How Do Eye Companies Handle Conflict Publicly

In the past year or two, eye industry firms have met with much negative news, either from serendipitous events or human error.  In most cases, the firms prolong their own agony by failing to mount a credible and timely response that can cap the negative press.

Like the classic business school case study,  firms such as Vision Service Plan, the American Optometric Association and Coopervision have not easily weathered the outcry from business partners and customers well. In each case, a groundswell of discontent has distracted each firm.

Bad news, of course, is a fact of life in business.  Unfortunately, public perception counts and public perception seems to imply that inaction and indecision has gripped these three companies in responding adequately to their issues.

For instance, Coopervision learned from doctors that patients had begun to experience irritated eyes from their products.  In the case of Vision Service Plan, a change in perceived market strategy quickly alienated a vocal minority of its panel doctors.  The American Optometric Association likewise faced a firestorm as it deployed “board certification” as an initiative.

In each case, these three firms did not act early enough and instead adopted defensive and reactive strategies that infuriated their audience.  Today, each firm has finally assembled public relations strategies that are trying to undo the prior damage.  These firms are now beginning their brand rebuilding.

In summary, management paralysis, indecision, and imprecise focus caused more damage than less.  As a lesson for the individual doctor and their practice, a doctor error or a misunderstanding in a business transaction can trigger a procession of events that may hurt more than it needs to be. Doctors need to grasp the issue and problem early. With quick and decisive action, the impact of a negative event can be minimized.

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About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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