Social Distancing Does Not Mean Customer Distancing

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“Social Distancing Does Not Mean Customer Distancing.”

‘In these difficult times, it’s even more important to go the extra mile for your patient. We are not just selling a pair of lenses; we are selling a solution ánd an experience’. Words of Nathalie Geeroms, Head of Training & Marketing, ZEISS Vision Care in a recent candid interview with Gulzaar Shah, Associate Editor of VisionPlus

Nathalie Geeroms is the new face in ZEISS Vision Care Middle East & Africa. Though very young in the company she has gone on to become the head of training and marketing in less than seven years. In this interview, she speaks on her new role,  her challenges, her training programs, the COVID impact on the business and  ZEISS Smartlife, the latest innovation from ZEISS.

VisionPlus(VP): Nathalie, you are relatively young in the company, and yet have become a Head of Training & Marketing in less than seven years? How do you feel?

Nathalie Geeroms(NG): ZEISS has always been the common thread running through my career, even during my Optics & Optometry studies. Before I joined ZEISS Vision Care, I worked 7 years as an Optometrist in practice, selling ZEISS lenses and working with ZEISS measuring tools. During this time, my interest and passion for the ZEISS Brand and its innovations grew a lot. Being able to offer customized solutions to answer our patients’ needs and using different technologies, really made our practice differentiate from other shops. For me it was a logical step to continue my career within ZEISS Vision Care, with a clear passion for the ZEISS Vision Technology Solutions (instruments) and training. Thanks to the experience and knowledge I gained, working for 5 years in the Global Training & Marketing team, I have a clear understanding of our market worldwide. The biggest advantage is that I am a lens wearer, an optometrist and a true ‘Zeissian’, so I can empathize with everyone.

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VP: If you were to list three key benefits of training for opticians, what would they be?


  1. Thanks to the customized learning programs we provide to our customers, they receive a continuous learning plan for each member of their staff. The training topics vary according to the actual needs of the ECP (Eye Care Professional) and their team.
  2. In this way, we can ensure that the staff in all their branches have the same level of knowledge. Even for starters with no background in optics or dispensing, we provide onboarding training. On our ZEISS Academy Platform, 47 interactive courses are available, including an assessment and certification.
  3. We provide different learning methods (webinars, e-learning,…) and do close follow-up and evaluation of the learning curve with reports. In this way we can easily track the progress of each learner and set up a maturity model.

VP: Coming to ZEISS SmartLife — your company’s latest product innovation, can you tell us what you mean when they claim that it offers a complete bouquet of solutions?

NG: Our new ZEISS SmartLife lens portfolio has a holistic approach that offers all-in-one premium lenses to address all age groups. It includes single vision, digital and progressive lens options for all patients/consumers, no matter what their age-related visual challenges are.

The ZEISS SmartLife lenses consider the specific vision needs for today’s connected and on-the-move lifestyle, regardless of any age. It’s clear that we all share the same lifestyle: we are connected through our digital devices and do all sorts of activities which has of course a big impact on our visual behavior. During the lockdown, we became even more digitally active and now we are enjoying being on the move even more than before.

VP: Considering this is a new launch, what is the training that you will be offering to help opticians understand it better?

NG: Currently we are forced to train remotely so since the beginning of June, I’m providing around 10-15 webinars per week to train our customers in the whole region (Middle East & Africa). In this way, we deliver an interactive product training on ZEISS SmartLife. I also provide sessions on how to select, sell and dispense the new portfolio. Being an optometrist myself, I know how important it is that the staff feels comfortable and confident talking about the ZEISS products. I can share my own experience when it comes to upselling or selling a second pair of glasses.

Next to that, we have the ZEISS Academy Platform where we offer a ZEISS SmartLife module which is accessible for the learner 24/7. Once it’s safe to travel, I will start again with classroom training, which contains simulations and role-plays. According to me, it is still the best way to assess the knowledge of the learners and also to learn from each other.

VP: How would you rate the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on the eyewear business? How is ZEISS helping opticians to combat this impact?


NG: At ZEISS, our utmost concern is the health and safety of our customers and employees and that we provide our share to fight the pandemic. Due to the necessary actions to master the Coronavirus outbreak, business and stores are often limited. That affects our customers, too. Our task is to give proof that we are our customers’ trusted partner also in tough times and to support them the best way we can.

During the lockdown, we started our #StrongerTomorrow campaign. Social distancing is not customer distancing. We want our customers to be successful, even during a crisis. Most important: We never stopped supplying lenses and our sales teams were always available.

Our commercial and marketing teams created a full set of commercial activities, to ensure that all ECPs could reach out to end consumers and to be relevant in these times of crisis. We supply ZEISS AntiFOG sprays and ZEISS Hygiene sets with personal protective equipment to take the necessary safety precautions in practice. In the stores, we can provide contactless consultations thanks to our VTS Ecosystem, which offers remote refraction and digital centration and this is in the best interest for the consumers.

VP: From a personal perspective, what would you advise the independent optician - how to work through this phase?

NG: My advice as an optometrist would be: Differentiate yourself and give your patient the best digital/ contactless consumer experience ever!

In these difficult times, it’s even more important to go the extra mile for your patient! We are not just selling a pair of lenses; we are selling a solution ánd an experience.

ZEISS Vision Care also delivers a complete Ecosystem of (medical) devices which gives our ECPs the opportunity to differentiate themselves by using new measuring technologies in order to sell customized solutions. I can tell from my own experience that this leads to both revenue and reputation growth.


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