One of the great debates in the optical world is whether an optical office should charge for services such as adjustments, replacing a lost screw, etc. The question specifically focuses on whether you should charge to work on eyewear that was not purchased in your office. This struck a nerve when I recently posed the question to a group of ECPs.
For many decades, optical offices provided these services to non-customers because they saw it as a way of promoting their business and hopefully attracting new patients. When chain eyewear retailing became popular in the late ’70s, more optical offices reconsidered this strategy and started to charge for their services. The argument was that people would go to a low-cost retailer to buy their eyeglasses but would come to an independent to get them serviced-and expect it for free.
The overwhelming majority of those I asked said that they give away most of these services for free, just like they did decades ago. Only two said that they charge. This is startling, especially when you consider the number of people buying eyewear on the Internet who have no place to go for these services except a local shop that must expend resources to provide services for eyewear it didn’t make, made no profit on, and furthermore, run the risk of damaging.
Even so, business owners and managers said that they still see doing this as an effective marketing tool. Essentially, it gives them the opportunity to explain what they do and the value they provide. Several were emphatic that this translated into additional sales.
One retailer did a little research for a couple of years and discovered that the same people were coming back to him for services but with different eyewear. In other words, people were returning to his office with new eyewear that they bought somewhere else. As might be expected, this retailer started charging for services.
A few mentioned that this isn’t a black-and-white issue. Sometimes they charge for services and sometimes they don’t. They make that determination based on what the customer wants and how that service may or may not result in future sales.
My survey is not going to end this debate, but it does shed some new light on an old subject. Even confronted with online retailing and all the other pressures of retailing today, the vast majority of independent optical offices still give their supplemental services to people who are not their patients at no charge.
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