A long time ago, in an optical industry far, far removed from the one that we know now, the customer, or more precisely, the patient, didn’t have a lot of say in the process.

Not too many decades ago, a patient with prescription in hand would go to the optical shoppe, sit at a dispensing table and allow the professional to select several frames to try on. The selection would essentially be made for the patient.

Those days are long gone, and the consumer is now very much in charge, a fact that is no doubt perplexing to some in optical retail. Today’s consumer comes armed with precise brand names and personal style preferences, expecting service with a smile and something that optical has not been especially trained to provide: A unique and satisfying experience.

One might say, “But eyewear isn’t like shopping for a luxury car or a new handbag,” missing the point entirely. Customers don’t make that distinction; neither should optical. Here are some fundamental tenets for giving good customer experience:

Make them feel welcome. Customers should be greeted, not just “checked in.” Treat them like guests, offering coffee or water and a comfortable area to wait and even preview products.

Make them feel appreciated. The professional should extend a personal welcome and have a brief exchange.

Help them enjoy the process. Yes, it’s an eye exam not a first date, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be conducted with some enthusiasm. Injecting one’s passion into the journey puts it at a whole new level.

Personalize it. Make the customer feel special. Be sure to have staff show the latest eyewear fashions and talk up new technologies in a way that speaks to their personal needs.

Provide the expected…but also the surprising. Customers should expect and receive top level service and care, but surprise them too. Provide a small gift with purchase or a money-off coupon on a second pair.

Thank them. Not only at the conclusion of the appointment, but also later on with a handwritten note.

Stay in touch. It’s been documented that 60% of all consumers will provide their email addresses if they believe that it will benefit them.

Create a loyalty program. Loyalty programs are prolific, but that’s because they work. Customer appreciation is always acknowledged, and it does more to retain customers (and garner referrals) than any other effort.

None of this is rocket science, but it’s also very easy to overlook. It takes effort. The most important thing to remember, one should do unto others…


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