What Do Independent ECPs Want From Their Labs?
What do independent eye care practitioners want from their labs? Having asked this question of dozens of ECPs over the years, I'd say most are looking for great product selection, outstanding service, superior quality and education—and they want it all at competitive prices.
That may seem like a tall order, but remarkably, many labs routinely meet, and even exceed, these tough requirements. That's why you'll find that behind every successful eye care practice is a top notch lab.
For L&T's 2011 Wholesale Lab Usage MarketPulseSurvey, published in the September issue of 20/20 magazine, we polled 148 respondents to find out how they are utilizing the products and services offered by their labs. The results again illuminate the multi-faceted role labs play and underscoretheir importance not only as suppliers of products but as true business partners for ECPs.
- Over 8 out of 10 (81.8 percent) of locations work with more than one wholesale lab.
- 40.5 percent expect to do more business with wholesale labs in the coming year, which is 3.1 percentage points more than last year.
- Online is the method used most to order products. Telephone is the second most used method.
- The factors that were rated 'very important' in selecting a wholesale lab are based on the quality of services more so than the characteristics of the labs themselves (e.g. ownership). The factors in selecting a lab considered very important by most are lens surfacing quality (94.6 percent), lens finishing quality (94.6 percent), lens coating quality (92.6 percent), product turn around time (89.2 percent), and quality of drill mounting (89.2 percent).
- The majority of locations purchase spectacle lenses (89.2 percent) and surfaced lenses (73.6 percent) from their primary lab.
- The services provided most often by the respondent's primary lab were lens product information (94.6 percent), online ordering (89.9 percent), and technical support (85.8 percent).
- Most labs that sell spectacle lenses offer online ordering; however, 61.7 percent of respondents have never sent in frame tracing data with an online order (see slide 39).
- Only 38.3 percent of respondents have ever sent in frame tracing data with an online order.
For more information or to purchase the complete 2011 Wholesale Lab Usage MarketPulse Survey contact Jennifer Zupnick at Jzupnick@jobson.com or visit www.jobsonresearch.com.—Andrew Karp, editor, Lab Advisor
Central Optical Featured on
Moving America Forward
Central Optical owner and president, Lloyd Yazbek was recently featured on an episode of Moving America Forward, a television program that highlights innovative, entrepreneurial companies. Host William Shatner and moderator Doug Llewelyn interviewed Yazbek, pictured here, who explained how the Youngtown, Ohio-based lab produces digital lenses and educates its customers about their advantages.
The program will run on the cable channel, American Life, on December 16 at 9 a.m.; check local tv guide for listings. Click here to see it on YouTube.
Icare Labs Intros Private Label Legacy Series
With the addition of a digital surfacing department, IcareLabs has begun producing the Legacy series, a line of competitively priced, private label digitally processed lenses. It consists of four types of lenses: Legacy, Legacy DRP, Legacy SV and Legacy Office.
According to Icare, the Legacy DRP achieves an optimal balance between different fields of vision, utilizing back and front surfaces to allow up to 35 percent more vision. The Legacy DRP adapts lens characteristics to compensate for all the variables which affect final vision quality. It offers high resolution, crisp vision, and larger visual fields.
Superior Optical's Hal Walker
By Judith Lee
Today's optical lab has to push ahead just to stay where it is, and often as not, that also means scaling a steep learning curve, says Hal Walker of Superior Optical.
"Maintaining the 'status quo' has never been more challenging, especially in what many would say is a down market. We are having numerous discussions concerning social media, and the impact it will have for all of us in this industry," observed Walker, who proclaims himself one of the "old-timers" who are not social media savvy.
He noted that all optical labs face this issue, and have two options: hire an outside social media agency, or look within to younger staff members for marketing ideas.
"Like it or not, if you intend to keep your head above water you are going to have to make the plunge in this new age of marketing," Walker said.
That's not to say the Ocean Springs, Miss. lab shies away from new challenges. In the last two years, Superior installed an AR process, became a Crizal facility, and is in the process of going digital.
"Going digital was a hard decision in light of the current economic environment. But we are very bullish on the future of digitally produced products, and educating our account base on the benefits of a digitally produced lens will be the focus for the upcoming year," Walker noted.
With successful outcomes under their belt, Walker believes that optical labs should look upon the learning curve as a necessary growth experience.
"It's always hard, and if you can remember this and commit to getting through, it will be ultimately worth every headache and PR problem you are certain to experience. You will learn how to trouble shoot and get the work out—priceless for producing a good product," he explained.
Superior has cross-trained employees on the new equipment and technology so they can retain their positions. The payoff for the lab is a trained and flexible workforce.
"Our employees are excited and proud to be part of a lab that is keeping the pace in this age of high technology and we will do our best to retain these trained people," Walker said.
Walker promised several "out of the box" initiatives in 2012 that he's not ready to reveal. Just like the surprising times in which we live, Superior Optical strives to no longer resemble its former self: "We are in a new age and doing business the usual way is passé. If you intend to survive in today's market you will have to implement some bold new strategies to attract new business, not to mention keeping the attention of your current account base."
LabTalk Spotlight: Optical Laboratory Web Sites...
What Makes a Winner
By Christie Walker
Most optical laboratories are a behind-the-scenes operation. The lab isn't visible to the consumer, and in most cases, it's not visible to the ECP either. An order is sent and "magically" a prescription is filled. Most consumers don't even realize there is a lab somewhere that filled their prescription. So what is the "face" or the "interface" of the optical laboratory? Many labs will tell you it's their customer service department, and that would be true. But with online ordering and more doctors connecting electronically for their medical records, another interface between lab and doctor is the lab's Web site.
When LabTalk handed out the first Optical Laboratory Web Site of the Year award back in 2000, many of the sites were little more than billboards. Today, the sites are virtual store fronts with pages and pages of useful information and tools to make life easier for the ECP.
Looking to improve your site and make it into the top ten? Read the full article to find tips for making that leap from a billboard to a storefront at: labtalkonline.com and go to the FEATURES section where you will find this complete article.