Serendipity intervened today, as I was finalising the exciting new Activeyes website and uploading the first few ‘News & Views’ articles.

Our dishwasher ground to a rather noisy halt a few days ago.  Hopeful that it merely needed a simple repair, I called out Chris – an electrical appliance specialist.

As Chris arrived this morning, I offered him a cup of coffee and watched as he switched the dishwasher on, listening intently as the motor whirred but no wash cycle commenced.  With an ominous shake of the head, Chris pronounced the dishwasher beyond repair, as the parts required are now obsolete.

I asked him to give me a few options for replacement built-in machines and, as he browsed through his supplier’s website, we chatted – Chris being a Baggie (West Brom) and me a lifelong Posh (Peterborough United) supporter.

Chris then asked what I do for a living and I explained that I help owners of optometric practices build better businesses.

Rather than responding with glazed-over eyes or a disinterested shrug, Chris removed his glasses from his nose and told me his new ‘bifocals’ (they were actually progressives) had been “giving me trouble.”  Returning them to his face, Chris provided a demonstration of how difficult he was finding location of the correct zone, particularly when working on electrical appliances – i.e mainly at arm’s length.

Chris went on to tell me that he purchased these glasses at one of the supermarket opticians and, although he was sure the lady who tested his eyes was qualified, he hadn’t been impressed with the chap who ‘fitted’ his frame (presumably an optical assistant).

Interestingly, he doubted the lenses were the same quality as those he has had in the past, but said he had purchased 2 pairs for £99, whereas he had previously paid £300-400 at his local, independent optician.

Chris described the experience as a ‘sausage factory’, lacking any element of personal service, and concluded with “I suppose you get what you pay for.”

As an advert for independent optometry, this could not have been better scripted.  Chris left me in little doubt that he will return to his local independent to resolve his visual problems.

Great news!

Or is it?

I’m not convinced his local optician is equipped to prevent Chris returning to the supermarket sector in the future.  Key questions I would pose to the practice owner include:

  • What communication, since his last purchase has Chris received from the practice?  How can we assume his loyalty if we only ‘speak’ to him via a recall letter every 2 years?
  • Why does Chris not know what type of lenses he wears?  Answer: because no-one has ever taken the time to educate him, explain the benefits and maintain a relationship via regular communications that refer to his individual needs and preferences.  If the terms ‘progressives’ or ‘varifocals’ are too confusing for patients to retain, why not create terms that they will remember – and that are not used by the multiples?  For example, ‘All-Distance’ or ‘Omni-Vision’ lenses.
  • The failure to educate Chris extends to his recollection of pricing.  In his mind, his local optician charges £300-400 for his varifocals, which he considers expensive.  Yet, he recognises that “you get what you pay for.”  Chris knows what he PAID…but his independent has failed to educate Chris on what he GOT, and the benefits thereof.
  • With so much near- and intermediate-distance work, why is Chris not carrying a pair of glasses with occupational lenses?  I didn’t check, but am certain Chris doesn’t have a dedicated pair of glasses for driving – a significant part of his typical day.
  • Lastly, why wasn’t Chris’ customer experience during his last visit to his independent so fantastic that he wouldn’t dream of forsaking this to jostle with shopping trolleys at a supermarket optician?

I’d like to think that the payment I will make to Chris for a new dishwasher will help him finance a purchase from his local independent and that, this time, they will take the steps required to enjoy his custom for years to come.

Meanwhile, I’m on washing-up duty!