“I’m excited about what Alcon is doing”

OT  spoke to Jason Klomp, Alcon’s new vision care country franchise head for UK & Ireland, about moving into a new market and his goals

A lady sits in a clinical setting, a phoropter behind her, and smiles at a white-coated optometrist who has her back to the camera

Can you tell us about your role?

I’m very excited and honoured to be appointed as a country franchise head for the UK. The role entails helping our customers to help patients have great wearing experiences on contact lenses and eye care in general. I work with the sales and marketing team, and also professional education.

Jason Klomp
Jason Klomp

What has your time at Alcon looked like?

I started as an intern 17 years ago. I interned for two summers in the global department, so I learned a little bit about the UK and the role they play – the UK is such a big player in the global market. Then I officially joined the company 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve worked in pricing, finance and sales, all in the US, then I came over to Europe and did finance and general management in Benelux.

I’ve been part of a lot of different teams and at the core of every single team was this burning passion of excitement to help people see brilliantly and see the opportunities that contact lenses offer them.

What insight did that experience give you into the contact lens industry?

What I’ve seen across all the markets and the different teams I’ve worked in is that you see patients in a different light. Some markets are prescription, like the UK, and some are not. In coming to the UK, I hope to be able to appreciate the differences and nuances that each of the UK customers afford their patients.

In terms of the evolutionary changes of the industry, it has been a ride to watch it as it ebbs and flows. Two decades ago, HEMA lenses were the talk of the town, then silicone hydrogel, and now we’re hoping that water surface becomes the next realm of contact lenses that deliver comfort. It’s fun, because it continues to evolve.

How do you view the market as you move into the UK?

I view it as a healthy market, and also one that’s very focused on science. There is the key account aspect, providing a great service to customers in the market, as well as a healthy independent market that’s meeting the demands of different customers. It’s a healthy and pretty engaged market.

How does this compare to the market you had previously been covering?

Benelux is a cluster of companies that have differences within that. The Netherlands, for example, still does a healthy amount of rigid gas permeable lenses, and is maybe five to 10 years behind the UK in terms of developing into more of a dailies-driven market. At the same time, they have the Netherlands Contact Lens Congress (NCC), which is one of the large European conferences, and they are very technical in their approach. Both markets have an aspect of subscription that help consumers get the products quicker, and of course customer service plays a role in both.

What areas of challenge have you identified?

I think the challenges that I see so far in the UK are similar to many markets, which is the chair time it takes to discuss contact lenses, helping customers see that there is that value to their practice. We did see some of that during COVID-19, as people saw money coming in from subscriptions.

Another challenge is that, overall, the profession needs more professionals. I think that’s a growing challenge that I’m hearing in the UK. Then, also retention – are patients trying contact lenses and converting to wearing them full-time, or part-time, or dropping out? Are they having discussions about comfort or are they just leaving the category?

In terms of opportunities, there’s a lot of innovation. I’ve spoken to friends who feel that they just couldn’t get on with contact lenses, and I question – have you tried them in the past decade, or five years? It’s good to help people change their awareness and see the innovation that has come to the market.

What are your goals in this role?

My style is focused on people, process and product. I’ve want to get to know the Alcon team, customers, and where possible, patients. I’m learning a lot about the patients through our customers, so getting to know them, seeing what their pain points are and the opportunities in delivering for them.

Then the process of making Alcon a great company to work for, and I think we have some great success stories, but also making it an easy company to work with. We’re doing a lot internally, and I want to make sure that shows up with our customers.

In terms of product, it’s about getting the right people and connections with the right customers, ensuring we’re easy to work with, and that the products we deliver, such as the Dailies Total1 for Astigmatism and Precision1 for Astigmatism, are great innovations that will benefit patients.

How will you be interacting with practices?

I’ll be doing a lot of co-travels, so going out with the reps into practice, walking and talking to build a connection. Our customer care team feedback to us too. I will also be setting up appointments with key customers across the UK, to make sure I’m meeting the right people as quickly as possible. It’s really about getting out and in front of our customers as much as possible, walking in their practices and listening to them.

Meeting customers is a chance for me to appreciate their work and who it is that helps us get to the patient. Of course we have a net promoter score survey and customer care feedback, but it’s trying to get the full 360 degree picture. One of my favourite things is to get out and be with customers.

Is there anything you are particularly excited about in the contact lens category?

I’m excited about what Alcon is doing. It’s great to work for a company that is on the cutting edge of innovation. I’m excited that we take the approach of innovative materials, so each material we come out with is brand new.

I’m excited that the industry as a whole continues to innovate and find ways to help customers grow, but also help patients to engage in the category. It’s nice that there is healthy competition out there, because that makes everybody be better for the patients.

Anything you would want practices to know about working with Alcon?

We listen, and we’re continually improving to make your experience brilliant. I’m a big believer that it is the small, everyday improvements that, if you look back over time, you can see the effort the Alcon team has made. What we’ve been doing shows up in the market, and if it isn’t, let me know, because we’ll continue to make small improvements until we show up in the way that we want.

We’re here to help customers grow in practice. If they have ideas, we are very open for collaboration and working together. We believe innovation is the path forward to help patients have a great experience, and that grows the whole industry.