Customer Service or Customer Care?

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 img_1105customer 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’.

img_1091When 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.img_1107

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.

Em xo

The Eyewear Girl: Australian Eyewear Advocate

Say the word ‘Influencer’ and you get a very mixed reaction from almost every audience. The most well known type of influencer is a fashion or travel influencer, who you see sharing stunning pictures every day in the world’s most exotic places, and wearing the latest fashion trends and making their pages look like a dream. Generally, Influencers are given products or services to promote on their social media pages. The more followers, comments and likes they get on each post raises their profile to online marketers, making them more attractive to companies wanting to promote their products. It’s kind of like a popularity contest; those with the most unique profiles or have something unique to offer do really well. Influencers make their money by the amount of business they create around the products or services they are promoting. For example, clicking a link from a bloggers page to a product website, using a discount code form an influencers page when you purchase something, following a brand on the recommendation of an influencer etc. These are all traceable KPI’s for an influencer paid by the companies that own the product or service and some have made a fantastic living out of it over time.

This is very much not me.

 

The Eyewear Girl only started in Jan 2019, so I’m still in the building stage – however things are going so much better than I expected it won’t be long before I’m aiming for even bigger platforms. But ‘influencer’? Not sure it sits that well with me, I feel like more of an ‘Advocate’, but the term influencer is hot right now and internationally, people know what you mean. So, let’s get real. A lot of people over the last month have asked me what I actually do. I am just a normal person working a full time job to pay the bills. That being said, I  LOVE the industry and am obsessed with eyewear so my passion runs a lot deeper than a ‘job’; It’s part of who I am.

So, why become an  ‘Influencer’?

Anyone in the Optical Industry knows the last 5-10 years have been incredibly tough for the Independent practice. Many have closed, many fight to stay open, others have been forced to hone in on their niche and refused to be pushed around. Not only have optical chains have taken over our shopping strips, our shopping centres, and a percentage of our independent stores, but also the advertising marketplace Australia wide. Possibly the hardest thing over this time period for Independent practice owners is that the end consumer generally has no idea what has been happening to our industry and what effect it has on them.

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Our Independent practices have had their values questioned, quality products branded as ‘over priced’, and professional identity stolen. Any one of these things could be a tough blow on any business, but all three together is an absolute nightmare.

With the mass media introduction of ‘packages’, ‘designer brands’ and ‘premium lenses’ being advertised EVERYWHERE for AUD$199 or similar, it’s ridiculous to think that the end consumer wouldn’t take notice. And so they should: that is a massive price difference from the premium lens and frame package you would get at an independent practice. WE know why – the customer doesn’t.

Those of us in stores have been forced to explain to our customers the difference in quality, that the words ‘designer brands’ have a lot of different meanings and that premium lenses at each business can mean something completely different. Some customers are happy to ask, listen and take on board the discussion seriously. A large amount of them nod their heads, but are thinking to themselves ‘ this is just an overpriced business trying to rip me off’. The newer generations go online and don’t even hesitate; they are more likely to go with what they like the look and price of without being too concerned about where the product comes from. This is what shopping in 2019 is. (PS sorry for the generalisations, but, you see my point.)

So, what does the Independent practice need to do to stay afloat? They need to know their identity and stick to it unapologetically. They need to sell value rather than brands, service over gimmicks and create relationships rather than the sale of one pair of glasses.

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I realised just how bad the situation was when my own friends and family were spending large amounts of money on eyewear but had absolutely no idea what they had just paid for. I found quotes for lenses with all kinds of extras including Multicoats, Photochromic material, High index materials and the like NOT split out on the quote – customers are being told that this one price (including everything- whether they want it or not) is what is ‘recommended’ for them. Over a 6 month period of investigating this, I found that a lot of these quotes were not from Independents, but unfortunately, SOME were.

Have we as an overall industry given up caring? Are we under-trained? Have we lost the ability to put customer care first? Whatever it is, our customers deserve better. They deserve to know what their options are. To be given thorough and correct information about their vision needs. They deserve to know exactly what they are paying for and why.

THIS is why I started The Eyewear Girl.

I wanted to build a platform for shoppers to see what options they actually have when it comes to eyewear. I wanted to elevate the independent practice again by highlighting the quality and value in good quality products and services. I wanted to build a space where consumers can be inspired to ask whatever questions they have about eyewear, or anything in optics where they know they will get a completely honest and unbiased answer.

And I am so happy to say it has worked. In The Eyewear Girls short lifetime I have created a platform where consumers and dispensers alike are learning about each other. People are wanting to learn more and are reaching out to understand our industry. Consumers are gaining confidence in loving eyewear and appreciating value in quality products over budget ‘fast-fashion’ chain stores. Don’t get me wrong, I actually believe there is a need for both at some level, but the public has a right to make an educated decision on what THEY value in their eyecare.

Across all of my platforms which include Instagram, Facebook and my website, my main goals are these:

–          To show off the beautiful products we have available in our country.

–          Explain and educate value in quality products, service and pricing.

–          To be an independent advocate for the Independent Eyewear Industry.

I value quality eyecare and eyewear because I have seen the differences from both sides of the coin. From the front of stores, to marketing and wholesale, I can explain the whole story. I educate by using my own images, tips, trends tech info, blogs, stories and full articles covering everything a consumer could want to know. And it’s fun! I love creating excitement and energy around anything that promotes good health.

I’m working with wholesalers to showcase their products to a wider audience. This gives their brand more recognition and exposure. I’m also working with practices to upskill their staff on high-end sales, dispensing lenses, relationships with customers and negotiating negative feedback. But, possibly the most important thing I’m doing is being a neutral face for the end consumer to be inspired, learn, ask questions and re-gain confidence in the independent practice.

The more exposure I get to brands and products, events, stores and the world of optics in general, the more detailed my information and platform can be and the more we all learn how best to move this industry forward. I am constantly looking for brands and wholesalers to work with. In the very near future I will be available for store VIP events as a ‘style consultant’ which will add another level to these promotions. I’m always interested in public speaking and corporate events and will be moving into training opportunities moving forward.

How can you help?

–          If you’re a wholesaler reach out – let’s talk.

–          If you’re a store, send me a message about your particular issues and eyewear needs, whatever they are.

–          If you’re a customer, be open and willing to learn and give honest feedback.

Because this is essentially an online business, engagement really matters. Every single like, comment, follow and share makes a huge difference to the exposure I get worldwide at the end of the day. So please share and tag as much as you like! If you’re ever not sure how, just shoot me a message.

So what does being an ‘influencer’ actually mean? It’s different for every person. I just want to share my love and passion for beautiful eyewear, and hopefully inspire consumers and dispensers alike to get excited about the options and opportunities out there in the Optical world.

The Eyewear Girl x

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