Transitions 2008 Lab of the Year

By Christie Walker
When Transitions Optical, Inc. named Balester Optical the 2008 U.S. Transitions Lab of the Year at the 13th annual Transitions Academy held in Orlando, it made Balester one of only three labs—Balester Optical, Toledo Optical, and Soderberg Ophthalmic Services— in the history of the award to win this honor twice. Earlier in the month, Balester Optical was at the Essilor National Sales Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif. where they picked up Essilor’s Lab of the Year award as well.

Winning both awards in the same year tells you a little about how Balester promotes their products. “We have been committed to the Varilux and Transitions brands since their inception. We cross promote and incentivize both products,” said Dale Parmenteri, vice president, Balester optical, who accepted the award on behalf of the lab – dedicating it to Fritz Balester, former president and chairmen of the lab, who passed away in January.

“We’ve had a lot of success with Transitions lenses – in part because it’s a great product, but also because it’s an integral part of everything we do. Our growth is a result of all of our programs and a true team effort, and we thank everyone at Balester and Transitions for their continued support,” said Parmenteri. Balester Optical is an independent, family-owned, full-service optical laboratory located in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. producing 868 jobs per day with 89 employees. Throughout 2008, Balester incorporated Transitions into every message it offered to its customers, including major promotional and educational initiatives. The lab’s hard work paid off, resulting in a 12 percent increase in sales of Transitions lenses over 2007.

How They Did It

Practice management education was a main focus for Balester. In addition to extensive internal training, the lab presented over 200 Transitions Optical’s Learn and Earn modules to approximately 345 ECPs throughout 2008. Balester felt so strongly about providing this level of education to its customers that the lab even made Transitions Learn and Earns a mandatory part of its incentive program – encouraging each of its representatives to conduct at least one Transitions module a week. Additionally, all of Balester’s representatives are American Board of Opticianry (ABO)-certified speakers.

Balester also participated in all of Transitions Optical’s programs and promotions in 2008, offering several unique promotions of its own to its customers. One of the most successful promotions was the Dispenser Award Program.

“It may not be sexy; however we have run a dispenser reward program giving a point coupon to the ECP for every pair sold that can be redeemed for merchandise online. These point coupons serve as a daily reminder keeping the brand in their minds and we have run the program for over 10 years,” Parmenteri explained.

“However,” Parmenteri added. “Our practice management education is probably the biggest reason for our increase. We teach our ECPs to make Transitions part of their daily message and give them the ability to demonstrate the product and handle objections. We are currently educating them on how to offer Transitions with AR as the first pair and polarized lenses for their second.”

Winning awards is nice but it doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t impact the overall health of the business. “Keeping our business healthy and providing for our employees is what’s most important. Our goal is to sell Transitions with AR across all the brands we distribute because it is the best vision solution for the patient and for the ECP’s financial health as well. If successful, our lab benefits financially. It is always better for the bottom line to sell premium products with AR; however, operating costs in 2008, particularly shipping, utilities, pension and healthcare changed so drastically. Marketing premium products like Transitions and Varilux with AR is the way we pay our bills,” said Parmenteri.

What are Balester Optical’s plans for 2009? Parmenteri responded, “Survival! Between the increased competition from vendor-owned laboratories and the economy, partnering with the right brand partners is more important then ever!” Amen!

Finalists for the 2008 U.S. Transitions Lab of the Year award also included Optical Prescription Lab, Pelham, Ala., and Soderberg Ophthalmic Services, Minneapolis, Minn. During the recognition ceremony, Transitions named the winners of the sixth annual Lab of the Year award in Brazil – Ceprolab – and Latin America – Centro Integral Óptico. Transitions also announced that a Lab of the Year program will be implemented for Europe beginning in 2009, with the first annual winner announced during the 2010 Transitions Academy.

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May/June LabTalk 2017