By Christie Walker
Ever wonder what your customers are thinking? What makes one client leave at the first hint of a problem, while another will hang on through thick and thin? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get inside their head to find out what they want? At the OLA meeting in September, a panel of lab -customers was -assembled and asked to give their impressions of optical labs; what they liked, what they disliked, what was important to them and what would make them switch labs By understanding what your -customers find valuable, you can meet and even exceed their expectations.

Q How many optical laboratories do you use and for what?

“We keep two labs going. One is for rimless and plus prescriptions and the other is for minus work.” Rob Royden, Village Eye Works “I deal with a primary lab. I use two labs but one is for most of the work. I don’t put all my eggs in one basket, but to get a volume discount, I don’t split the work up too much.” Neil Sika, O.D.

“We use two labs; one major lab and then one local lab where we send unusual or rush jobs.” Robert Hubsch, Metropolitan Eyecare “We also use two labs. I have been with our main lab for 12 years. The relationship is key.” Bill Barber, EyeOptics Optometry Center

“We’re a bit different. We use 8 labs including two primary labs. Some of the labs we use are dictated by insurance. Ninety percent of what we do goes to a large lab and 10 percent to a small local lab. In general, one lab gets primary status with a secondary lab getting work based on specialty needs. Oftentimes insurance vendors dictate what lab we have to use.” Robert Hill, O.D., Northwest Ohio Vision Center

Q How do you pick your lab? What are you looking for in an optical lab? Are warranties important?

“The reason I pick a lab is the relationship with the lab. What kind of relationship do you create with me? Do you have the products, prices, service and quality? I didn’t want to work with a lab solely on discounts. If you have a good relationship, price will flow. If you have a warranty, we are going to push a product more with confidence because if it comes back we can get the lens redone. If you don’t have warranties, it won’t work.” Neil Sika, O.D.

“Quality, service and price are key. Once you have that, then we can talk about the other items. I don’t care about warranties. If we make a mistake, we fix it. We have larger mark-ups than the lab, so we take care of the redo on our end.” Robert Hubsch, Metropolitan Eyecare

“Quality is high on our list. Price is not a big consideration to me. We want the lab’s customer service staff to be up on the latest lens information. That is extremely important to us. When it comes to warranties…we make our customers happy, period.” Bill Barber, EyeOptics Optometry Center

“We want it all…quality, service, and price. It is about the relationship but we need the quality as well. When it comes to warranties, we do what we need to do to help the patient. We need our lab to back us up.” Robert Hill, O.D., Northwest Ohio Vision Center

Q What services are you looking for besides- processing lens orders?

“I want a face-to-face relationship. Mostly I’m looking for knowledgeable people who can answer our questions and provide me with training. Bring in someone once a month to educate my staff so we can avoid making mistakes.” Bill Barber, EyeOptics Optometry Center

“Service is big. I need to know that the lab can fix the problem. How does the lab help me separate myself from the guy down the street? How can we make ourselves unique?” Robert Hill, O.D., Northwest Ohio Vision Center

“I look to the lab for new product information. I really value a knowledgeable staff that has the ability to train my staff. I trust my lab to convey this new information to us.” Neil Sika, O.D. “Communication. Communication is the key, both in bringing us new information and keeping us apprised of situations as they occur.” Robert Hubsch, Metropolitan Eyecare

Q What would have to happen to make you change or “fire” a lab?

“In 35 years, I’ve had to dismiss a number of labs. Before I do, we discuss the problems and give them a chance to fix it. If they don’t, then we move on. If the quality suffered and the prices changed, we changed labs. When we try a new lab, we give them part of our business first to see how they do. I would also consider a new lab if they could offer free-form lenses.” Robert Hubsch, Metropolitan Eyecare

“I’ve only had one lab we’ve had to fire. The quality went south. We discussed it and they didn’t improve. So we stopped using them. They didn’t call us to ask us why and we didn’t call them.” Bill Barber, EyeOptics Optometry Center

“The only time I changed labs was because they didn’t carry the products I wanted because the lab was purchased by a lens company and they couldn’t provide the lens I wanted. For me, it was a negative when the large company purchased my small lab.” Neil Sika, O.D.

Q Do you follow the lab’s recommendation? “For me, the lab recommendation is important because I trust them.” Robert Hill, O.D., Northwest Ohio Vision Center “What they recommend is what we use, but the quality better be there.” Bill Barber, EyeOptics Optometry Center

“The labs are in the trenches. They see what comes back…the redos. So we rely on our lab for recommendations.” Robert Hill, O.D., Northwest Ohio Vision Center

Q If you could ask for anything from your lab what would it be? What would be on your wish list?

“The way of the world is free-form. It’s best for our patients. You can’t be left behind. You wouldn’t sell someone a tube T.V. instead of an LED, would you?” Neil Sika, O.D.

“When we order free-form with AR we’d like it back in 5 to 7 days. We tell our customers 7 to 10 days, but two weeks is just too long.” Bill Barber, EyeOptics Optometry Center

“When people order something they want it yesterday.” Rob Royden, Village Eye Works “If we are expecting a job in 5 days and then it is delayed, we want to know about it. When you don’t communicate, then we have a problem. We want to know the time frame. We’ve developed a Facebook page but we need to use it more. If the lab could help us with this, it would be great.” Neil Sika, O.D.

“If we have to call you to find out about a job that was supposed to be here already, that’s a problem. A real deal-breaker is if a lab opens its doors to the public and sells retail. If a lab could help us set up a Facebook page that would be terrific.” Rob Royden, Village Eye Works

“We are using social media to communicate with our patients to touch them between visits. If the labs can help us create content for our social media efforts that would be great. Also, help us find new ways to find the profit, despite the restrictions from insurance companies.” Robert Hill, O.D. Northwest Ohio Vision Center


Labtalk June 2020