If anyone wants to see and experience what professional customer service can do to improve their vision and towards a certain extent, their lifestyle, they only need to visit any of the outlets under the Eyecon Optometry Network.

Eyecon Optometry Network (Eyecon) is a chain of optical centres found in most major cities and towns throughout the country. Its fast growth in recent years can be attributed by the exceptional services rendered to its customers the moment they walk into one of the centres. They would be welcomed by the immaculate reception, where an experienced and professionally-qualified optometrist would be at their service to answer any questions. “Our operations began in 1994. Eyecon is the first optical centre in Malaysia to offer customisation, innovative products and comprehensive eye care services all under one roof,” says Mr. Murphy Chan Hian Kee, CEO of Eyecon Group. Mr. Chan believes that focus on professionalism in all the 14 optometry centres that the network operates nationwide has been the key differentiating factor that has led to Eyecon’s success to date, including being ranked number one in SME Corp. Malaysia’s Enterprise 50 (E50) Award last year.

“It is through our professional service that has enabled us to build a long relationship with our customers. It allows us to earn our customers’ trust and build their confidence in us,” Mr. Chan explains. “And this has enabled us not just to expand our customer base, but also to retain them”. “Repeat customers are the key for Eyecon’s success”. This is indeed true when Mr. Chan reveals that more than 60-70% of their revenue is generated from returning customers. “We have an obligation to our customers that we provide them with proper eye care, and that is why we have the highest ratio of professionally-qualified optometrists per outlet in Malaysia,” he adds. Starting Eyecon with his savings and some financial support from his family, Mr. Chan spent his early years building the infrastructure needed for Eyecon to grow. This included the team of people, systems, and ensuring good management of operations so that cash flow never became a problem.“Still, one of the challenges we had to face back then was the changing of mindset, not only internally, but also externally,” he says, in which ISO 9001:2008 and strategic partnerships with industrial partners were of great help. Once the ISO standards were implemented, it became easier to train the outlet partners and employees toward the customer-centric focus. One way the results have shown is through the franchise system that Mr. Chan has developed for the business. The company’s growth has been enhanced by it, and expansion has been made much easier because of the interest in the Eyecon brand. “We have built a brand on customer care – our emphasis of having fully-qualified optometrists in our practice, supported by proper visual equipment for comprehensive eye care is for the customer’s best experience. It therefore naturally follows that we insist on specialised training for our franchisees to ensure the quality of our brand,” Mr. Chan says.

The specialised training has attracted numerous fresh optometry graduates to join him and Mr. Chan develops unique programmes to cater to their needs. These programmes provide options for graduates to specialise in a specific area that they are interested in – such as in contact lenses, being a management trainee or opening their own Eyecon outlet.

“Our training is hands-on and based on our own experience. The investment in each store is dependent on the size and location of the outlet, and the Government has provided many assistant programmes to facilitate our Eyecon entrepreneurs,” he says, to explain the decision by some of his new younger partners. The need for proper training is also a reason why Mr. Chan is fully supportive of the Government’s intent to streamline the optical industry. He opined that better regulation in the industry and an adherence to standards will ensure the interests of the Malaysian public are well-protected.At the same time, Mr. Chan says that the Government needs to do more, as SMEs form the backbone of our country and contribute significantly to our economy. Special funding with good rates should be made available, as some may have difficulty in obtaining loans from banks. He notes that although changes in global economic surroundings and crisis of any kind will have an impact on customer spending, people who have problems with their eyes will still visit opticians for consultation and advice, making such businesses almost recession-proof. In spite of this ‘essential’ nature, he adds that there are no shortcuts for SMEs to achieve success and he believes in the importance of differentiation strategy. “We have been fortunate to embrace good customer relationships in our business, which in-turn, have been valuable to our growth,” Mr. Chan concluded.Mr. Chan believes that focus on professionalism in all the 14 optometry centres that the network operates nationwide has been the key differentiating factor that has led to Eyecon’s success to date, including being ranked number one in SME Corp. Malaysia’s Enterprise 50 (E50) Award 2012.

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The concept of SME Competitiveness Rating for Enhancement (SCORE), a diagnostic tool used to rate and enhance competitiveness of SMEs based on their performance and capabilities, was first developed and introduced in 2007.

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