PRODUCT ROUNDTABLE WITH OPTICAL PROFESSIONALS ON: ELECTRONIC ORDERING
AS EYECARE PROFESSIONALS (ECPS) BECOME INCREASINGLY MORE COMFORTABLE WITH COMPUTERS, SOFTWARE, AND THE INTERNET, THEY ARE TURNING TO ELECTRONIC ORDERING TO HELP MAKE THEIR BUSINESSES MORE PRODUCTIVE AND EFFICIENT. WHILE SOME ARE STILL NOT USING ELECTRONIC ORDERING, OTHERS HAVE EMBRACED IT TO A SUBSTANTIAL DEGREE. SUCH IS THE CASE FOR THE THREE ECPS IN THIS MONTH’S FORUM ON ELECTRONIC ORDERING.
Amy Lewis, Owner, Eyeworks of Millis, LLC, Millis, MA
Robert Martinez, Owner, Palo Alto Eyeworks, Palo Alto, CA
Sharon Leonard, Optician and Contact Lens Practitioner, Eye Care of CNY, Syracuse, NY
Please provide a brief description of your business and how electric ordering fits in.
Lewis: My business is located in a relatively rural setting that serves a primarily middle-class, blue-collar clientele with a significant population of older residents. It’s a family-oriented shop that can take care of patients aged 2 to 102. Ninety percent of my lens ordering is done online and about 50% of my frame ordering is done online.
Martinez: My office is positioned for middle-to-upper-middle-class clientele. This works because my competitors are positioned at the high end. Our patients consist of college students, professors, and others from middle age to seniors. About 50% of my total ordering is done online.
Leonard: My office has many patients who are state employees with great vision benefits and a lot of fashion-oriented “self-pays” who want something that is different from the usual “big-box” offerings. This is not a major urban center, so we offer the “city stuff” in an environment where it’s not usually available. Clientele includes a broad spectrum from kids to grandparents and professional to blue-collar workers. The office orders about 90% of items online.
Why kind of items do you order online?
Lewis: Almost all of my lab work is ordered through the DVI system (Digital Vision, Inc.’s Rx Wizard™). The system gives me the opportunity to see what my lens options might be for a patient regarding materials available, fitting heights, whether a particular progressive is available in a brown polarized lens, for example. I can instantly transmit the job when I have completed the order and not have to “wait on hold” for the next available agent to assist me.
Martinez: Eighty percent of our surfaced and stock lenses are ordered online. We find that we don’t have as many human errors, communication challenges, or transposition errors; and online programs can’t put us on hold. Once you adjust to the program, you can place orders very quickly and accurately. I also find that if you order by phone, some accents can create problems. Online ordering avoids that situation.
Leonard: We order through VisionWeb directly to our local lab(s) for most of our non-insurance clients. For Vision Services Plan (VSP) or EyeMed Vision Care, all of the ordering is done online. We order things like frames, lenses, anti-reflective treatments, cases, cleaners, cleaning cloths, screws, nosepads, and other inventory replacement purchases.
What is your favorite electronic order site?
Lewis: Safilo USA is my favorite frame site to order from. They have a very easy-to-navigate Web site with large photos that show each frame color and whether or not the frame is in stock. I can add frames to my “daily order” and know that the order will be submitted that day at 2:00pm and I’ll have it the next day.
Martinez: VisionWeb and Nassau Lens West are the two sites that I tend to use the most. With VisionWeb, I can also add labs that are on its list as well as frame suppliers, although they have more labs than frame supplies on the list.
Leonard: We use VisionWeb for most lens ordering. The interface is user-friendly and you can use this platform for multiple labs. The drop-down menus let you know exactly what is available from that particular lab. For insurance patients, we are using the VSP Eyefinity site. It offers many options, including purchasing frames that will be drop-shipped directly to the VSP lab, which is a great time saver and it keeps the frame board from being depleted. EyeFinity can also process other claims including Medicare.
What are the major advantages of ordering electronically?
Lewis: The ability to order online is a tremendous help to me because my shop is closed on Mondays. I can place my frame and lens orders on Saturday and know they will be processed Monday morning. I don’t lose a day because I have job trays sitting on my desk until Tuesday.
Martinez: The system is so simple, it saves time, and you’re not put on hold, which can really waste a lot of time for a busy office. You can also double check your orders before clicking the send button.
Leonard: It eliminates phone errors, and you can go back and review what was entered before submitting the order. The order remains in the archives, so you can go back and use it again in case of loss or damage to the eyewear. Most sites generate a packing slip so shipping is a breeze! Also, almost all sites enable you to check order status, so you know if it’s been shipped, on backorder, etc.
What are the disadvantages you see with electronic ordering?
Lewis: Unfortunately, I will occasionally order something from my lab that can’t be done, i.e., a particular coating on a certain type of lens. Also, some frame manufacturers do not tell you if a frame is not in stock at time of order so I am forced to call when it doesn’t arrive as anticipated.
Martinez: The only disadvantage to ordering surfaced work with a lab through certain sites is that when you find an error after sending the order, you can’t retrieve it for corrections. You need to call the lab to make the changes.
Leonard: None–unless the site is down.
Do you have optical software that allows you to electronically order optical products and services online?
Lewis: I have no specific software, I go directly to the manufacturer’s site.
Martinez: We do not have optically specific software. There are many frame suppliers that allow ordering directly from their site: Safilo, Marchon Eyewear, MODO Eyewear, ProDesign Eyewear, Inc., and Bollé are just a few. They also provide a confirmation number and send an e-mail after an order, which makes tracking orders easy. The cost for some software is too costly because you have to buy the entire software package. They usually have more modules in it than you need, not to mention the maintenance fees.
Leonard: Yes, through OfficeMate®.
What’s keeping you from doing 100% electronic ordering?
Lewis: There are times when I appreciate being able to reach out and ask questions. It could be a consultation with someone at my lab or someone to help describe a frame color. While I like the ease of online ordering, I want the option of having someone I could speak with.
Martinez: If all our suppliers had a site to order from, I would use online ordering more often.
Leonard: Some frame companies and Rx laboratories are not onboard yet with online ordering, and that makes 100% online electronic ordering a “no-go” with those vendors.