lens and the outcome that is trying to be achieved.
John: We always see images of the stack as being individual layers. Is that the right way to think about it?
Norm: It is individual layers that are working in concert to create the desired effect. But, if we could, we would do it with one layer. That technology just doesn’t exist at the current time.
John: I guess this is the same question. We read about “substrate matched AR coatings.” Does that mean each layer in relation to the one above and below it, or just the lens material?
Norm: To do this optimally, the refractive index of the AR coating and the AR coating design would be such that it is created for a specific refractive index of lens. This would create the best overall outcome and give the best light transmission through the lens to the eye. Unfortunately, most AR coating machines are “batch” coaters. This means many lens types (refractive indexes) are AR coated at the same time. So, a “general use” AR coating is used that gives an average effect across many refractive indexes. This sounds easy but is actually quite complicated. Anyone who designs these coatings or is applying AR coating understands this precarious dance.
John: Can you explain how you manipulate a coating to work best with a particular lens material?
Norm: Sure, but there is a lot of science that goes into this. Everything on earth has an optical density. That optical density bends photons in very specific ways. If we think of the wave nature of light, it becomes easier for us to consider how to manipulate light. As the optical density of the material changes, the wave is bent more or less. The number we use to designate this “angle of bending” of the wave is called refractive index. We know precisely how each material will bend light relative to its refractive index. This numerical value and its resulting geometrical angle is used in our calculations to bend light specifically for that refractive index. I wrote a more detailed video blog post on this that may be helpful- AR coating are we looking at this wrong?
John: In our initial email you mentioned, “Most opticians and optometrists don't realize that AR is for increased transmission to the eye. They also don't realize that as refractive index goes up, reflection goes up. Therefore, AR coating becomes critical due to light loss to the eye.”
I know you do a lot of video-blogging and even some classroom presentations on AR to all kinds of groups. Now, I’m a little worried. I’m really curious what ECPs think AR is for, if it isn’t for increased light transmission. I mean, I have always taught—not sold—AR from the simple premise, “More light equals more sight.”
If you are hearing ECPs reducing AR to, “a sprayed on coating that reduces the ugly glare off the front of the lens,” who is to blame here and how do we get the right message out to ECPs?
Norm: I do a lot of ABO and a variety of other training around the country as you have said. My opinion is that we have a lot of very caring practitioners that are hungry for knowledge and training. I speak to 30 - year opticians that haven’t been given the proper training and knowledge. They get what I refer to as “tribal knowledge.” The optician or optometrist gave the person that taught them some information. The telephone game ensues and it eventually becomes a sprayed on coating that reduces the ugly glare off the front of the lens. A cosmetic effect.
In every case where we do AR training, AR sales go up dramatically. The knowledge of the how’s, why’s and the importance of AR coating lenses that are reducing light transmission is given. Then these people, who show up every day wanting to do a great job for their patients, do the rest. Knowledge is the key. I think robust training programs in all aspects of the optical business are missing.
John: I know it isn’t part of the process, but it is a result of the process. You cover an interesting fact during one of your video-blogs, Why Is AR Colored?. I can proudly say I knew the answer to that question! For those of you who don’t know, it is because we want to see a color as proof of the coating.
AR Myth: The color of the coating tells you about the quality of it.
AR Myth: An AR coating has to have a color.
AR Fact: The perfect AR would actually be clear.
John: Norm, thank you. This has been great and I learned a lot.
Dorothy: How do you talk if you don't have a brain?
Scarecrow: Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they?
Eyewear sales make up well over half of all revenue in the eyecare industry. So, why is it then that opticians receive so little in the way of compensation and respect?
Could it be they’re playing in the wrong sandbox?
Most opticians insist on playing in the medical sandbox. They’ve been told the medical sandbox is where they belong, and that respect and satisfaction are found in being a “medical professional.”
Of course, in the medical sandbox, the rules are made by ODs and OMDs, who happen to be some of the most [formally] educated people on the planet. Opticians might have a two-year degree? So, who is getting the respect and the salaries? That’s not to say doctors don’t deserve it; of course they do, but opticians are choosing to play in THEIR sandbox.
Some argue formal education requirements for opticians are the answer, but unless we’re talking 8-12 years of higher ed, opticians will always be the last kids to get picked.
So, let’s look at that first sentence again: “Eyewear sales make up well over half of all revenue in the eyecare industry.”
“...well over half...”
There’s another sandbox—a glorious sandbox! One in which 64% of the population wear eyeglasses. That’s over 200,000,000 people and $20,000,000,000 in the U.S. alone.
Not only is the eyewear sandbox bigger, it doesn’t require 8-12 years of higher ed for entry and opticians already have much of the knowledge needed to play with the big kids.
The industry would have you believe that eyewear is the medical sandbox. They have done their best to blur the lines over the years. Don’t believe it.
I’ll let you in on a little secret… people hate going to the doctor. The appointments, the stress, the fear, the discomfort, the wait; why would anyone (who is interested in selling glasses) associate eyewear and medical? Yes, the medical stuff is important and necessary, but leave that to the doctors.
The eyewear sandbox is where the cool kids are. It’s where people can breath, have fun and express themselves, without dread and fear associated with doctors’ appointments and medical devices
David Rips, President of Younger Optics discusses Camber lenses and Laramy-K Optical in the January 2015 edition of LabTalk magazine.
2014 saw the introduction of Camber, a revolutionary new digital lens technology developed by Younger Optics in partnership with IOT. Camber lenses are now being offered by a growing number of independent laboratories, most of whom market Camber lenses under a house brand of digital lens designs.
Independent laboratory Laramy-K Optical offers its brand, Integrity Freeform lenses, with Camber technology. Owner Janet Benjamin says, “We offer Camber lenses because they are simply the best technology in the market today. For Laramy-K, benefiting the wearer is the biggest benefit to us as a company.”
How does a Camber lens differ from a standard back-side digital progressive lens? It starts with an innovative new lens blank design, one that features a continuously increasing base curve from the top to the bottom of the lens. This helps to provide the appropriate base curve in each zone of the lens. Its sophisticated back surface digital design is enhanced with IOT’s Digital Ray-Path technology. Once processed, both surfaces work in tandem to create the Camber finished lens design, which offers expanded reading zones, improved peripheral vision, and a more cosmetically appealing (flatter) finished lens shape. A wearer [and master optician] in Israel writes, “I am amazed with this design. It feels just like single vision. There is absolutely no distortion at the edges. I think this is the best progressive I’ve had in 30 years.”
Camber lenses are available in five materials, in 8 base curves. NuPolar and Transitions Signature styles are also available.
President, Younger Optics
Raymond Opticians uses a clever background for pictures of their customers in their new frames. They create something "shareable" for their customers, making easy for them to tell their friends how awesome their optician is. Have you thought about doing something similar? You can be creative and come up with something that matches the personality of your business and email the picture directly to your customers, so they can share it online. Better yet, take several photos of frames they like, encourage them to have their friends vote on their favorites, and even offer a discount for the winning frame. You provide your customers with a unique experience and them made it easy them to talk about.
I might put the company name/logo (and definitely add the website) directly on the backdrop, eliminating the need for any post-editing, streamlining the process. Do you have any ideas to make this one even better?
Value comes from scarcity, something commodities, by definition, don’t have. Commodities are ubiquitous, easy to find, say, online. However, when a commodity is tied to an experience, a memory, or an individual or group identity, suddenly it’s valuable, priceless even. Stories and experiences create a value that scarcity alone cannot, a value that even has the power to change lives. And you know what’s more? People (aka customers) love to talk about great stories and amazing experiences. What great stories or experiences have you heard or are you creating for your customers around eyewear and optical services?
Seth Godin recently wrote a short piece on producers and consumers. In it he noted,
In the short run, it's more fun to be a consumer. It sure seems like consumers have power. The customer is always right, of course. The consumer can walk away and shop somewhere else.
In the long run... the smart producer wins, because the consumer comes to forget how to produce. As producers consolidate (and they often do) they are the ones who ultimately set the agenda.
This got me thinking, Have opticians forgotten how to produce, how to handcraft frames, how to make repairs, how to artfully edge a pair of lenses, how to add value and personal touches to a pair of glasses, how to create a meaningful and enjoyable experience for their customers? Have opticians become little more than consumers (and passers on) of disposable frames, ready-made eyewear, and corporate marketing? If so, is it any wonder consolidating corporations call the shots, and customers see fit to bypass opticians all together?
He concludes with,
The more you produce and the more needs you meet, the more freedom you earn.
I would also add that while we (humans) tend to look for fulfillment in consumption; we are much more likely to find it in creating, producing, and contributing to the lives of those around us.
Through August 15, Vision Monday is accepting your votes for LabTalk's 2014 Optical Laboratory Website of the Year. We're hoping you'll consider voting for us 'cause we have a sweet bike and we're like the only kids at school with a mustache, not to mention our nun-chuck skills, bow hunting skills, and computer hacking skills. Just go to http://visionmonday.com/, wait for the annoying pop-up, and click to vote for your favorite lab website. Heck yeah!
I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s spread across Facebook and the rest of the internet like a plague.
Every time I see it angers me. And it astounds me to see the people that perpetuate it.
When you buy from a small "mom and pop" business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college. Our customers are our shareholders, and THEY are the ones we strive to make happy.
Thank you for supporting small businesses!
What’s wrong, you ask? What could possible be more American than supporting small business? Now, obviously, I support small business. We are a small business. ALL of our customers are small businesses. Small businesses represent everything that has made and continues to make America great. In fact, supporting and empowering small businesses in the face of competition from large corporations is central to what we stand for and what we do every day.
Unfortunately, the implication that by supporting big business you are supporting greed and by supporting small business you are supporting all that is good and pure is not only wrong, but dishonest and divisive. Do people really believe that more than half of Americans employed by large corporations don’t have families to support, children to feed, and mortgages to pay? Or that all small business owners are altruistic and self-sacrificing? I can assure you they are not. There is good and bad in businesses of all sizes. But, I like to think in most cases the good far outweighs the bad. The truth is, large corporations are just as important to dads trying to pay for dance lessons, moms trying to pay the mortgage, and couples hoping to retire one day, as are “Mom and Pops.”
Lines have been drawn in our own industry like so many others: the independents on one side, the mega-corps on the other. There is unquestionably a market out there for both. But, when the glaring difference is size and demonization of Big-[insert your favorite industry here] is so popular, it becomes tempting to fall into the trap of “big is bad.” In reality, it’s truly not the size that matters. Businesses large and small come with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. It boils down to what matters to you, what you need and want for yourself and your business, and who can best deliver.
We don’t ask you to support our small business because of our size. We prefer to stand on our own merit, toe-to-toe with the big guys, and ask you to support us because of who we are, what we stand for, the connections we share, and the unique value we can provide. There will always be a market for the small and unique, just as there will always be a market for the big and ubiquitous. In the meantime, I hope we (small business) can come up with a more positive message to spread through the internets.
Chances are you are struggling to get much traction with your social media efforts. Many ECPs are getting involved in social media, but it seems the overwhelming majority are still having a hard time figuring out how to best utilize it. You do have social media efforts right? Anyway, about six weeks ago, I came up with a viral idea to not only drive social media engagement for ECPs, but increase in-store activity as well.
I started to put together an article and then well, it got put on the back burner. Last Friday, I came across an ECP already implementing it! So, now I feel a little late to the game. Perhaps, you have already thought of the idea, but I like it so much, I want to share it. So, here it is:
You know how much people love their pets. Take a look: who can’t help but fall in love with these dogs in their glasses? Now think of how you could use photos of dogs in glasses, customer’s dogs in glasses, and even customers together with their dogs, both in their new glasses; in your store, on your website, and in your social media. If you are able to capture your own images, your customers will share them with their friends. If you are able to capture great or creative images, they could be shared far beyond. Think Pinterest.
Social Media Tip: If you’ve gone through the trouble to create original images or content, first post them to your website or blog, only then pin them or share them across your social media channels. Do not post them directly to your social media pages. The idea is to build upon your owned media assets, then use social media to spread the word and direct people back to your hub.
If you are so inclined, there is even a nice line of glasses designed specifically for dogs, by dog lovers called, Doggles.
I could see a campaign, a section of the store, or even an entire store centered on the concept. However far you want to take it, great images are key. You might even consider making a deal with a local photographer, host and event, or have a contest, be creative!
Here is the ECP I mentioned: Spec Optical Nashville. You can see what they've done with their store front on their Facebook page. They are even involving animal charities as part of their promotion; another great idea!
What do you think?
In addition to May Day, May the Fourth (Star Wars Day), Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, and my wife's birthday, May is also Healthy Vision Month. Millions of people live with undetected vision problems, eye diseases, and chronic conditions. Healthy Vision Month was created to promote eye health, the importance of eye exams for the early detection and treatment of various diseases, and proper eye safety practices.
Below is a list of conditions that can be uncovered during an eye exam.
Common Eye Diseases:
• Macular Degeneration
• Retinal Detachment
• Dry Eye
• Corneal Degeneration
Systemic Diseases That Can Be Detected During An Eye Exam:
• Hypertension – High Blood Pressure
• Hypercholesterolemia – High Cholesterol
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Graves Disease
• Herpes Simplex/Herpes Zoster infections
• Carotid Stenosis – a narrowing of the carotid artery and a risk factor for strokes
The NIH has put together a list of educational resources aimed an increasing awareness of eye health and related conditions here: http://www.nei.nih.gov/hvm/education/
I recently came across this post on Google+.
Shocking service from an optician who has just sent me an email saying please don't post negative things about us as it drives small businesses to the wall... then please get your act together and start delivering what you promise...
This optician chose not to shine. He failed to listen to his customer’s complaint and shifted blame, caring only about how her comments affected his business. Really? A better move would have been to apologize (even of the customer is off base), then offer to take conversation offline to make things right. If handled the right way, his screw-up could have turned into a positive opportunity for him and his business. Instead he has negative comments to deal with.
Customers expect consistency and usually something close to perfection. At the very least, they expect to get what they are promised. Sometimes in business we fail to meet expectations. Let’s face it, as Forrest Gump said, “it happens” and even the best of us screw up from time to time. Fortunately, screwing up can be your chance to shine. Not delivering on customer expectations can be a huge opportunity to showcase why the customer made the right decision in choosing you to begin with and why she should not only continue to do business with you, but recommend you to her friends.
When you screw up, you are no longer talking about a routine transaction, you now have your customer’s full attention. It’s up to you what you do with it. You can dismiss the problem because it’s too much trouble or shift the blame to your customer. Or you can correct the problem, show them you care, and surprise them by exceeding their expectations. In doing so, you may gain a customer for life, and if you surprise her enough she may talk about it to her friends or post her experience online. Of course, surprising your customers in this way shouldn’t only happen when you screw up, it just provides an excellent opportunity to do so. The key to pulling it off, is that you actually have to care; care enough to listen to customer complaints and then care enough to go the extra mile to make things right.
Not long ago, an optician customer began to notice a consistent problem with prism in our freeform product. The deviations were only around a two to three degrees and maybe .25 diopters. His patients hadn't noticed, but the fact that he was seeing the problem only in freeform, and that it was occurring consistently made him uneasy. He brought the problem to our attention and we began to look into it.
We had no other complaints nor were we seeing anything on our end. But this optician, like so many of our customers, is among the best at what he does and we respect his expertise. He demands perfection not only because he is accountable to the doctor, but he wants his customers to have the best possible vision (and look good doing it).
So we had challenge. This is what get us up in the morning.
We had just purchased the AR Dual Lens Mapper and saw an opportunity to run it though its paces. We used the lens mapper to analyze his Rxs and troubleshoot our processes. We changed our polish, swapped out our cutting bits, and made minute adjustments to our generator. We even processed a set of test lenses and sent them to Germany for analysis.
After three months of troubleshooting and our customer trying other labs, the issue had improved, but remained unresolved. To cover all his bases, the optician sent his B&L lensmeter out for refurbishment. Adjustments were made to the lensmeter and from that point on his problems cleared up.
The optician called, told us about his lensmeter, and apologized.
We refused his apology and thanked him.
No matter the outcome, his complaint and especially his willingness to work with us to get it sorted out, enabled us to improve our process, become better at what we do, and ultimately provide better service to our customers that demand more. In doing so, we earned the trust of a valued customer.
The point of all this is not to brag, but to show how the part of your job that can be the most difficult, customer dissatisfaction, can be the most beneficial to your business. Complaints let you know your customer still cares and wants to do business with you. Most people are reluctant to complain and would rather just take their business elsewhere. Look at a complaint as found gold. In fact, encourage customers to complain, let them know you are open to it and want their feedback, then seize the opportunities to become even better at what you do. Yes, there are people that live to complain and will never be happy. Often, it is better to rid these people from your business (or life). But, don’t let yourself become so jaded that you can’t find and appreciate the gifts that come in the form of complaints. While we strive for no complaints, we are grateful for our customers that take the time to let us know how we can improve.
Our friend John Seegers has taken his education site for opticians to another level. With a site redesign, added content, videos, and more, eye care providers owe it to themselves to pay opticianworks.com a visit.
Here's a sample video from John's site.:
...when you can be anything that you want to.
Our new anthem. Enjoy...
Interested in using Facebook to connect with your customers and community to help drive your business? John Jantch of Duct Tape Marketing is hosting a free live webinar on Jan 21, 2010 to help you do just that.
Everyone knows Facebook has become a powerful business tool, right? Well, maybe, but what I find now is that most small businesses want to know how to tap the power of this new platform with practical methods that get results. I’ve rounded up three Facebook and social media experts and put together a free live Facebook training session just to help small businesses that are new to Facebook or those that want to find ways to make Facebook pay for business and take it to the next level.
Visit the Duct Tape Marketing Blog for more information and to reserve your spot.
How do you handle no-shows? Dr. Neil Gailmard, editor of Optometric Management’s Tip of the Week points out this seemingly innocuous policy decision is a window to the core of your customer service philosophy. Do you let them slide? Do you give them stern warnings? Threaten or even charge them penalty fees? Or do you use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your extraordinary customer service?
The vast majority of ECPs don't get it. They think they are good at customer service, but once staff members begin to protect the practice from unfair treatment by the public, you go down a slippery slope. The office culture changes and the focus is no longer on showing patients how much you care. You end up perilously close to the same behavior we see in most healthcare offices: horrible customer service!
Fits right in with my philosophy on customer vs. patient.
Nothing is more powerful in growing your business than word of mouth. So, after you’ve knocked your customers’ socks off with your unforgettable brand of customer service, give them a couple of gift certificates (for your store, of course) to be shared only with friends. You’ll be giving them the opportunity to give their friends a gift and a good recommendation.
I stopped in at a local OD's office today. Last month she ran a "cash for clunkers" promotion. She offered $100.00 off a new pair of glasses for patients that brought in an old pair to be donated to the Lion's Club. Today she reported her promotion resulted in a 41% increase in revenue for the month. All she did to promote it was send this email to her patient list. Not bad for this time of year given the current state of the economy.
Excitement is growing as we are finally installing the latest digital surfacing technology from Schnieder, allowing us to produce the newest “freeform” progressives and individualized single vision lenses. In-house production of “freeform” progressives will initially include Shamir Autograph, Autograph II, Element, and Seiko Succeed.
In-house digital surfacing will also allow us the flexibility to offer any coating combination currently available from LKO on all digitally surfaced lenses, including Zeiss Carat Advantage and ICE clear AR. Incremental digital production will begin in November with full production ready by the end of the month.