CANDID CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN VCPN’S ED DE GENNARO AND LEADING OPTICAL EXECUTIVES ABOUT THEIR PRODUCT STRATEGIES.
Joe Donahoe, Carl Zeiss Vision Inc.’s President, North America-Pacific, began his optical career in sales with Humphrey Instruments— now part of Carl Zeiss Meditec. He eventually became Carl Zeiss Meditec’s President of Sales in the Americas, assuming his current role at Carl Zeiss Vision in October 2010. Since that time, he has presided over the successful North American launch of i.Scription® by ZEISS and the expansion of the company’s free-form customized lens business. Here, he talks about how Zeiss’ key to success is having a customer-based and consultative sales approach.
Ed De Gennaro: What is Carl Zeiss Vision’s greatest strength?
Joe Donahoe: I think our brand stands for leadership in precision optics. Carl Zeiss has a long technological legacy, over 160 years. And while that’s a strong point for us, our commitment to serving our customers is our greatest strength. These two things must go hand-in-hand. We’re proud of the products and services we offer, but without a real commitment to our customers, we wouldn’t be the company we are today.
Our goal is to have a strong company that’s customer-focused and has a consultative sales approach.
EDG: Why was it important to have lenses that address higher-order aberrations?
JD: While it’s not possible to actually correct higher-order aberrations with an eyeglass lens, their effects can be taken into account as we design lenses with our proprietary free-form technology. That’s what our new i.Scription product does, providing the best input in the most advanced lens designs.
Higher-order aberrations affect vision significantly for patients at larger pupil sizes and subjective refraction is unlikely to neutralize those effects. To manage this, we use an aberrometer to analyze the higher order aberrations, and the i.Scription process refines the subjective refraction to provide the best balance of visual properties for all pupil sizes. Many patients experience improved night vision, contrast perception, and color perception. We look at it as a technology frontier and we’re on the forefront of it.
EDG: How are your i.Scription system and i.Scription lenses doing?
JD: We started shipping in December, and we’re already getting a tremendous response from the market. It’s still early and the peer-to-peer dialogue is just starting, but the doctors who are embracing the technology have been very successful with it.
We’re not just selling a single product—we’re selling the process and the product. That means we need to educate the customer on the unique benefits of the system and these lenses. It’s not as easy as simply walking in with a new lens design and asking them to carry it.
EDG: What trends do you see in the free-form lens market?
JD: It’s maturing rapidly and we’re seeing more differentiation among free-form products. For example, we offer three tiers, but I think the next few years will see most private practitioners adopting a customized design as their “go-to” progressive lens. I expect a significant increase in customized single vision lenses, too. They increase the wearer’s field of vision up to 50%, and it creates a new premium tier in the single vision category.
EDG: Some labs are producing private-label free-form lenses. What effect is this going to have on companies like yours?
JD: In terms of impact on Carl Zeiss Vision and other large manufacturers, we’ll continue to work with our customers to meet their needs. That means we might provide them with private-label designs, semi-finished progressives, and so on, so we’re certainly ready, willing and able to meet our customers’ needs. For example, VSP’s Reveal® has optics by Carl Zeiss.
To have a quality product, you need superior design, proper equipment, and a customization and fabrication process that is properly utilized to obtain top results. Some companies don’t have all these pieces of the puzzle, which means their outcomes are not what they should be getting. This results in lesser quality lenses being sold to the public.
EDG: What’s the future of anti-reflective (AR) lenses?
JD: We’ve seen steady growth in AR, but we’re certainly not at the 90% like some parts of Europe and Asia. The Vision Council indicates AR lenses are around 30% of the total lens market, while our labs have a 43% rate. Even so, I was at a practice recently that had AR numbers close to 80% of their total new lens sales, so it can be done. They bundle their products and spend a lot of time educating patients. If we look at getting to 80% or 90% penetration, that would be huge for the industry.
I think the real key is to educate patients who aren’t currently wearing AR lenses so they understand the significant vision benefits and the ease of care compared to older AR lenses. For us, it’s a growing and profitable segment.