LAS VEGAS—Rapid changes in technology and shifting consumer expectations are two key elements driving a reassessment of the retail customer experience, a group of speakers at VM LIVE’s “Customer X 360” session explained. The program, presented by Vision Monday and held here at the start of Vision Expo West, offered a standing-room only crowd of optical retailers and suppliers the perspectives of Michael Kling, OD, of San Diego-based Invision Optometry, Peter Bridgman of LensCrafters NA and Stephen Crossland of the 3D capture and imaging company Fuel3D.

The Supporting Sponsor for the Sept. 14 VM LIVE event was ACEP/ABS Smart Mirror. The session was designed to demonstrate “how technology intersects with the practice of optometry and how technology is changing this dynamic today,” Marc Ferrara of Jobson Medical Information said in his welcoming remarks.

There is no doubt that technology plays a much larger role in all aspects of retail today, and it is beginning to make more of an impact on the vision care customer experience, noted Jobson group editor Andrew Karp in his introduction of the speakers. The mix of advanced technologies, data management and new presentation elements are combining to raise customer experience in vision care to new levels.

“The interesting thing about CX is that it’s so varied,” Karp said. “There is a lot of science involved, and there’s a lot of art involved, also.”

Crossland set the stage for the discussion with his comments about where Fuel3D sees the “next industrial revolution” playing out in product design. The next revolution will center upon the combination of custom manufacturing and scalability. Crossland noted that before the first industrial revolution all products were custom-made and tailored to the individual, whether it was shoes, suits or eyewear.

“What we’re really talking about today when we say the ‘next industrial revolution’ is a combination of [mass production and customization],” he said. “It’s customization that retains the scalability of manufacturing and retains the low cost of goods.”

The advent of 3D scanning is a key factor in making customization more accessible, and eyewear is one area that will be impacted, he said. The three areas where he expects changes are three-dimensional virtual try-on, custom fit and 3D manufacturing.

Moving from the theoretical to the practical, Dr. Kling provided an overview of his recently redesigned practice location in San Diego, an 8,000-square-foot location with 25 employees, including four ODs. The redesign required about three years of planning and another year of construction work, and was completed in April, he said.

He said the impetus for the redesign came from the realization that the practice was not branded very well. “Our brand was very undefined, and we had inconsistencies in the brand that needed to be addressed,” he said.

Among the major changes in design was the elimination of the front desk area, which, he joked, “is where everything bad that ever happened has happened.” To replace the front desk, the practice now has a coffee bar with a greeter.

Other changes include the addition of new wood and glass shelves for displaying frames, creation of a more open environment that provides patients the space they need to shop, and moving the “operations” part of the business to the back of the practice in a section of private rooms.

By moving the operations element, it “created a calmness in the front,” he explained. He also added a new conference room area for “collaboration” meetings, he said, which turned out to be a fantastic investment.

LensCrafters is working on a redesign to make the stores more modern and “open” looking, and a shift away from the clinical look,” Bridgman said. “Today’s patients want convenience, but they also want a unique experience. One way LensCrafters is addressing this is by making improvements to its customer relationship management programs.”

Bridgman, who has a background in health care, also said changes in health care, driven by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other factors, will play a bigger role in the eyecare experience for patients going forward. Preparing for these changes will be critical.

“We’re in an evolution, and changes in health care demand that we evolve,” he said. “As we think about the evolution of LensCrafters, we want to be a health care company and prioritize vision care for a more discernible shopping American. We’re looking at the left and the right, and surrounding the patient with care and product experience.”

This has resulted in a greater focus on doctor quality perception, the wider use of technology, and a reduction in the number of frames that are displayed, he said.

Michael A. Kling, OD
Invision Optometry

Michael A. Kling, OD is owner and CEO of Invision Optometry, a private optometric practice located in San Diego, California. Dr. Kling recently relocated his practice to a new, 8,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility setting a new standard in office design, health care efficiency and patient experience. Invision Optometry embodies the future of eyecare delivery and recognizes the importance for independent practices to remain relevant in an ever changing health care market.

He is a founding member and past president of Refractive Management Services Corporation, a refractive surgery management company, and was formerly a Clinical Director of the TLC Laser Eye Center in La Jolla, Calif. (now Nvision Laser Eye Centers). He frequently lectures and provides consultative services for his practice management company, Impact Leadership.

Dr. Kling earned his Doctor of Optometry degree, with honors, from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn., and went on to complete his residency training in Ocular Disease at Omega Eye Care Center in Jackson, Tenn.

Peter Bridgman

Pete Bridgman is senior vice president and general manager for LensCrafters, the world’s leading optical retail chain and anchor division of the Luxottica Group. He is responsible for the brand, product, innovation, customer service, people and technology strategies for the nearly 1,000-store retailer with locations across the U.S. and Canada, including shop-in-shop LensCrafters’ locations opening in select Macy’s Department Stores in 2016.

Bridgman transitioned to LensCrafters in 2016 after two years as senior vice president and general manager of Luxottica’s Pearle Vision. Under his leadership, Pearle Vision’s franchise licensed-operator value saw significant growth, establishing the brand as a neighborhood eyecare solution for independent doctors.

Before Pearle Vision, Bridgman was vice president of strategy and innovation for EyeMed Vision Care, Luxottica’s managed vision care division. In his three years with EyeMed, the organization extended the reach of managed vision care to more customers and patients and he elevated EyeMed’s brand as the fastest-growing vision benefits company in the U.S.

Before joining Luxottica, Bridgman was a noted strategy consultant, specializing in corporate growth, new product development and health care operations. He was a principal with Booz & Company in Chicago.

Stephen Crossland

Stephen Crossland is vice president, enterprise sales for Fuel3D. He has been with Fuel3D since the beginning and brings many years of sales and marketing experience.

Previously working with a Fortune 500 company in the medical sector, Crossland now heads-up Fuel3D’s Enterprise activities in North America and works with clients to identify and develop market-leading custom 3D applications.

The company’s advanced, proprietary technology can improve the fitting of eyewear. Originally developed in Oxford University, Fuel3D’s technology allows companies to utilize cost-effective, fast and accurate 3D image capture to improve existing practices, provide enhanced services to customers and gain advantages in their markets. The technology captures images at a speed faster than a tenth of a second and offers a unique capability for scanning organic subjects and capturing highly accurate data.