Interview with Martin Himmelsbach

Martin Himmelsbach is Managing Director of IPRO GmbH and has been providing opticians and audiologists with high-quality IT solutions for more than 35 years. He helped to programme the first software solution when he was a mathematics student and has been fascinated by optometry ever since.

"This wonderful blend of handicraft, design, trade, fashion and medicine has captivated me to this day," enthuses Himmelsbach. In a conversation with opti, he explains what advanced industry software can achieve and what optimum support means for him. The German market leader's customer base now includes more than 3,000 business in Europe - and this trend is set to increase.

Advanced industry software - digital interface optimisation

opti: Mr Himmelsbach, customers appreciate comfort and like accessing their desired data as simply as possible at the touch of a button. Is your industry software that user-friendly and what additional benefits does it have for opticians?

Himmelsbach: Good industry software combines data from customer lists, warehouses, payment systems, and the entire refraction process with various digital equipment and payment systems, so that opticians can actually obtain a very accurate overview of their business at the touch of a button.

What I find even more important, however, is the possibility of using this software to filter out customers who, for example, may have a particular interest in lenses that are optimised for mesopic (twilight) conditions or who, as winter sports enthusiasts, are keen to invest in the new "unbreakable" ski goggles.

A short text message with an overview of my manufacturer's current lens range, an e-mail about the latest ski googles or even direct posts on Facebook can all be implemented seamlessly with the IPRO software, providing the optician and his or her employees have fed the important customer data into the system.

This personal commitment to customer retention is time-consuming but, in our experience, it definitely pays off. And anyone who wants to offer their customers a late-night shopping experience can do so by linking up with the online store via a customised interface.

This partner project has already been running for four weeks. Younger customers, in particular, are fairly open to this way of shopping, especially when it comes to sunglasses. The over 40s prefer to shop for reading glasses.

"We are the first to provide most of the solutions on offer - that makes me proud"

opti: How does customised industry software work?

Himmelsbach: One of our main objectives is the integration of different equipment and processes. We are already offering hundreds of customised interfaces on winIPRO, which can also be tailored to meet individual user requirements.

What makes me especially proud is that we are the first to provide most of the solutions on offer. This is certainly because our programmers are already thinking about what kind of support our customers need on a day-to-day basis to help them progress, regardless of whether it relates to design ideas or medical issues.

We have 12 consultants who offer in-person advisory services for our customers. Attentiveness is our top priority, listening, observing and presenting a truly optimum solution based on a great deal of empathy - that's our style. And those who really listen closely will be able to find out what their customers want from the future.

opti: As an optician, how much patience will I need after purchasing the software before it actually starts running smoothly?

Himmelsbach: We invest as much time as necessary with the customer to ensure everything is working efficiently. Two half days are usually enough to deliver training for standard processes. We also provide support in form of webinars, seminars and a hotline, which is open five days a week and offers support in four languages.

"A real chance of positively weathering the digitisation phase"

opti: What are the latest trends and what does the future hold for your customers?

Himmelsbach: PASKAL 3D has allowed us to rediscover refraction and make it considerably more attractive. The latest version includes recent tests on mesopic vision and paediatric optometry.

That being said, our - let's called them "star topics" of the future - are the latest SQL database language, the web shop interface as well as the highly topical GoBD principles, which relate to the duly maintenance and storage of books, records and documents in electronic form, as well as to data access.

In my opinion, the optometry industry has a real chance of positively weathering the digitisation phase because bespoke advisory services can never be provided by an online shop.

Good vision and the associated good looks will not lose their relevance, and so far, portals such as my-Spexx or Brille 24 have merely managed to reduce the pace at which debt is racked up.

But what makes me really happy at the moment - and a little proud as well - is that we succeeded in laying the foundations for the best digital imaging of glass catalogues together with nearly 50 glass suppliers, EDV providers and international guests in Stuttgart on 11 November 2016. We are now hoping for a scheduled implementation of the newly developed B2B Lens Catalogue V7 format in the coming year.

opti: Mr Himmelsbach, thank you for the interview.

Martin Himmelsbach

Martin Himmelsbach is Managing Director of IPRO GmbH and has been providing opticians and audiologists with high-quality IT solutions for more than 35 years. He helped to programme the first software solution when he was a mathematics student and has been fascinated by optometry ever since.

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