Article Date: 9/1/2004

o.d. to o.d.
1-800 CONTACTS: About the Cover Story
It isn't about taking sides or nitpicking. It's about learning from others' mistakes and successes how to best mold your practice and make it the best it can be.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

I sincerely hope that everyone reads the cover story this month on 1-800 CONTACTS (page 36) and appreciates the opportunities I identify in this piece for building and maintaining a relationship with your contact lens patients. In the article, I reported what I observed on my visit to the 1-800 CONTACTS facility as well as what the company communicated to me or to the public domain. What I've attempted to do is to report honestly and without bias, keeping in mind that I am the Chief Optometric Editor of a magazine that promotes optometric management rather than retail contact lens sales management.

A proactive business

I'm sure that I will step on the toes of some optometrists who think that parts of the article show 1-800 CONTACTS in a positive light and I have to admit that in some ways, that's true. The emphasis that 1-800 CONTACTS puts on customer satisfaction is a great example of what every business should do. The effort that this company puts on hiring the right people; training them extensively; monitoring their performance; redirecting, retraining and rewarding them with good wages and fringe benefits is the mark of a business focused on creating an employee base that isn't plagued by turnover or lack of enthusiasm.

The regular marketing to its customers and its systems for reminding patients about the product and service are an example of a business proactively building a relationship with its customers not for a sale but for a lifetime of sales.

I mention these things because it's important for optometrists to know what they're competing with for the dollars that consumers spend on contact lenses and to recognize that if they don't see similarities between their practices and 1-800 CONTACTS in the areas just mentioned, they probably should.

Learning from both sides

I'm also sure that I've stepped on 1-800 CONTACTS' toes in offering optometrists insights into handling the communications with their patients whose prescription they're trying to verify and identifying the tactics that 1-800 CONTACTS uses to refer patients away from their existing eyecare practitioners to a Cole National location. 1-800 CONTACTS indicates that, in the best interest of the contact lens wearer, they want 1-800 CONTACTS and the optometric community to work together.

I understand that 1-800 CONTACTS has a business arrangement with Cole National, but it seems that the practice of referring patients whose contact lens prescription aren't valid away from the patients' current doctors is a no-win situation for the independent optometrist and a situation that optometrists aren't likely to see as an attempt at "working together."

Gaining patient recognition

Yes, I'm on the toes of optometry as well as of 1-800 CONTACTS, but only to get the attention of both entities and to focus them on what each is doing right as well as where room for improvement exists. Another party that I've yet to mention will recognize the most important improvements that will come from our efforts. That party consists of our patients, the customers, the contact lens wearers.


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2004