Industry Spotlight: Invision San Diego
In the past few weeks online refraction tests have been getting a lot of attention, in part because of Warby Parker's recent launch of refraction technology available in select cities. We believe new technology is exciting and should be embraced, but this is a tricky one because of the health risks associated with infrequent professional exams. This week's spotlight is on one of our most tech-forward stockists, Invision San Diego, a shop that also embraces new technology, with a healthy dose of skepticism. We chatted with Dr. Michael Kling about what practices can do to utilize technology to build a better business, what online refraction could mean for the independent optical industry, and how a coffee bar can foster better patient relationships.
The Invision Team, from left: Megan Worthington (Technician), Don Rooker (Chief Operating Officer), Michelle Lopez (Scheduling Administrator), Dr. Kling, Amy Fowlie (Chief Retail Officer), Jenna Pasay - Optician | Photo: Colin Gazley
Dr. Kling, how did you originally start out in the optical industry? Have you always been in San Diego?
Dr. Kling: I graduated in 1993 from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. Following graduation, I completed a residency just outside of Memphis in 1994, then headed west to California. I had been out to visit a few times, and really fell in love with the weather, culture and southern California scene. My first job was in a large ophthalmology practice. From there I moved into the laser vision correction world, then returned full time to private practice in 2006, where I have been ever since.
San Diego has such a unique vibe to it, and we love being close to the heart of it all. We are surrounded by local artists, trendy retailers and business professionals who prefer creative design and a next level customer experience. This pushes us to constantly think outside of the box and continually evolve as a business.
One of our favorite parts of your practice is the shop coffee bar. How do you think it helps you with appointments and sales?
Who doesn’t love being offered a cappuccino the minute they walk through the door? We have found that this treat immediately helps to build a relationship with our patients. Rather than trying to get the attention of a receptionist who is busy answering calls, our patients are greeted with a smile and asked about their day. This sets the tone for the rest of their appointment, and helps to build trust in us as a company who puts their needs first.
Invision Optometry in San Diego is one of the nations most forward-thinking, high tech optometry practices - where does that inspiration come from?
While I wouldn’t consider myself a “techy”, I do like technology. Anything that makes the experience more efficient and memorable has always fascinated me. We work hard to find innovative solutions to provide the type of experience that gets people talking. When it comes to providing the highest level of medical eye care, we make big investments in technology since providing the best possible care is our ultimate objective. The retail experience is changing, and it’s important that we stay focused on what’s happening in our industry, and this includes how technology is impacting commerce and the retail environment.
What is your favorite new piece of technology?
The most interesting thing right now is a new system that we are experimenting with that provides interactive content for our best frame lines, including Article One. Each frame line features an accompanying flat screen monitor that displays marketing and video content about that frame line, has a built-in camera for taking selfies and posting to social, and offers a unique lens demo feature. The retail environment is now becoming more interactive as consumers want all of the content available on the web, but in the retail environment. This system allows our customers to take a deeper dive into the products they are interested in, and creates a more memorable shopping experience.
How has early adoption of technology helped you grow?
Technology helps us in two ways. The first is providing the perception and reputation for offering the latest and greatest in eye care services and retail products. This helps us attract the types of patients that we are looking for, those that value exceptional eye care, and those that truly care about how they look and feel in their eyewear. The second is by making us more efficient and thorough. Whether that be in providing a higher level of medical care in less time, or by expediting the transactional process. We recognize that the pace of the world has quickened, and it’s important that we remain respectful of our patient’s time by providing the highest level of care in the shortest amount of time.
How do you stay up to date with all the changing technology in the optical industry?
We have some amazing industry resources for staying at the forefront of what’s happening in eye care, however, I spend most of my time watching what the most innovative industries and companies outside of eye care are doing. After all, we’re all just selling, so it matters less what you’re selling, but more how you’re selling it. And what’s changing is the delivery of products and services.
Warby Parker just launched online "Prescription Check" in select areas, and Opternative has been performing online vision tests for a few years. You are a tech-forward optometrist in many ways, what do you think of these kinds of apps?
All of these online "vision exams" pose an interesting dilemma for the delivery of traditional eye care. What they are separating out from an eye exam is the refractive portion (determination of a prescription). Today's consumer wants this information in an efficient and affordable way, and this disruption should challenge us to find better ways to deliver what our patients want. Unfortunately, it's difficult (and dangerous) to parse out the eye health portion from a vision exam. Too many things can go undetected, and our job as eye care providers is to make sure our patient's eyes are healthy.
How do you think online vision tests will affect the optometry industry?
I believe the optometric industry has already been affected. Most practices are seeing a decline in revenue from product sales (glasses and contacts), and some are even struggling to see enough patients. This has led to a recent push toward private equity investors looking for opportunities to consolidate practices to improve inefficiencies and economy of scale. All of this will have a dramatic impact on the future landscape for OD's, and will require those that stay independent to become experts at running their businesses.
Thanks so much for your time, Invision. Finally, what is your favorite Article One frame?
There are so many great lines, but I really like the Murray. Not for everyone, but the Blue Fade is such a funky look. I also think the Whitmore is such a classic. But what I like most is the Article One culture. The website says it all:
“WE MAKE EYEGLASSES AND SUNGLASSES IN NORTHERN ITALY, DESIGNED IN FLINT, MI. WE CARE ABOUT QUALITY OF MATERIALS, SUPPORTING CRAFTSPEOPLE, AND CHAMPIONING YOUR LOCAL OPTOMETRIST."
There’s no better way to answer the question: “Who are you?”
Readers, check out Invision's beautiful website and stop in for a coffee if you are in town. Thanks again, Dr. Kling and Invision Team!