By Patrisha Zabrycki
Shaun Golemba, OD, became interested in vision care when he received his first pair of glasses in the fourth grade. He was impressed with the technology surrounding the field and grateful to the optometrist for enabling him to see clearly. Following stints in clinics in Waterloo and Houston, Texas, Dr. Golemba purchased Valley Vision Optometry in 2005, a well-established practice in British Columbia dating back to 1960. Valley Vision structures the office environment around a patient’s experience. Being present for patients is a hallmark of Dr. Golemba’s customer service policy: “Forget the stresses about family, finance, world events and the next patient you’re going to see—just be there with that patient and listen to what they are telling you. See things from his or her perspective, add in our knowledge and find a solution that is going to enhance his or her life.”
With a clear mantra for patient care, the Valley Vision team made a carefully planned decision to embark on a renovation of the office. Dr. Golemba discovered Barbara Wright Design from a trade journal and ordered her book, “Optometric Office Design Process & Pitfalls.” Dr. Golemba explains, “A lot of the initial worries I had about taking on a project like this were removed by reading the book. Along the way, it showed me she was really an expert in this field. From there, I attended a webinar, where she sealed the deal in my mind as being somebody I wanted to work with.”
Dr. Golemba was particularly impressed with Wright’s professional and organized approach to the redesign. From floor plan to conceptual drawings to branding, every aspect of the project was outlined in great detail, making the entire renovation come together smoothly.
Although Dr. Golemba and Wright initially started out with the intent of doing a major interior remodel with only a minor facelift for the exterior, it soon became apparent to the whole design team that the exterior needed a major remodeling as well. “The original building was an outdated ugly duckling, but now it has the personality and character that reflects the excellence of Dr. Golemba’s practice, and garners attention and admiration from the community,” says Wright.
“Dr. Golemba’s dream was to have a ski lodge feeling and style that would fit with the outdoor lifestyle and unspoiled natural beauty enjoyed by Port Alberni residents,” says Wright. To give the office an added personal touch, the Barbara Wright team designed a special showcase in the reception area to house a hand-carved wood sculpture crafted by native tribal artist Ray Sims especially for Dr. Golemba. Giving the office an intimate tone was a paramount priority as Valley Vision is the only independent, locally owned practice in the community.
With a broad demographic of patients, Dr. Golemba explains that the office has “a large base of core product from big suppliers like Marchon and Sàfilo. But we like to bring in niche brands such as Venus Eye Design for people who want to stand out and have something different.” With such a varying range of patients, it became clear that the optical areas needed to be revamped to better suit the needs of patients and staff. Wright suggested enlarging the optical room and delineating three distinct departments: High Fashion, Moderate and Sunglass Cove. “The color scheme combines natural materials and colors—wood, rock, granite, shades of green—with modern easy-care materials like the wood-look vinyl flooring,” says Wright.
With a redesign that more accurately represents the Valley Vision Optometry practice, Dr. Golemba and staff are able to devote their time to providing patients with the best care as well as using the most up-to-date technology. Dr. Golemba states, “We offer the most thorough exam in our community, complete with Optomap retinal screening. As far as I know, we are the only practice on Vancouver Island that has a comprehensive Vision Therapy Clinic. We are the only practice in our community that dispenses iD Mystyle personalized progressives using the VisuReal and Mystyle identifier.”
The customer service policy at Valley Vision is a tried and true philosophy. “We need to treat people how they want to be treated. Everyone is different, but predictably different—staff and doctors are trained to quickly identify their personality type so we may treat them the way they want to be treated,” says Dr. Golemba.
While Valley Vision has garnered much of its business through word of mouth recommendations and counts the Yellow Pages as its biggest external referral source, Dr. Golemba and staff are testing out new marketing tactics through an interactive website and social media outreach. “At this stage, we just have a basic website provided for us by our buying group, DEN.” Dr. Golemba continues, “In its current state, it has a video player from Eyemaginations which is nice for our patients to learn more about their condition. Patients can request appointments, download history forms, complete quality control surveys and apply to work for us. The website ties into our Facebook page, which we have been trying to grow our fan base. Social media is here to stay so I think it would be foolish for practices to ignore this media.”
While Valley Vision does not feel trunk shows fit into its personal approach to customer service at the moment, the office did plan an exclusive, invitation-only black tie event to fete the reopened office. “Complete with a classical guitarist, violinist, wine served at the front desk from a local winery and several cheeses from a fine foods grocery, the event definitely helped spread the buzz about our reopened practice,” says Dr. Golemba.
When it comes to window displays, Dr. Golemba explains, “Less is more is the guideline—we display one frame in each of our four pedestal displays that face the street. We add in a small object that complements the frame and goes with the season. We change it up monthly. We receive a monthly newsletter with merchandising ideas from Bright Display, the company that supplied our acrylic displays.”
With a redesigned office, a solid customer service policy, great products and a true focus on the patient’s experience, Valley Vision Optometry is primed to continue on its path of well-respected service for years to come. ■