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Thursday / August 11.
HomemibusinessMaking the Difference: Managing Customer Complaints

Making the Difference: Managing Customer Complaints

We all make mistakes, we all get complaints… whether they’re about your practice or your competition, it’s how you manage those customer complaints that can make all the difference.

Recently my mother spent AU$1,800 on two pairs of glasses –prescription sunglasses and reading glasses – from her new optometrist. She loves them and she told her new optom so. She also said her new glasses are 100 times better than the ones she’d bought from down the road.

What she regrets is that for the past two years she’s been wearing dodgy specs that she had to take off to walk down stairs and drive in.

And what I don’t understand is why she didn’t take those dodgy specs straight back to the originating optom the moment she realised they weren’t providing the vision correction she needed.

There’s an art to dispensing spectacles and it takes time. You have to ask lots of questions to find the right solution for the individual patient, mainly about lifestyle…

She’s just too nice.

It begs the question, how many other patients are too nice to complain… and how many of them head straight to your competition and bag you when poor vision correction results from an inadvertent mistake or mis-communication?

Optical Dispenser Murray O’Brien from Designed Eyes in Melbourne says he’s regularly approached by disgruntled spectacle wearers. “It’s a delicate situation – you can’t put the boot into your competitor – but sometimes the job a person brings off the street is no good, particularly if it’s come from a practice that doesn’t employ qualified optical dispensers.

“There’s an art to dispensing spectacles and it takes time. You have to ask lots of questions to find the right solution for the individual patient, mainly about lifestyle: what is your work, how do you work, how is your computer positioned – is it a laptop or a desktop – is the screen above or below eye height; what are your movements in the office, do you need to see into the distance or do you focus on a screen? What sports do you play, are you in the sun a lot? All this information is necessary before you determine the best lens.

“Patients are generally very responsive – they instinctively understand I’m trying to get an idea of their situation so I can provide them with the best vision solution.”

Please Come Back

Even armed with all that information, it is possible to make a dispensing error, and so Mr. O’Brien says he always strongly encourages patients to come back. “I always say, if you have any issues, problems, questions, please, please come back to us – don’t just brush us off.”

At George Skoufis Optometrist in Sydney’s elite suburb of Paddington, clients are presented with an extraordinary selection of unusual and often bold frames. Even with the most personal service and advice, sometimes the customer will suffer post purchase anxiety.

“We all make mistakes – customers and staff alike – so it’s important to have the opportunity to fix things,” said the practice’s optical dispenser Kylie O’Brien.

“If customers don’t like the frame they chose, we’ll happily swap it and if they want the lenses upgraded, that’s fine too. Our aim is to make sure they walk away with glasses they love because if our customers are happy, they’ll come back, we will have earned their loyalty.

Ms. O’Brien applies the same philosophy when dealing with people who come in complaining about the service or product they’ve received from competitors.

“If ever a customer comes in and they’re unhappy with their previous optometrist the first thing I’ll say to them is, ‘Your optometrist would definitely not want you to be unhappy, so why don’t you go back and see them?’

“If the customer is too embarrassed to go back to their optometrist, if they really don’t want to do that, we’ll help them – we’ll try and work out what’s going on.

“It’s a case of sitting down and taking the time to work through the issue – and sometimes, even though they say the glasses just aren’t working for them, you’ll find they simply don’t like the frame, or they’d prefer to have their lenses upgraded.”

Gathering the Facts

Ed Kosmac from Kosmac and Clemens in Central Victoria won’t provide an opinion on a competitor’s product or refraction without providing a full patient consultation to gather all the facts. He finds that many of the patients’ problems come from a lack of communication between parties.

“I’ll do a refraction and compare it to the spectacles the patient has been given. Sometimes I’ll say I agree with the prescription, but if my refraction differs from the original, there’s no way I’ll leap in and criticise my competitor. I’ll explain to the patient that refractions can vary from day to day for a number of reasons – perhaps they have dry eye, or their eyes might be welling up on the day; or perhaps they have a diabetic condition they are not aware of, and require further investigation for.”

Unrealistic Expectations

Mr. Kosmac said sometimes patients simply have unrealistic expectations. “The patient who is prescribed multifocals for the first time may not realise he or she will most likely need a second pair of glasses to achieve the all-round vision they’re after. Or the patient who bought an old generation multifocal lens design only to find that it doesn’t provide a wide enough field of vision for their requirements. Then there are the patients that don’t appreciate the vision impact of an emerging eye disease.

“Sometimes during a consultation with a disgruntled patient, I’ll identify an emerging eye disease – usually cataracts or age related macular degeneration – that no spectacle lens could ever correct. The patient will tell me their optometrist didn’t make the diagnosis, but I’m inclined to give the optometrist the benefit of the doubt. It usually comes down to misunderstanding – perhaps the patient blocked out the information due to fear, or perhaps he or she didn’t understand that the new lenses wouldn’t compensate for the impact of the disease.

“As an optometrist it can be hard to prepare a patient for all the possibilities – because vision is such an individual and subjective thing, it’s a little non-predictive and we’re not inside the patient’s head to assess how they’re seeing.”

In the end, Mr. Kosmac says, “communication is vital, at every step of the way, to ensure both parties have a thorough understanding of the patient’s vision requirements and clear expectations for what can be achieved.”

To Keep a Patient… or Not

For patients who are simply unhappy with their frames or the lenses because of a warranty or refraction issue, Mr. Kosmac said he always encourages them to go back to the original optometrist where the problem can be resolved at little or no cost to themselves. However, when the problem stems from a mis-diagnosis, he said it’s up to the patient to decide which provider is offering the best service and information, and ultimately who they feel more comfortable consulting. “Either way I won’t ever criticise another optometrist and I will always leave the door open – this is after all, an opportunity to win a new client.” he said.