Optometric Management Tip # 278   -   Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Are one-hour glasses dead?

The appeal of delivering glasses in about an hour is definitely not dead; it just has a lower profile than it did when a national vision care chain first launched the concept in 1983. I think many private practice optometrists today, however, are happily wearing blinders on this marketing strategy. It is quite comforting to tell ourselves that the public doesnít really need glasses in an hour or even in a day. After all, our patients are not complaining.

Delivery times longer

Surprisingly, it seems to me that the trend in lens fabrication from wholesale optical labs is to take longer than in years past. Granted, the public is buying more sophisticated products like premium antireflective lenses and high-index materials, which could take more time to process. And granted there are many glasses made within the constraints of vision plans, where a limited group of labs must be used and the economics of the plan does not make these jobs top priority. But it seems like the average turn around time is approaching two weeks and that seems pretty long to me in an industry where competition is fierce. We can call it ten working days if that makes anyone feel better, but itís the same thing. Many labs will quote an average turn-around time of much less than ten working days, but it seems there always special factors that make a job take longer.

Marketing opportunity?

Letís face it; people want the products they buy right now. And the more money they spend on an item, the more they expect to be catered to. I think itís extremely important for eye care practitioners to continuously look for ways to identify and satisfy patientsí wants and needs. That is the definition of marketing, by the way.

Just because your patients do not complain about how long it takes to get glasses, does not mean they donít want them quickly. Glasses are a custom made item and the public does not really understand the fabrication process, so they are fairly tolerant. But it is a mistake to take that for granted and to read it as if patients donít mind waiting. A pair of glasses really does take much less than an hour to make, why do patients have to wait two weeks?

Donít kid yourself

Consider your own experience about how sensitive patients are if their glasses run even one day beyond the period of time that was quoted. Patients calling your office wondering if their glasses are ready can quickly become angry if they are disappointed. Thatís because they want the product faster and they are impatient. They perceive that the process took too long. They were willing to quietly wait the time period quoted by the optician because they had no choice, but they resent the wait and it better not take any longer.

Practices that set themselves apart from the norm by providing surprisingly quick delivery time, like same day or next day service, are the winners. I have a surfacing and finishing lab in my office and I assure you that patients are delighted when glasses are made quickly. They tell others about the experience. Patients truly do care about how long it takes to obtain glasses.

What can an independent office do?

If we realize that optical dispensing is a very important aspect of the total practice, then letís invest in the infrastructure of making and delivering eyeglasses. Think bigger. Make the service aspect of optical a priority. Here are some things you can do:

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management