Playing a constructive role in the industry

Liadain Murphy, group marketing manager for Ocuco, tells OT  about the solutions launched over the past few months to help practices navigate the lockdown and recovery

Liadain Murphy

How has the outbreak of coronavirus impacted Ocuco as a business?

It was clear from the outset that the pandemic would impact Ocuco financially, as our customers would be hit, and operationally, as staff and clients would have to adapt to new ways of working. We immediately recognised that survival for us meant battening down the hatches economically and then focusing on helping our customers get through this.

For Ocuco, helping our customers meant that large furloughs were not good options. Instead, as a company, we decided to take temporary voluntary pay cuts, suitably tiered so that the lower paid were protected. This allowed us to preserve our support and development capability and enabled us to play a constructive role in the industry.

Additionally, cost savings from the absence of travel and trade shows, and government support in 10 of the 14 countries in which we employ staff, have left us in a relatively solid position.

How did the company respond to the outbreak?

The main focus of our activity since the pandemic began has been to focus our efforts on helping our customers with financial, technology, and operational help.

To provide financial help, Ocuco offered credit to those who needed it, funded by discounts for early payments and new products for those who could afford it. Thankfully, this balanced out and we're grateful to our customers for this.

Technology-wise, we have turned around new communication and omnichannel products to help our customers meet the challenges presented by a world changed forever by COVID-19.

Operationally, our customer-facing teams have redoubled their efforts to stay as close to our clients as possible. We proactively reached out to all our customers to offer ‘hands-on’ help, such as securing systems and backups for closing practices, complimentary remote access set-up, free server swaps, Payment Management System (PMS) health checks, closing and reopening guides, and a full schedule of Acuitas and Innovations User Webinars.

Internally, Ocuco employees began working remotely in early March. The move to virtual workspaces was a relatively smooth transition for us as we had already been utilising online services to enable our teams to connect globally.

Given the difficult circumstances, productivity and morale have remained high. We have created an internal ‘Good News Newsletter’ and held online social events such as a pizza Friday lunch, coffee meet-up and a quiz night to keep our spirits up. Our lab division planned a virtual escape room, which should be interesting.

We immediately recognised that survival for us meant battening down the hatches economically and then focusing on helping our customers get through this

 

Over the past few months, Ocuco has been sharing resources for recovery and returning to practice. How have the webinars been received?

More than 2300 attendees benefited from the 51 different educational webinars we hosted over a period of seven weeks. Branded ‘Lockdown Your Learnings,’ the idea was to take advantage of the downtime brought about by the lockdown.

The programme was open to all in the optical industry and designed to provide useful and actionable insights and tips. It included CET lectures to help optometrists meet their GOC requirements this year, PMS user webinars organised by our professional services team to enhance product knowledge, and e-commerce workshops to help practices get to grips with the move into the online landscape.

What are some of the other ways the company has been supporting customers through the outbreak?

In partnership with the OptiCommerce team we have been running a 'Communications Clinic' where one-to-one consultations are offered to help practices optimise their digital communications strategy. Their team of Google-certified specialists assess a practice's current digital situation, identify problem areas and give expert recommendations on how to improve the digital marketing approach immediately. We are still actively offering this service free of charge.

To help with rebuilding business on reopening, we launched the SMS Proposer in May. It enables the management of rescheduling appointments automatically and provides an exciting new tool for automated recall going forward.

Given the difficult circumstances, productivity and morale have remained high

 


We also fast-tracked the development of some online products. Internationally, Ocuco has seen a shift online of optical consumers due to COVID-19 – an immediate change and one that looks like it is going to persist into a post-COVID world. For this reason, our OmniChannel division has fast-tracked products to get our customers online quickly and efficiently to meet this change.

In April we launched the Rapid Response eCommerce Platform, which evolved from the urgent need of optical businesses to recapture revenue and boost online presence while the world was social distancing. With the platform, we can get practices online in as little as two weeks.

Virtual consultation
Recently launched, Ocuco’s Virtual Consult has been designed to facilitate virtual consultations

What is the company’s most recently launched solution and how will this particularly help practices in meeting demand after the lockdown eases?

In response to the challenges faced by our customers, Ocuco's development teams have been working to add new functionality to our PMS and e-commerce solutions. These solutions empower practices to function effectively and where possible, remotely.

Most recently launched, Virtual Consult facilitates face-to-face eyecare consultations between an optometrist and a patient, enabling practitioners to assess symptoms remotely and offer actionable advice on treatments. The system allows for safe triaging in eye care delivery, while keeping footfall in-store within social distancing regulations.

Additionally, our new Personal Shopper tele-dispensing product facilitates dispensing spectacles online, maintaining that critical face-to-face customer relationship without attending the store and ensuring the utmost safety during these challenging times. The system allows practices to guide patients remotely through a selection of frames and lenses and helps them to virtually try-on and fit their choices, as well as process sales in real-time.