Connecting Clients to Independent Optometry in a Changing Marketplace

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO May 03, 2013

I've received some questions from doctors about how VSP Vision Care sells to employers and what the sales team does to promote independent optometry. Lucinda Ward, Regional Sales Manager, answers a few of those questions.

How has competition increased?

I've watched as the VSP client list has become our competitors’ prospect list. Competitors will meet with current VSP clients offering that they are the "same as VSP, only cheaper with retail locations like LensCrafters." This gets the attention of many clients and broker/consultants in that the economy has put a tremendous amount of pressure on employers to cut costs. The concept that the employer can offer everything they have today with VSP—but at a lower cost and with heavily advertised retail chains—seems like a win/win to that employer.

Do you discuss provider fees with employers?


Many large employers are self-funded, which means they pay the fees as their members receive care instead of paying a monthly insurance premium. This puts VSP in a position to be questioned about our fees and to justify why the same provider is accepting a lower fee from our competitor. Employers often ask, "Is the eye exam different? Why are the same providers accepting lower fees?"

Why are competitors able to offer plans at a lower cost to employers?



Nearly 90% of VSP Vision Care revenue is paid back to VSP Network providers in exam fees and materials, so that’s a big driver for vision plan cost. Many competitors subsidize their vision plans to sell eyewear or other products.

Why can’t you just explain the benefits of independent optometry to employers?



If VSP comes in at the highest cost, without alternatives to lower the cost, we can be disqualified from the bid process without ever getting an opportunity to share why our costs are different and the value we and independent optometry can bring to their members.

Do you ever talk about the value of independent optometry in the sales process?



Yes! We work very hard to stay close to our clients and their broker/consultants to educate them on the shifting of cost to their members with competing plans. We show the overall value of their current VSP Signature Plan or VSP Choice Plan, including the advantages of our network. We discuss VSP Eye Health Management, HIPAA-compliant outreach to known diabetics, lowest out-of-pocket costs for members, and overall ease of doing business.

Jackie Granski, also a Regional Sales Manager, had this to say at a Town-hall Meeting about how important independent optometrists are in the client sales process.

With all of these challenges, how does VSP continue to win clients and increase membership?



Great service and out-of-pocket savings at their VSP provider is where members see the overall value of VSP versus competing plans. Members appreciate the high level of service, choices, and quality care that a VSP benefit delivers. When clients recognize the overall value of the lowest out-of-pocket costs for members, VSP Eye Health Management, and being the easiest company to do business with, we win and keep our business.

Typically, clients see the value that VSP and our network provides as we renew over 95% of our business annually. We continue to develop innovative programs and must continue to develop these programs to meet marketplace challenges, win new clients, and deliver benefits to more than 59 million members, most of whom will choose independent optometry.

As I See It, the VSP Vision Care sales team does a great job promoting independent optometry to employers. It makes a big difference who wins a contract because far more patients end up in independent practices when VSP wins compared with what happens when retail-biased competitors win.


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