Lab Operations :September 2006 LabTalk
CUSTOMER SERVICE GOAL — 99% PERFECTION
Every lab understands the same story. A lab processes ninety-nine lenses perfectly, make one little mistake and the ECP switches to another lab. Is this fair? Maybe, maybe not? Avoidable — Yes!
Technology exists in almost every lab to calculate the Rx and communicate with lab equipment. The technology also exists to avoid mistakes, communicate quickly and efficiently with ECPs and track problems. Use technology properly, the bottom line is that 99% of all mistakes can be avoided, and the other 1% can be efficiently communicated, tracked, reported and prevented in the future.
Quality assurance requires very little set up and is very effective at eliminating mistakes. Configure your tray tracking technology so that if orders require a tint, an outsourced coating, or a specific series of steps, those trays must be scanned at the appropriate tray tracking station in the correct order and before being shipped. Technology can be configured to abruptly stop an order from being processed incorrectly. Each computer can be a separate tray tracking station or used for multiple purposes. An order with an outsourced anti-reflective coating should be scanned when it goes out and again when it comes back from the coating company, before it can be shipped out to the ECP. Simple to set up and very effective – another annoying mistake that will never happen again.
Tracking employees can give you valuable information. This is not “Big Brother”. It is common sense to learn from your mistakes. It is important to understand why mistakes happen and who is making those mistakes. Your technology should allow each employee to have separate logins within your lab management software so that every date, time and employee is logged for every computer entry. Printing different work sheets depending on the type of lens order is another effective method to avoid mistakes. Outsourced lens orders can be configured so that no grinding data is printed on the work sheet. Try processing that order in-house by mistake! Robotic equipment can have unique bar codes printed on the work sheets, which are automatically read by the generator or edger. Your lab management software should provide you with regular data updates to calculate and process lenses. Downloading these updates directly from the Internet is quick and simple. Every time a lens breaks, analyze whether or not the lens data within your lab management software needs to be fine-tuned to meet your requirements. Do not ask employees to remember to over-ride settings for a particular lens or prescription. Do not try to substitute the parameters from an existing lens on your database to process a new lens. Every lens is unique. Teach your system and data to learn from prior mistakes. Every one of these examples can be pre-configured in your lab management software.
Communication resolves most customer service issues. No one gets upset when a limited number of orders are late. This is inevitable. What the customer minds is not knowing what is going on with their work. What drives the ECP crazy is when patients arrive to pick up orders on the promised date and the order is not ready. The following are examples of how technology makes communication faster, trouble-free and more successful. Technology should not replace your personal touch and relationships with your customers, it should compliment it. ECPs still want to hear from you and see you in person to maintain relationships. Technology provides you with the tools to communicate when the personal touch is not required. Electronic messaging by fax or email is very cost effective. Each customer can be pre-configured to receive either a fax or an email. Instead of using the telephone, paying for long distance charges, being left on hold or playing telephone tag, configure your lab management system with pre-configured messages. How often are messages not relayed to your customers due to the hassle involved? Orders are delayed every day due to missing order entry data, out-of-stock lens or breakages.
During order entry, job checking, inventory control or entering spoilage data, simple drop down lists of pre-configured messages should allow you to electronically send a message by fax or email. With three or four keystrokes the message is sent, referencing that specific order and a record is automatically attached to the order. Automatic acknowledgements by fax or email can be set up every time a tray is assigned to an order. This is especially useful for orders received electronically across the Internet via your lab management remote order software, Vision Web and Eyefinity. Keeping ECPs up to date with order progress is equally simple with technology. ECPs should automatically receive end of day WIP reports by fax or email. Even better is providing ECPs with live data via the Internet, displaying the exact status of every one of their orders in the lab. ECPs will then know which orders were shipped last night from the lab, which patients to telephone to pick up orders before the order has even arrived and which orders will be delayed. ECPs can even warn you when they notice orders being stuck at a particular tray tracking station. Another pair of eyes ensuring no mistakes is invaluable. This information has proven to eliminate up to 80% of calls from your ECPs. Electronic messaging by fax or email also provides a fast method to send mass messages to either groups of ECPs or all your customers. Type one message, press one button and send the same message to hundreds of ECPs. Keep your ECPs up to date with news about new lens availability, price changes, product promotions, holiday hours and staff changes.
Knowledge is power. There is nothing worse than repeating the same mistakes over and over. Your lab management software provides you with reporting, production monitoring and spoilage monitoring. Reporting can be customized to meet your needs. Variations and fluctuations in sales, costs, productivity and profitability should raise immediate red flags. Do not wait a month to find out why an ECP’s average order volume has dropped. Do not wait several days to discover your edger needs calibrating. Reporting and tracking can be set up with the correct technology to provide instant feedback. Production monitoring can display a variety of reports including daily activity reports with comparisons to prior time periods, average time in lab reports, a job flow monitor displaying the number of orders at each work station, or data entry statistics by employee. It is also possible to customize your own reports. Spoilage and redo reports can instantly flag changes and increases from your normal levels, broken down by time period, customer, and tray tracking station. No lab likes to admit to breakages but they are a fact. Using technology to track and report them will provide the information to avoid them in the future.
The effort required to gain a new account is huge. However with technology, it requires very little set up to seamlessly streamline your production. The time, effort and cost required to track, report, eliminate mistakes and communicate with your customers is very low. The results will astound you and your customers. The word of mouth referrals that result will feed directly to your bottom line. 99% perfection is your goal!
Written by Steve Dombey, CC Systems. Since 1984, CC Systems has been a leading provider of lab management software solutions for wholesale surfacing, coating, finishing labs, and integrated retail chains with labs to over 150 labs worldwide