How Sightbox Went from Launch to Acquisition In 18 Months By Focusing on Customer Happiness

Sightbox net promoter

According to research done by the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of all adults need some form of vision correction.  

If you are (or were) part of the 75% like me (I had corrective surgery several years ago), you know how big of a pain in the butt it can be to maintain your prescription each year, not to mention the costs, especially if you wear contact lenses.

Enter Sightbox, a subscription-based company for contact lens wearers, that reduces the headaches and costs of maintaining your vision correction.  


Just last week, the Portland-based company announced that after only 18 months since their launch, they’ve been acquired by the health behemoth, Johnson & Johnson.

Prior to this announcement, the 20-person team at Sightbox had managed to raise $4.2 million in venture funding and amass 1000’s of customers in the short time they’ve been in the market.

How did they do it?

Richard Kotulski, Marketing Manager at Sightbox believes that their explosive growth has a lot to do with their ability to maintain a high-level of positive customer sentiment. The focus on the customer experience has led to strong retention (aka renewals), along with a consistently excellent NPS score of 59, which translates into advocacy.

Before we go into their process of maintaining customer excellence, let’s first take a look at why customers have sought them out in the first place.

Imagine you’re someone that wears contacts.

If you’re like the majority, your insurance coverage probably doesn’t cover much beyond your annual eye visit, and that’s if you’re lucky.  

In order to supply yourself with the contacts you’ll need for any given year, you’re required to first have an annual exam. If you don’t already have an optometrist, you’ll need to find one on your own, book an appointment and likely pay out-of-pocket.

Once you have your prescription, you then will be able to order your contacts. For most people, the only option is to buy the year supply all at once, which can cost a pretty penny.

This is where Sightbox saw a market opportunity.

Paying for the expense of the visit and a year’s supply of contacts up front isn’t reasonable for most people, so Sightbox decided to create an easier and more affordable way to do it.

Their model is pretty simple. For a flat monthly fee, Sightbox will find you a convenient eye doctor, book and pay for the appointment, and then send your needed supply of contacts on a monthly or quarterly basis.

sightbox process

In the end, their customer not only saves time and money, but it also removes the burden of having to repeat the process each year.

While Sightbox runs as a subscription business, billing on a monthly or quarterly basis, customers are required to sign a one-year contract in order to work with them.

This approach has helped the company maintain high customer retention, but it’s still an area that receives a lot of focus.

That’s where NPS has come in for Kotulski and his team.

Scheduled Survey Cadence

To ensure that the company is getting the most relevant sentiment from their customers at the right time, Sightbox sends each customer two NPS surveys during each year of their relationship.

First NPS Survey

The initial survey is sent 2-weeks after the customer receives their first initial box of the year. This is what some companies would call the “moment of truth” survey.

For Sightbox, it’s less about reaching customers at a time when they’re deciding to stay or leave, and more about ensuring that their experience, up to this point in the lifecycle, has met or exceeded their expectations.

From an improvement standpoint, the initial surveys can be really useful in increasing your conversion rate. Often times, especially when using customer attribute data and tagging to narrow your NPS results, you’ll be able to identify, with pinpoint accuracy, the exact reason(s) why customers aren’t converting or completing their purchase.

Second NPS Survey

Since each customer relationship is based on an annual agreement, it’s important that Sightbox has a good sense of customer sentiment ahead of renewals.

In order to effectively achieve this, the second NPS survey is sent to the customer 3 months ahead of their renewal date.

At this point in the life cycle, the customer has had plenty of time to fully experience the service and should have a pretty strong sentiment towards the brand one way or the other.

Based on that sentiment, Sightbox is able to accurately predict how likely each customer is to renew their subscription when their contract expires and react proactively.

Bucketizing Renewals

Being able to predict churn is one thing, but being able to prevent churn is an entirely different beast.

In order to properly triage their customers following the completion of their second survey, Kotulski and his team place them each in a ‘renewal bucket’ which helps dictate what needs to be done next.

For those of you familiar with NPS, their buckets align with the scoring for each category of sentiment (promoter, passive, detractor).

  1. Promoter bucket – These customers are obviously the most likely to renew. They are communicated to as such by being placed into a process that moves them towards renewal.
  2. Passive bucket – A score of 7 or 8 is an indication to the Sightbox team that this customer may require a bit of assistance to overcome any negative or passive sentiment before they are likely to renew.

    In most cases, Kotulski has found that these customers are looking for slight improvements to be made in order to continue.
  3. Detractor bucket –  As you would assume, customers who have provided a detractor score are presented with more hands-on customer support intervention. Kotulski mentions that in many cases, they will receive a direct phone call from someone on the team.

Regardless of which bucket a customer qualifies for, Sightbox closes the loop with each and every customer that responds, which, if you follow this blog to any degree, you know is the key to driving the most bottom-line value out of your NPS efforts.

Improving Retention Through Measured Feedback

While Kotulski states that only 1 out of every 6 responses they receive is negative in nature, that hasn’t prevented them from improving their retention from the critical feedback they do receive.

They group and analyze their passive and detractor feedback on two levels:

  1. Granular – This involves reacting and/or responding to feedback on an individual level. What is this “one” customer’s experience and how can we improve it for them.

    This level of granular focus means that changes that are made may not necessarily improve the experience for every customer, but rather just this particular individual.
  2. High-level – Sightbox uses keyword trends analysis (tagging) within Promoter to identify the big key issues that are impacting customers on a global scale.

    Applying trend tags, along with the individual sentiment within the feedback has helped Sightbox quickly spot the gaps in their service.

Kotulski has been able to combine these two levels of analysis to really narrow down the areas that need actionable improvement.

For example, through their high-level trend analysis, the team was able to see that ‘customer communication’ was a gap that needed to be addressed.

On the surface, customer communication can mean several things, so in it of itself, identifying a need to improve communications with customers isn’t all that actionable.

However, when they were able to combine the trending data along with granular level analysis, they were able to better understand that the communication issue had more to do with delays the customers were experiencing.

Due to the explosive growth the company had been experiencing, it had been taking longer than expected to find and book eye appointments for customers.

Because of this bottleneck and the misaligned timing expectations of the customer, the perception became that there was a lack of communication, rather than a lack of internal customer support resources.

Based on this discovery, Sightbox was able to develop a proper formula of internal booking agents needed for each set of customers as well as set the proper expectations through improved communications.

Combining both granular analysis and a broader trend analysis is critical for any company. It’s an essential step in properly identifying and prioritizing far-reaching mission-critical issues versus individual anomalies.

The role NPS has played in their success

Kotulski stated, “As a company that has seen explosive growth in the last six months we had a lot of new members to survey, but because we’re also a young company still figuring out how to scale, it was incredibly important for us to get as much feedback as quickly as possible and use that feedback for a deep dive into some of our bigger issues.

The high response rate we got from our NPS survey allowed us to have confidence that what we were hearing from our customers was representative of the overall customer experience and that we could take action on it knowing that it would really move the needle for us. Identifying those pain points early in our life means we can tweak and revise our customer experience so that it’s great for all our new members.”

And, as for why they chose …

“We looked at many different NPS solutions before choosing Promoter and there was no contest between them. Promoter offered the most robust set of analytics, integration, and facilitation. It’s not just about the score, but about the conversations that the score starts.

We didn’t use any other product because we could see that Promoter was hands down the best option out there.”

Was their successful NPS results a factor in the acquisition of Sightbox for Johnson & Johnson? No doubt.

But, one thing that Kotulski knows for certain is that “happy customers” and true customer advocates have been their biggest propeller of growth so far.

2 thoughts on “How Sightbox Went from Launch to Acquisition In 18 Months By Focusing on Customer Happiness”

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