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Raising the bar

Changing your business strategy to accommodate your customer base is no easy feat – but it is the answer to staying ahead of the game

22 Jun 2016 by Henrietta Alderman

As a result of the growth of online information and purchasing opportunities, we have all become discerning shoppers. The days of waiting patiently are gone – our lives are transactional and we want what we want now. Therefore all businesses need to react to customer expectations.

Chief executive of the AOP, Henrietta AldermanOptical practices are rare in that they provide a clinical service within a retail environment. But all successful businesses in retail settings, optical or not, need to understand who is coming through the door and what they want, and deliver that with great customer service.

Knowing your customers leads to a good marketing and sales strategy, which in turn leads to greater loyalty. Understanding the industry, being enthusiastic about innovation, and striving for continuous improvement are all essential considerations.

One of the core functions of the AOP is to help its members succeed in whatever their work environment or role, and this journal is an excellent source of information in all areas of business. As the education partner at 100% Optical, we encourage AOP members to come to the event for the CET, but also to have the opportunity to view the latest and best in the optical retail market. Frames matter – choice, colour, brand and style – but products need to work in tandem with excellent customer service in an exacting retail market. And one model does not fit all, as there are as many types of customer as there are models for success, depending on your business location and strategy. The AOP Awards are an opportunity to showcase and celebrate excellence in all its different guises – including retail excellence.

"The retail sector is generally under threat from the ever-increasing growth of online sales, and businesses need to adapt to manage this and retain customer loyalty"

As Charles Darwin famously said: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.” This is a very apt quote for the optical sector in the current climate. The retail sector is generally under threat from the ever-increasing growth of online sales and businesses need to adapt to manage this and retain customer loyalty. One way of responding to the challenge is to prepare optical practices for the delivery of enhanced services. There is a window of opportunity to ensure that practitioners are ready to provide Minor Eye Conditions Services, and the NHS and Clinical Commissioning Groups need to be aware that there is an able and willing workforce available to reduce pressure on GPs and secondary care. The AOP is fully supportive of the LOC Support Unit’s Breakthrough Strategy to achieve this.

The Foresight Project Report is another glimpse into the future. Although it doesn’t highlight the opportunities that await optometrists advancing into ophthalmology, it does talk about technological advances and what they might mean for practices. The AOP Council discussed the four areas of the report – technology, business impact, education and regulation – at its meeting in June and outputs will follow.

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