January 2022

Let’s Energize Each Other in January and Beyond

From the SNAPP Board

With the short number of daylight hours, icy roads and the official end to the holiday season, January can feel like a downer to many. And 2022 carries the added burden of the latest COVID-19 variant, omicron.

Even in a “regular” year, it can be challenging to crank up the engines and gear up for the next 12 months. As we enter Year 3 of this pandemic, the SNAPP community has the opportunity to create a spark for all of our friends and affiliates! The Board is calling for an “All-In” for SNAPP members to show up and step up for each other. Let’s share our goals…inspire others…and be inspired by those who share our passion for our profession and the opportunities we have to make an impact on our patients.

What are YOU doing to make 2022 the best ever? Are you exploring new services to offer? Are you updating some internal systems? Or maybe it’s something as simple as creating some new associate incentive. We’d love to hear from you—and we’ll share the stories and experiences of more SNAPP members in future SNAPP Insider Monthly editions. So be inspired—or inspire us and let us know what you’re doing so we can spread all those good vibes around!!!

Click here to email your ideas and feedback.

Emphasize Customer Service

Brother and Sister LOs Work to Elevate the Customer Experience

Michael Plumb and his sister Sara Petro are Pearle Vision Licensed Operators (LOs) in Lakeland and Brandon, Florida. While it is technically a “family business” started by their father in 1981, the two generally watch over their individual eye care centers. The Brandon location, near Tampa, is the family flagship and boasted an impressive $2.9 million in revenue last year. The Lakeland location, along Florida’s I-4 toward Orlando, was opened in November 2005 and reached sales of $1.8 million in 2021.

Sara Petro and Michael Plumb

At 35 miles apart, the two locations don’t share staff, outside of urgent situations, but the LOs speak daily. “Our mantra comes from Dr. Pearle’s motto to take care of people. We’re a customer service-oriented office,” says Plumb. “It’s not enough to direct people to the frames and take their orders. We’ll help style them, uncover their needs and remember them and what’s going on in their lives the next time they come back.”

The brother and sister manage their locations with different approaches. Because the Brandon store is larger with a more experienced staff, Petro spends more time working on the business. Plumb is “boots on the ground. I coordinate from the ground level, so even if I’m in my office, I walk through the lab or help out on the floor.” He says that he’s hopeful that he can take a step back from some of that direct oversight so that he, too, can spend more time on business development ideas in the year ahead.

To ensure the team members provide all patients with the kind of personalized attention they deserve, Plumb encourages them to look at how they are treated in other stores. “I notice the level of customer service immediately when I shop. And I’m shocked at the experience some businesses provide,” he says. Because the LOs want their staff members to take excellent care of their customers, they work to take excellent care of the employees. “They are compensated well financially; we’re flexible as we can be with schedules. We look for those extras—like buying them lunch or setting up bonuses—so they know how much we value them.”

Holding on Through Omicron

For Gene Gold, a Licensed Operator (LO) with two locations in Brewster, New York, the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on his staff and patients. However, the situation has also provided him with insights into some of the challenges his staff faces.

Gene Gold

Since 2014, his role generally has been more administrative. He routinely came into the location, but he was focused more on the administrative and financial duties, mainly in his own office. But with the recent staffing stresses, he’s back to being a jack-of-all-trades as needed. One day recently, Gold came in to find five staff members had called in sick. On days like that, he is much more active on the optical floor. On another recent Saturday, only the general manager and he were able to come in. “We were on for eight hours straight, nonstop. That was an eye-opening experience,” he says, noting that any hesitancy he had about filling in at different positions was wiped away after that day. “I feel like I can step in fairly confidently,” he says.

That experience and others since then have given him even more respect for the staff. “I’ve always had tremendous respect for our team. These employees are on the front lines, keeping the operation running as smoothly as possible,” he says. But as the pandemic wears on, people’s nerves are on edge. “There seems to be a loss of excitement. Customers are worn out and edgy. Most are still very nice, but people are uptight. My goal is to keep everyone healthy and provide the great customer service we always have,” he says.

So he looks for morale boosters. “I recently paid staff overtime for a straight-time day because they just worked so hard. I have gift cards on hand that I’ll give out. I can actually see employees perk up when they’re recognized and appreciated,” he says.

Staff members who are working so hard for him now have shown their dedication—and he actively seeks out ways that he can keep them inspired as everyone waits for the pandemic to recede.

HR Corner from AmCheck

Smooth Out the Edges

We’ve been both super busy and understaffed recently. Is there anything we can do during this time to help our employees avoid extra stress or burnout before we can hire more employees?

Here’s an answer from The HR Pros at AmCheck Las Vegas.
      Yes. Here are a few things you can do to make this time run as smoothly and stress-free as possible.

Remove nonessential work duties: For positions that seem most stretched, make a list of tasks that could be put on hold (or perhaps reassigned). You can invite input from employees, too, but I’d recommend acknowledging that they’re overwhelmed and saying that you’ll do your best to alleviate some of the pressure. Then hold off on nonessential tasks until business slows down or you’ve increased your headcount.

Allow for flexible scheduling: If employees need to work longer hours on some days during the week, consider allowing them to work fewer hours on other days of the week. Note that some states have daily overtime, spread-of-hours or split-shift laws.

Budget for overtime: Employees may need to work extra hours to keep up with the current demands of their job, so allow them to work overtime if you (and they) can swing it. If you’re pretty sure overtime will be necessary, inform employees of that ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.

Ensure all equipment is fast and reliable: It’s important to identify, troubleshoot and correct any slow or nonworking equipment issues (such as laptops, internet hardware or cash). If not resolved, these issues can slow down work and add to everyone’s stress.

Look for ways to automate: Consider whether any of your employees’ manual and time-consuming tasks could be eliminated or simplified with the use of new or different technology.

Increase safety protocols: Employee absences related to COVID-19 have created a significant strain for many employers during the pandemic. Shoring up your safety protocols may reduce the risk of COVID-19-related absences because of sickness or exposure. Depending on your circumstances, examples include improving ventilation, encouraging or requiring vaccination, requiring employees to wear masks and allowing them to work remotely when possible.

In the News

Dry Eye Ointment Successfully Registered with the FDA

On Dec. 28, 2021, I-Defense, a lubricating ointment for the relief of dry eyes and lagophthalmos symptoms, has been successfully registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The hydrating ointment provides soothing relief of dry eye symptoms and acts as a barrier against moisture loss. Click here for more information.

Prevent Blindness Declares 2022 as the Year of Children’s Vision

One in five young children has an undiagnosed vision disorder, and some of these uncorrected vision disorders can lead to permanent vision loss.

Prevent Blindness declared 2022 as the “Year of Children’s Vision” to highlight and address the vision and eye health needs of children and to improve outcomes through advocacy, public health, education and awareness. Click here for more information.

Omicron Symptoms

Remember when the loss of smell and taste was a predictor for COVID-19? That telltale sign has fallen off the list of symptoms for the omicron variant.

According to data compiled in the U.K., these are the most common symptoms reported by people who have been infected with the omicron variant.

     1. Runny nose—73%
     2. Headache—68%
     3. Fatigue—64%
     4. Sneezing—60%
     5. Sore throat—60%
     6. Persistent cough—44%
     7. Hoarse voice—36%
     8. Chills or shivers—30%
     9. Fever—29%
     10. Dizziness—28%
     11. Brain fog—24%
     12. Muscle pains—23%
     13. Loss of smell—19%
     14. Chest pain—19%

Read more here.

Purdue University Biomed Engineering Professor Develops Sensor to Detect Glaucoma

Chi Hwan Lee, a Purdue University biomedical and mechanical engineering professor, and his team of researchers developed a new contact lens technology to help diagnose and monitor glaucoma and other ocular health conditions.

The biosensors are embedded on soft contact lenses to record electrophysiological retinal activity from the corneal surface of human eyes, without the need for topical anesthesia. The technology may soon be ready for clinical trials. Click here for more information.

New DNA Finding Offers Insight Into Geographic Atrophy and Possible Treatment Methods

According to new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, harmful DNA, known as Alu cDNA, builds up in the eyes of patients diagnosed with geographic atrophy, an untreatable, poorly understood form of age-related macular degeneration that causes blindness.

It may be possible to treat the disease with common HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors or a safer alternative, researchers say. Click here for more information.

Getty Images photo credits—COVID: akinbostanci; and elderly woman: Willie_B._Thomas

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