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Wednesday / August 17.
HomemibusinessCustomer Service

Customer Service

If you had no choice whatsoever but to serve and satisfy people at the highest levels…imagine how your practice would flourish!

There are two market promises that every good business, including optometry practices, aspire to operate by.

The first is to attend to people in a pleasant, punctual and professional manner in all areas of your practice, on the phone and via email. This is an expected form of business behaviour, and while it might be an obvious promise from you, it amounts to no more than an entitlement to those you serve. To customers, the service they experience is just a means to an end, and speaking of ‘end’ we come to the second promise…

This concerns your unspoken assurance to help people achieve the best possible personal results from the services and products you provide. This promise represents a silent pledge to ask quality questions in an effort to find and act on ‘personal needs’ that customers don’t know they have. The main reason that the second critical promise is unspoken, is that neither the practice or the customer knows anything about what the ‘personal needs’ might be… until discussion beyond what the customer ‘asked for and expected’ takes place. By the way, your first promise of service must be fulfilled before you can attempt to deliver on the second – if a customer feels they have been poorly attended to, they will not trust you enough to discuss their needs at a more personal level.

Ask quality questions, so as to find and act on ‘personal needs’ that customers don’t know that they have

Service Expected

I recently called in to the optometry practice I have used for some time, and after explaining what I wanted and giving my name, the person serving said, “just wait please and someone will attend to you right away.” Ten minutes later I gave up waiting and walked out of the practice. Not surprisingly, I felt like giving my custom to another business. Having given my name, I half expected they would contact me to apologise – but they didn’t. As you can see, despite the first promise of service being obvious and expected, it is quite often abused.

The Missing Link

I have been told by owners and managers of practices that: “what is supposed to happen after an eye test, is that the person who did the testing should form a link with the next person to look after the customer, so that information can be passed on and the next phase managed successfully.”

This makes great sense to me, however I have never experienced such a link. So where is this intended professional process falling down?

A factor that applies to my business may provide an answer. Before I perform as a speaker at conferences, and indeed prior to delivering short or lengthy training courses for organisations, I always go through a ‘brief’ with the people who are hiring my services. This ‘process’ is anticipated by both parties and it takes into consideration the two promises…in that I have to be sure that what I present is in line with requested emphasis, etc., and also that additional ideas I have offered during the briefing are included in the session.

So, my two promises are well and truly ‘locked in’, so to speak. I am very mindful to note down the agreed content… and in this way I have no choice but to deliver what was promised and agreed.

Put Your Team on Notice

With this line of thought in mind, why not consider displaying a service guarantee in strategic areas in the practice. This initiative will put your team on notice to do what must be done, without worrying about whether all customers agree with your ideas or not.

The guarantee could run along the lines of, “A message to our customers…

You are entitled to a $100 gift certificate if we fail to deliver on our internal policy and promise to offer ideas and advice to help you achieve the best solution to fit your personal needs… on any purchase, small or large. If you feel entitled to a certificate, just inform the manager.”

There are two decisions made in consulting: you make the first in the form of advice and the customer makes the second in the form of a yes or a no. If I were running an optometry practice, I would definitely run with this strategy, because it wouldn’t take too many certificates for me to find ways to always do the right things by customers and the practice.

Learn from Feedback

There is a company in the U.S. called ‘Granite Rock’ which supplies the building trade. They employed a similar strategy to the one I am recommending here. In order to ensure that their service was always first class, they placed the following statement on their invoices: ‘The amount shown below is now due, however if you feel we have let you down through our service then please feel free to reduce the cost by whatever amount you feel is justified. However, if you do choose to reduce the bill then it is imperative that you clearly explain where our service went wrong.’

This idea, which they named ‘short-pay’, was not abused at all, and, while some customers did adjust their invoices, the benefit was that, in the process, they found out what mistakes they were making in service. This allowed Granite Rock to make corrections and become the best service provider in their field! The saying ‘fortune favours the brave’ applies in this instance, and if you are thinking of using the idea I have put forward, all you have to do is trial the strategy for a week or so, to see if it is has the impact you want and expect. In fact, for my part I will supply one of my books (there are 11) to any optometry practice that implements this idea and provides feedback on what transpired, what was learned, etc. Over to you…

John Lees is a speaker, trainer and consultant who specialises in sales & marketing. He is the author of 11 books on business development. For books and further information go to: www.johnlees.com.au