Salt Lake City Practice Grows CL Sales 10 Percent, Credits Staff Training Programs

Article originally appeared in Vision Monday.

SALT LAKE CITY—While contact lens business growth has largely remained flat across the industry, Standard Optical, an 18-location practice here, has grown contact lens sales 10 percent in the last year while increasing market share in its local contact lens arena.

“Standard Optical currently boasts a market share of over 26 percent of contact lenses purchased in Utah,” said Aaron Schubach, Standard Optical’s vice president.

A cornerstone to the practice’s contact lens strategy has been Standard Optical’s membership in Opti-Port, a national alliance of multi-office eyecare practices, according to Schubach.

“Through Opti-Port, we’re able to connect with the owners and administrators of other large eyecare practices at conferences, have access to Opti-Port’s proprietary contact lens ordering, managing and marketing technology CLX, and enjoy highly competitive purchasing relationships and training opportunities with Opti-Port’s preferred contact lens manufacturers such as Alcon,” said Schubach.

History of CL Excellence and Dedication to Growth

“Over the years, we’ve developed a comprehensive patient care contact lens model that simply works better than most, and our relationship with Opti-Port and their suppliers helps strengthen and optimize this model,” said Schubach. Through its history of serving patients since 1911, Standard Optical has a long track record of contact lens success to preserve and build upon. “As a 100 year-old family business, our philosophy continues to be ‘See Better Business,’ and contact lenses are an integral part of this idea,” said Schubach describing the importance of keeping the practice’s contact lens sector bustling.

He added that their commitment to being early adapters of new technology has been a key to the practice’s consistent contact lens growth.

“When PMMA (hard lenses) were first introduced, we were one of the first practices west of the Mississippi to fit them. As RGP gave way to soft lenses and then the industry-changing disposable lens category emerged, we were again on the forefront of offering the latest and greatest technologies to our patients,” he said.

In addition to staying ahead of the pack in terms of contact lens innovation, Schubach also credits their successes to the practice’s long-standing acknowledgment that contact lens patients are more profitable.

“Contact lens patients come in for exams more frequently so from a business perspective, a strategic focus on them makes sense,” said Schubach. “We see contact lens patients every 16 months on average, whereas a glasses patient averages an exam every 24+ months.”

Staff Training Is Key

While Standard Optical’s back office focuses on innovation and profitability, Schubach credits the education of the frontline employees as key to a successful contact lens strategy.

“Because of Opti-Port’s strong partnership with Alcon, we’re able to provide our staff with top-of-the-line education on contact lenses,” said Schubach. “Each year, we host between four and six Alcon-sponsored training events during which Alcon reps educate our frontline staff on how to best present the value of its products to our patients.”

Schubach added that this continued training has directly correlated with the increase in contact lens sales throughout the last year.

“Because of Opti-Port’s member benefits, we are now partners with arguably the most technologically advanced contact lens company in the world. Our main initiative with Alcon is clear and concise—get daily disposable contact lenses on every patient,” Schubach said.

By the end of 2017, Standard Optical plans to have daily disposable contact lenses representing 60 percent in the mix of contact lenses prescribed and sold to its patients.

“Alcon’s resources for training, development, and overall industry expertise have given us a lift of over 27 percent. This partnership has been and fruitful one, and we’re just getting started,” he said.

Sound Strategy Yields Tangible Results

With its knowledgeable staff and keen focus on contact lens service and sales, Standard Optical’s contact lens strategy is producing results.

“In daily disposables, we’re up 27 percent over 2015,” said Schubach. “Our current modality mix among patients is about 70 percent monthly and 30 percent daily disposables. We have virtually no patients in two-week disposables.”

Despite recent successes, Schubach acknowledges the growing threat of online competitors, and is committed to continually proving to their patients that Standard Optical provides superior services compared to online retailers.

“Our strategy is simple—we partner with the industry’s leading contact lens companies, always recommend a single-use product, and sell an annual supply over 62 percent of the time,” said Schubach.

“Our patients are able to interact with our integrated eyecare model both online and in our brick-and-mortar stores. Because of this versatility, we’re able to offer patients better convenience and encourage annual eye examinations. Besides leading to better patient health, this strategy also allows for the ancillary sales of suns, back-up glasses and other products,” Schubach said.

Strong Partners = Stronger Profitability

The Opti-Port alliance has not only helped improve Standard Optical’s patient care and product/service delivery model through staff education, peer-to-peer learning and strategic vendor relationships, but it’s also added to its bottom line through a significant cost of goods reduction, added Schubach.

“Our partnership with Opti-Port has been the single most beneficial partnership we’ve made in the last 15 years. I’ve witnessed firsthand its ongoing commitment to building better group eyecare practices,” Schubach concluded.

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