Satisfaction Guaranteed

By John Art, Interstate Optical
One of the challenges facing many wholesale labs today is the huge expense associated with lens warranties. For our company, total warranty and doctor remakes are pushing 15 percent of sales. With these costs escalating over the past few years, the industry is grappling with a solution, and many are questioning whether today’s lens warranties have outlived their purpose.

Most of the warranties we have today were put in place for one of two reasons: 1) to encourage the use of new technology by minimizing the risk to the ECP and patient (progressive remake warranties), and 2) to validate performance claims of lens add-ons (scratch resistant coatings, AR coatings etc.).

Today, many labs have expanded on manufacturers’ warranties and added additional warranties of their own, often increasing the scope and time limits in order to gain a competitive advantage over other labs.

This focus on warranties as a sales tool has led to a more liberal attitude on warranties amongst ECP’s. We all know that even today’s super tough coated lenses will still scratch, yet we send a message that gets passed on to the consumer that they won’t – or we’ll replace them for free! This can only lead to a negligent attitude on the part of the consumer, and more importantly, to a devalued perception of eyeglasses in the eyes of the consumer. If anything at all goes wrong, you get a new pair for free. Glasses obviously must not cost much to make, and there must be a huge markup in the eyewear to afford such a liberal policy!

I believe all in the industry should be concerned about this evolution toward a potentially negative consumer perception of our product, which affects us all profoundly well into the future. Each of us in the industry realize the technology and detail that goes into producing a pair of eyewear today and to devalue this process and product through our warranty attitude is unacceptable. Some say the solution is to eliminate or reduce the scope of today’s lens warranties. I feel this would be a mistake. The warranties we offer (including doctor change remakes) were meant primarily to address the needs of the ECP. These specific and detailed policies define the lab’s procedures regarding most every conceivable situation relating to the quality and performance of the eyewear they produced. Naturally, these specific policies were then adopted by the ECP and relayed to the consumer without thought as to how the consumer perception of the eyewear would be affected.

We need to reposition our many individual warranties and develop an overall “consumer satisfaction guarantee.” We need a comprehensive joint education effort by all that addresses how warranties are explained to the consumer by the ECP.

As a lab owner, I am happy to support our customers with liberal product warranties to back up their needs, but rather than relaying the specifics and time frames of each individual aspect of our warranties to the consumer, we need to adopt the “satisfaction approach.” The strength of the independent ECP is their in-office care and after the sale service levels.

The late industry icon Joe Bruneni said it best in the Ophthalmic Dispensing Guide published by Optical Services International: “Explain to the patient that one of the goals of the office is that they be completely satisfied with both their eye care experience and their new eyewear. If they are ever dissatisfied or unhappy with their eyewear, they only need to let the office know and the situation will be made right. You are providing the best quality and highest technological products available and you stand behind them. If a problem arises with the patient, the ECP office can use the lens warranties that exist to back up any satisfaction issues.”

This method reinforces the fact that the ECP is providing excellent care and the latest technology products, focusing not on the possible problems associated with performance, but on the patient’s complete satisfaction with the best products we could supply them.

Our message should focus on the craftsmanship, care and detail that went into producing your eyewear and how you should properly care for these technological wonders. And if you have a problem with them or are dissatisfied in any way, we will take care if it!

John Art has been the president of Interstate Optical since 1995. You can reach John at ja@interstateoptical.com.

CURRENT ISSUE


May/June LabTalk 2017