By Maria Anubi
The first thing to remember when considering optics customers is that they are likely to come to the practice only when they have an interest in solving a problem with an optics related solution.
Your customers come into your practice because it is a specialist store. They come in because they have an interest in the displayed frames as well as related products and services. A 2015 ComRes report for the General Optical Council found the main reason patients last went to the opticians was to check their vision (80 per cent). Secondary reasons include purchasing new corrective appliances (15 per cent) or for an eye health related issue (the final 5 per cent being a combination of ‘to detect any eye health problems’, ‘to see if there is any damage to my eyes’ or ‘for advice or treatment for an urgent problem with sight’).
If we take our customers perspective and step into their shoes for a moment, all opticians appear to provide the same products and services.
So how can customers differentiate which optical practice is best able to meet their needs and eye care requirements as well as having their best interest at heart?
The answer lies in their customer service.
The voices of your customers are everywhere, if you ask investigative questions, listening carefully to the answers; you will hear their ‘pains’, needs and desires. Align your products and services to meet these specific needs. What is your ultimate differentiator from competitors?
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that we work backwards, starting with the customer experience and then discover how our products and services can offer incredible benefits and where we can take our customers in the experience.
A memorable customer experience allows practices to differentiate and create a brand that provides an unforgettable customer experience.
Every member of a team is ultimately responsible for delivering the total customer experience that distinguishes the practice from its competitors. So every member of a team needs to understand, support and deliver the customer focused approach to your business proposition.
Align your business proposition with your dispensing
Creating a ‘proposition’ to provide value for customers means providing a distinct mix of elements catering to their specific needs such as:
A strategy that will aligns a practice’s proposition to the specific needs and expectations of their customers’ can help a practice stand out from its competitors.
So let’s consider how a customer may experience a proposition ‘fit’ within a dispensing experience.
Our role as dispensing opticians is to ensure that we ask questions to understand the issues, challenges and ‘pain points’ customers are experiencing, plus the customer desires for the interaction.
A good place to start is by asking lifestyle questions (see box 1).
Strive for a fit.
A fit happens when a customer gets excited about your proposition. This happens when you address tasks, pains and gains.
What are customer pains?
We ask questions that establish what annoys customers and prevents them from getting a task done. The ‘pain’ can be extreme or moderate. A customer ‘pain’ is often fear based and the basis for any purchasing decisions.
A poll from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology found people believe losing their vision would create the largest impact on their lives. It ranked even higher than the loss of other important functions, like memory or speaking.
More typically, customers may have a fear of the unknown, such as: Do I trust this optician?
Or they may have a fear of making a mistake. For example, what happens if I can’t get used to these varifocals?
So what are your customer’s main difficulties and challenges?
Consider how your practice proposition is able to align as ‘pain relief’ for customers.
Pain relievers describe how your practice products and services alleviate a specific customer ‘pain’ and great customer service propositions focus on the ‘pains’ that matter to the customer.
So ask yourself: Could my services make customer feel less fearful? How do I diminish their concerns?
So if you consider the customer experience as a ‘pain reliever’ opportunity, a start point could be a customer’s awareness and acknowledgement that there is a problem with reading small print.
A ‘pain relief’ opportunity could then be to offer a service where instant access to an eye health check can make a big difference.
Consider how a business proposition can succinctly align with practice services. For example, alleviating the ‘fear’ for example of scheduling an appointment, or remembering to turn up, and the fear of not feeling welcomed by staff members. A proposition could be: A customer’s online 24/7 access to the practice’s appointment scheduler.
Trigger questions at this stage could include:
What can make your customers’ work or personal life easier? What do they like or dislike about current glasses?
After the eye health check, the optometrist next introduces the customer to the dispensing optician. At this stage the dispensing optician interprets and translates the optical prescription into a language that is understood by the customer. The next step is frame styling and lens selection.
A gain creator and most basic expectation required from a pair of spectacles at this point, it is that customers will expect to see better than they did before the eye health check.
So the next consideration for our customer is for them to determine the relevance of a gain; is it essential or simply nice to have? (Box 2)
During the dispensing interaction it is important the dispenser understands that customers make buying decisions based on a combination of emotional and logical reasons. It makes them feel good (emotion) or it solves a problem (logic). Successful dispensing is a combination of identifying and satisfying needs.
Consider how you intend to produce outcomes and benefits that the customer expects, desires, or would be delighted by. The follow up phases of the customer journey offer such opportunities.
Opportunity to wow and delight customers continues as the order is processed. The customers experience is still in progress as we consider which touch points we can still influence. For example, keeping the customer notified with regards to the progress of their order.
The opportunity to delight can also create at collection. The opportunity to create a favourable moment can create further touchpoints and memorable moments. These may be lost if not taken immediately and may include care instructions and products that may be beneficial (such as cloths, sprays, cords, chains, different cases).
Again, how does this fit into the customer service journey? A successful proposition will end as beneficially as it began, by listening to and watching what customers do and say.
Customer tasks: lifestyle
Customer tasks are the things they are trying to get done in their work or life.
Examining what these tasks are and how our customer’s vision and visual comfort impacts their ability to get those things done is an essential part of a dispensing experience.
Lifestyle questions elicit detail around the tasks customers try to perform and complete, or problems that they are trying to solve.
One example may be customers are aware of visual fatigue when using a computer.
We begin by playing the detective asking investigative questions and making sure we take the customers perspective. What you consider is important might not be that important to the customer. It is essential to acknowledge that not all their tasks or challenges have the same importance. We may need to help customers to prioritise them.
The next step is uncovering what proposition you offer and aligning it to the customer’s specific needs by asking:
Which ‘gains’ do they need but don’t have? What can you offer?
Your products and services
This is what is on offer to your customers. With this bundle of products and services we help customers complete their tasks or help them meet basic needs.
Customer gains: The outcomes and benefits customers want. Some gains are required, others expected, or desired by the customer.
A required gain: the outcome of an eye health check. After the test a customer’s most basic expectation is to be informed in simple terms if their eyes are healthy, and if not, to be referred to a specialist.
An expected gain: when the patient requires spectacles; the spectacles will provide a better visual acuity than without.
A desired gain: one which goes beyond the expectation of a solution. Such as where frames are more robust due to sprung sides, are lightweight due to the use of materials such as titanium, or a specific brand that meets an emotional want, such as that of status and prestige.
Gain creator: this describes how your products and services intend to produce outcomes and benefits that your customer expects, desires, or would be delighted by, including functional utility, social gains, positive emotions and cost savings. Again, there is a focus on the high relevancy to the individual customer.
Maria Anubi is a Dispensing Optician, business coach and author.