Customer service is all about the service

April 22, 2013

Most ophthalmic professionals will bend over backward to ensure patients are satisfied with materials purchased in our offices. But, how does your practice handle service requests from non-customers? That service aspect has a time value and therefore a dollar value. Develop your office policies now on how to handle service requests when your office isn’t providing the eyewear. Never apologize for the fees you charge. You set the value of your service-if you don’t value it, no one else will.

I recently bought a new truck. It’s nothing fancy, a bare-bones pickup truck. I looked far and wide, did extensive research, haggled with different dealerships, and narrowed the selection to a couple of choices. Now, while my wife will tell you I made my selection based on its crimson color (Roll Tide!), my deciding factor was the dealership’s service department. The people there cared for my old jalopy for years and I trust them with my vehicles.

Customer service is something that seems to have fallen by the wayside these days. Perhaps it’s society’s fixation on cost alone. The optical business isn’t immune. There has been a proliferation of online optical retailers with attractive pricing that definitely attracts some patients. Yet, you can’t judge a product or service by cost alone.

Has your practice encountered any of these scenarios?

  • A patient returns to your office with a pair of spectacles purchased online and wants your staff to adjust them “because they don’t fit right.”

  • A patient complains that he or she is not seeing adequately out of a pair of glasses purchased online and wants you to “check them.”

  • A phone shopper wants to know if your office would measure her PD “because the place where I got the exam didn’t and I want to order my glasses online.”

Of course, in all three examples, the patients want this service for free!

I am quite certain most ophthalmic professionals are alike in this way: We will bend over backward to ensure that our patients are happy and satisfied with materials purchased in our offices. There is a service component to the fitting, measuring, and dispensing of eyewear that is not considered by patients when they purchase online. Optical dispensing requires fitting measurements that must be initially obtained in person by a trained professional, then the spectacles must be properly adjusted at dispensing. There is a tremendous amount of patient education along the entire process, discussing lens and frame types, and marrying the patient’s needs with his or her frame desires.

Online vendors can’t do these personal services.

That service aspect has a time value and therefore a dollar value. Who determines the value of that service? You do-the business owner. Online vendors surely don’t feel these services are important. Like the old saying goes, no one is going to value your service if you don’t first. Time is money. For years, we’ve operated on the policy of taking care of whoever comes through our door, and that included free repairs and adjustments without really monitoring where the person obtained his glasses. We always thought it was good public relations, built goodwill, and resulted in future business. That’s my fault. Like I said earlier, if we don’t value our services, no one else will. By doing free repairs and adjustments for anybody who walked through the door, we were actually devaluing our own materials and services. I mean, why purchase your materials here if you know we’re going to care for your eyewear no matter where you got them?

Regardless of how you feel about online eyewear retailers, the wise thing to do is develop your office policies now-if you haven’t already-on how to handle information and service requests when your office isn’t providing the eyewear. Be prepared to discuss your policies and concerns with patients and out-of-the-practice clients asking about buying eyewear online. Above all, never apologize for the fees you charge. You set the value of your service, and if you don’t value it, no one else will.

Aren’t you worth every penny?

How does your practice handle service requests from non-customers? I am interested to hear your policies and how you enforce them. Drop me a line at drbowling@windstream.net.ODT