As far as relationships go, one of the most important ones you will establish in your career as an eyecare professional (ECP) is that between you and your lab. Although you are the one who needs to relate with your patients, it is the staff at the lab who will help you decide which lens is best, inform you about the newest products and keep your office educated so you can in turn share that information.
This will be one of the most valuable relationships you establish, and when you are loyal to your lab, the lab in return, will be loyal to you. This relationship benefits both parties and is sure to help boost sales, something upon which both you and your lab are focused. Although ECPs are dealing with the public and labs are interacting with ECPs, there is one common ground both parties share, growing robust sales. When the ECP sells, that means the lab sells, and one cannot do without the other.
Your lab will be there for you when you need point-of-purchase materials, educational pamphlets and even videos to play in your office. Your lab wants to make sure your office is fully equipped with all the materials that you need in order for your patients to understand what their lenses are doing for them.
As an ECP, you will occasionally run into a situation where maybe you’re not sure which lenses to put on your patient. Perhaps they have a few issues with their current ones and need some assistance in making a decision about their new lenses. That’s where the lab comes in. When you have that established relationship with your lab, they can and will help you with these kinds of decisions.
Sue Loving, a customer service representative at i-see Optical Lab in Blackwood, NJ, has been in the business for over 20 years. She explained how helping with lens decisions is a daily occurrence. “As a customer service representative, I help our ECPs with their lens decisions almost every day,” she said. “We have customers who rely heavily on our opinion and knowledge of the lenses and are encouraged to come to us with any questions they may have.”
In addition to manufacturing your lenses and putting together glasses for your patients, the most important part of the ECP/lab relationship is the education that the lab is there to provide to you and your staff in order to inform your patients what their lenses are doing or can do for them and their eyes.
Many labs offer programs for their ECPs to educate all the employees in the office about the newest products and technologies that are currently being offered. Like many labs, i-see Optical Lab offers its ECP customers a Lunch-and-Learn Program. This is a way for i-see Optical’s sales representative and lab manager to go into the ECP’s shop and educate the whole staff about products, technologies and how to sell them to their patients. These Lunch-and-Learn programs include free vouchers for all staff, with lunch provided by i-see Optical and even a few other goodies for the office.
Along with educating your staff, helping supply your office with point-of-purchase materials and assisting with product decisions, there is one more aspect that certainly ties all of these strategies together, and that is communication. This is how all of the above strategies tie together and work to form that beneficial relationship for both parties.
Scott Pearl, managing director of Digital Eye Lab in Hawthorne, NY, explained how his lab optimizes its relationships with its ECP customers. “Communication between the customer and the lab is the single most important controllable factor to success. The right combination of online visibility, dependable customer service and technical consulting provides the clearest path to enabling the laboratory to provide the best service it can.”
Rebeca Nicole, a customer service representative at i-see Optical, explained that when accounts call they always get a person on the phone and never a machine operator. “There is always someone here to answer the phone and assist our ECPs,” she said.
As far as relationships go in the eyecare industry, the relationship with your lab is the one that will be the most beneficial, for all of these various reasons plus others that are unique to you and your lab. When it comes down to it, your optical lab should always be there for you when you need them. They are your hub for all information optical, and they are there to help you . . . and ultimately, to help your patients as well.
Jaimee Palkovicz is marketing coordinator of i-see Optical Lab in Blackwood, NJ.
What eyecare professionals have to say about the lab relationship.
A recent Opti-Research survey of eyecare professionals asked respondents for their opinions on the following questions:
1. In addition to substantial price savings and better service and quality of work, what other favorable terms would you like to see regarding remakes?
2. What would it take for you to make a one- to two-year commitment to change your primary laboratory?
FAVORABLE TERMS REGARDING REMAKES
more flexibility with remakes based on volume with the lab
no need to send back unless necessary for lab to get credit as well
no shipping fees on remakes
rebates in the form of gift cards
warranty on coatings
need flexibility on remakes for fraction of difficult patients
asked, free remakes one time
decent terms for remakes whether doctor error or patient error
allow more than one remake per year
free on-time redo within 30 days for any reason
no charge for first optician and first doctor prescription change
unlimited redos, second pair discounts, special lens prices and package prices
multiple pair discounts, free one-time remakes
remakes are more important now; patients getting much more specific
flexibility on redo jobs if patient changes mind
as long as our redo rate doesn’t go over a certain percentage, then we want free redos
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO CHANGE LABS?
less wait on the phone when calling lab
guaranteed price reductions, proof of ability to produce top quality work in a timely manner and personalized customer service
a promise from the lab that they will adhere to their commitments and refunds/rebates/lens vouchers
not a sales pitch for a lens company to sell you more of their products
able to use tracer software with existing equipment; compatible with EMR
a faithful representative with great communication skills who cares about the business
good pricing on premium products, quick turnaround time, overnight delivery, competent customer service
as always, actions speak louder than words; quality of work as well as customer service
local area lab, not out of state or country
that some lab choices may be independent or that there would still be more than one lab choice
personal relationship with the director of the lab who can be reached by phone, email or text regarding jobs and advice
we have an excellent relationship with our current lab, which gives us excellent service and products; I cannot imagine what it would take to get us to change
the insurance companies require that you send to a specific lab even if the lab has terrible quality; would like more freedom to choose own lab