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5 Big Tips To Get the Most From Your Wholesale Lab

Become a standout partner with your lab to make your lens ordering and dispensing so much easier.




AFTER A 40-YEAR career as a licensed optician, including owning my own optical shop and in-house finishing lab, I’ve seen both sides. And now, for the past 10 months I’ve been working as the customer service manager at an independent wholesale lab. Behind the scenes, answering customer calls has taught me how ECPs can get their jobs through smoothly, accurately and with much less hassle. Cutting lab costs and redos are a natural by-product.

Here’s how to become a standout partner with your lab and make your lens ordering and dispensing so much easier:

1. Get to know your customer service people by name. They are your primary link to getting you quick answers like, “Where is John Smith’s job?” “Did you receive the frame for Jill Jones yet?” “Can I cancel a job I ordered this morning?” “I forgot to add prism! Is it too late to update that order?” (I hear that one often.) Lab owners and management aren’t always available. The person who answers the phone can look up your order on the screen in front of them and offer quick answers. Consider your customer service person part of your team. Because they are! Lab personnel handle hundreds of jobs per day, but everyone gets to know the friendliest clients along with the ones who may be too demanding. Are you super pleased with how well they service your needs? They work very hard for you. Send them a box of candies and a thank you note. Be the account that counts.

2. Know your lab’s lens availability chart and price list before ordering. Know what lens manufacturers they stock. Placing orders for lenses they need to order will delay your job. Consider the time difference between your shop and the lab. If you’re on the west coast and place an order at 2pm to your east coast lab, they may not start it until the next day. And if it’s a special order, well then, even more time is needed. Work closely with the lab’s rep to get an accurate sense of timing.


3. Understand their discount offers. Second pair 50% off ? Cost of shipping per job? If you made an error on a job already started, will they go ahead and restart at no added charge? How many months will they offer a doctor a redo at no charge? What about scratch warranty redos? Is there only one no-charge redo no matter the reason? Knowing all this provides clarity. Someone has to pay for the wasted lenses. Where does that cost get absorbed?

4. Know what your lab does in-house. Do they do everything in house? Including anti-glare coatings? Do they need to send out mirror coatings? More than likely they do and that means a few extra days for turnaround.

5. Ask for a rush job. Does it really make a difference to ask? Yes, but be realistic. If you get to be known as a frequent “rush job” account, you’ll lose the impact you’re looking for. Don’t promise your patients the impossible. But a good wholesale lab wants to keep their accounts ordering so they will do whatever they can to make your occasional rush jobs happen. You might even see me running through the lab to locate a job that needs to get out Friday for a patient who flies out of town on Tuesday. Polarized lenses for their trip to Hawaii. Done!

Think of the “whole” in wholesale as the final piece of the puzzle of a top-notch optical business; the people behind the scenes helping the people out front — you — look good.

Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, has served in every capacity of the optical industry for more than 35 years. Dispensing, frame rep, multi-optical store manager, frame buyer and consultant, marketing manager, and optical shop owner for over 22 years. She now writes and lectures on all things optical. Visit for more info or contact her at


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