Today’s post is based on my experiences which are mostly from within the optical industry, but could applied to anyone that purchases basically anything from a store. When I started out in optics I was taught all about ‘Customer Service’ and what that meant. ‘The customer is always right’ etc was used as if it were law and employees had no rights whatsoever. Obviously a lot has changed since then, and ‘Customer Service’ means something different to everyone – Including business owners.
So what is the difference? Again, there are going to be a lot of differing opinions on this, but let me share my thoughts with you.
Firstly, as a consumer, I think of customer service as someone that is there to assist a customer by processing a purchase, or helping with basic information. Think working a checkout at a supermarket or behind a desk at Newsagents. Someone who is there to finalise a purchase for a consumer who basically knows at least roughly what they are there for. Customer Care however opens up a whole new area, care of course being the key word. Someone who works in customer care is more likely to work in a field that includes or involves health care, or a service rather than products alone. Customer care is when you are assisted with decision making before even making a decision to purchase and you have all of your options explained to you in a customised manner. Both are needed, in the right place.
Now, I get that this is a very broad summary but my point here is – There are always options in every industry for you to be treated as an individual. Sometimes, you just have to look outside your ‘norm’.
When considering the Optometry industry, you will realise that we cover both areas, Retail AND Health care. Health care being our main focus, and Retail being an extra, or after thought based on the outcome of your eye examination. Or at least, that’s how it should be. When visiting your local Optometry practice what you should expect, is that you are treated as an individual, not as a number. Sure, there are places where you can go and get glasses made up for $39AU, but rest assured you are literally treated like a number on a board, ‘assisted’ by whomever is free first.
Independent practices first and foremost are in business because they want to help people. They want to establish a relationship with you, and give you information based on what your needs are, so that you can make an informed decision on how and when to proceed. This, is customer care. When an optical dispenser sits down and asks you about your lifestyle, computer and phone usage, how active a person you are and how rough you are going to be -realistically- on your frames, this is because they want to make sure they help explain the best options that suit your individual needs, NOT because they want to hurry you up so they can move onto the next customer. Huge difference hey?
So when your local independent practice orders a frame you like in other colours for you to look at without any commitment, that is care. When they sit down and ask about your child’s sport after seeing them play on the weekend, that is care. And when they repair your sunglasses at no charge because they accidently went through the washing machine again, its because they understand, and they care. They care about you and your family long term.
So what happens when you come to see them for an eye exam but go and buy those $39AU specs from up the road? It hurts. And when you bring them in to be repaired because you accidently forgot which pair they were? They will most likely repair them for you because they know you can’t go to work without them or you will get a headache frame the glare that will lead into a migraine later. These are the things that separate customer care from customer service.
There is no right or wrong here. Customer Service vs Customer Care is up to every individuals’ interpretation, but I believe everyone has the right to understand that there are huge differences in the level and quality of care across our industry. The bottom line is, as always, if you want more, investigate other options. Eyecare is extremely important, and can also be expensive, so never be afraid to look around and find a match that you’re truly happy investing with.