Advice from Dr. Fill

By Michael DiSanto
Dr Fill is a famous TV laboratory psychologist whose latest book “Labs Who Struggle With Bipolarized Lenses” is number 1 on the lab bestseller list.

Laboratories are very good at telling their accounts what they need to do to be more competitive, but they are often not very good at following their own advice. They tell their accounts to hire well trained staff, but often fail to do the same for themselves.

Look at the critical area of laboratory customer service and even lab reps, the front line of any lab, how much training goes on here? It is probably safe to say that the majority of people in this key position are not American Board of Opticianry Certified, and that most customer service personnel have never dispensed a day in their lives. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem since their job does not require dispensing, but when we look at the industry as a whole we see that for the most part many dispensers themselves have had no formalized training either. In a dynamic industry where products, prices and availabilities change daily, dispensers are often overwhelmed by details. How much will it cost? What will my patient prefer? Which progressive lens is the best?

One thing hasn’t changed --- when in doubt, call the lab. The lab is viewed as the Grand Central Station of all things optical. The perception is that any and everything that has to do with the optical business at some point passes through the lab. As a result it seems like a logical conclusion to assume that someone in the lab, especially a front line person, should have a ready answer for any question. Unfortunately while this assumption may seem logical it may not always be accurate. The fact is that everyone in the lab has an opinion, some may have a suggestion, and someone may actually have the answer, but when neither side is a well trained dispenser the old adage of the “ blind leading the blind’ becomes the rule.

Let’s have Doctor Fill delve into this all too common industry dilemma.

Dr Fill to the Lab: “Now let me get this straight your success relies on an account base that is well trained…but the industry does not require formalized education… as a whole the industry is poorly trained … the schools cannot begin to handle the volume of training needed … manufacturers in general talk training but rarely provide it … and turnover is rampant … So how’s that working for you?”

This is where the audience gets a great laugh as the lab scratches its head and says:

“Gee shucks, since you put it that way I guess it is not working out at all.”

Dr. Fill then says, “I’m glad you finally figured that out.” As the cameras cut away Dr. Fill looks at the audience and says, “When we come back I’m going to tell the lab what they need to do in order to solve their problem.”

Okay. We’re back. The labs problem is that the lack of training on all levels is blowing a gapping hole in the bottomline. If your laboratory business were your car it seems as though, on a daily basis, you are turning your keys over to someone you already know can’t drive. That of course is a bad idea.

If you are a lab the first thing you have to do is stop restating the obvious and do something to change this negative trend. OLA is upon us and I’m sure there will be no shortage of complaining about how things would be better if those darned accounts only knew what they were doing. “Hello, earth to lab do you read me? Training is the answer and you are the trainer.”

We already know that the volume of training that we need isn’t coming from the schools or the industry itself. That pretty much only leaves divine intervention as an option, or in more earthly terms if you want to fix it, you the lab must become the trainer. You say “I’m the lab I’m not a school, that’s not my job.” Dr Fill then replies, “Your survival is your job and if you want to survive you must teach your staff and accounts what they need to know to flourish.”

Training should begin at home. Customer service (at least the ones on the phone) and outside reps should all be given ABO Certification Training, a few of the braver ones can actually even take the test. Whether they test or not isn’t the issue, but learning the optical material is. Now when optical questions are asked your people can answer in solid, proven optical language. If you are looking for an edge against the competition I would venture to say that a certified staff would be something to promote.

After some of the internal needs are met, the lab can really take a leadership role by providing similar training to its account base. Beyond the basics the lab can begin to mold its future by teaching accounts how they can be more profitable with the leading edge products that your lab provides. Use second pair sales as a case in point. A recent survey by industry leader Jobson has shown that the average practitioner (your account, the ECP you are counting on) lets over 80 percent of their business leave there office with only a single pair sale. So you are depending on accounts that sell one pair of glasses to each of their patients once every 2.7 years, and less than 75 percent of those glasses even have anti reflective lenses. Yes, I’d say your business is not realizing its full potential. It is time to admit that the days of a laboratory growing merely on its ability to meet ANSI Standards are gone. The keynote of both laboratory and practitioner success is partnership. The degree to which a laboratory can supply innovative, competition breaking tools such as deep training for its accounts is the degree to which that lab will achieve growth for itself and its customers.

Since the educational needs are universal, the laboratory has many outlets to provide these sessions. Some could be individualized and provided at the practice while other sessions could be addressed to a more universal level and provided either at the lab or at an off site location. Sessions could be tailored to a basic level for new personnel or of a more specific product oriented nature as needed. Depending on the resources of the laboratory, instructors could come from within or retained from an outside source, often a partner manufacturer. The industry’s need for constant education is a major reason to position yourself as a training resource.

The wise practitioner looks for the laboratory that can assist not only with product supply, but also with product success. Dr Fill is out of time so he looks at the audience and says that unfortunately there are not enough wise practitioners, but if you’ll tune in tomorrow he will teach you how to get the other practitioners that just don’t get it to wise up. Oh, and if you don’t have time to watch tomorrow’s show the answer is TRAINING.

MICHAEL DISANTO IS NO DR. FILL, BUT HE IS A FORMER LABORATORY MANAGER, AND AN INDEPENDENT INDUSTRY TRAINER WITH YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A FACILITATOR BETWEEN LABS AND THEIR ACCOUNTS. HE HAS WRITTEN THE TOPS DISPENSING MANUAL AS A TOOL FOR NEW DISPENSERS, AND HAS COMPILED A DEFINITIVE STUDY GUIDE FOR BOTH ABO AND ADVANCED ABO CERTIFICATION. QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS CONTACT HIM AT LENSMIKE@AOL.COM.

CURRENT ISSUE


May/June LabTalk 2017