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Patricia Basile | 6/12/2018

I’d like to share an incredible customer service experience I had recently.

I was dissatisfied with the protein drink I had been using, since it had a slightly chalky taste and a higher sugar content than I wanted. I spoke with a friend of mine who suggested that I try a new protein drink recommended to her by her nutritionist; she thought it was available at Whole Foods. I had not shopped at Whole Foods in some time, having gotten the impression that they had limited selection, and that they were expensive and inconvenient. The experience I had proved quite the opposite.

When I went to Whole Foods, I decided to get as much of my groceries as possible to avoid going to the regular grocery store. Starting in the produce section, the store looked amazing, neat and well stocked, with employees present to help if needed.

Browsing the meat department there were only two customers at the counter, not because business was slow, but because shoppers were being served quickly, and there was friendly banter.  So, okay, although I hadn’t expected much, I was already glad I had come in.

The service at the fish counter was just as friendly. The service person asked, with sincerity, if he could help in any way. I told him that I was all set. I continued through the aisles finding what I needed and enjoying the variety of available selections.

When I came to the protein drinks I could not find the brand I was looking for. I would normally have to spend a ton of time reading, analyzing and agonizing over the labels and then, in frustration, taking whatever seemed best.  Just as I was wondering where in this enormous selection to start when, you guessed it, an employee appeared and asked how they could help. I never did find the brand I was looking for, but the person helping me was so informative, explaining the different brands and ingredients, that I purchased a large can of one brand that fit my requirements and some individual packets to try another.

Next, I was buying cheese; they had such an extensive collection that I had trouble deciding and, you guessed it again, the counter person offered assistance! I was happy to just browse.

At the prepared foods section, the friendly person behind the counter made suggestions, explained the ingredients, and encouraged me to try some items.

The buffet food was all fresh, counters were clean, and they had a great selection (which I have returned to since for a quick supper).

I was almost afraid to check out, since I did not think this was likely to continue!

As great as the service was so far, they were EVEN NICER at the checkout. The person bagging made sure he arranged things the way we wanted and was careful to not make the bags too heavy, making sure there wasn’t too much in each bag. The cashier was pleasant and helpful.

I left the store planning to and looking forward to going back as soon as possible. This was an unexpected pleasure. Imagine if we delivered that level of service to our customer on a regular basis.

What would that look like? Following this model, the scheduler would be ever so patient and helpful while we fumble for our insurance card. Give great information about what to expect in the exam. Ask the patient to bring in their present eyeglasses.

The receptionist (NO WAITING LIST TO SIGN INTO HERE!) greets you warmly, guides you through checking in. Helps you fill out a questionnaire containing lifestyle information. Invites you to browse the frames while waiting. Suggests that you try the newest designer line of frames. Introduces you to the optician who offers to show you some frames.

The technician invites you in, explaining the tests that will be performed and what you can expect. Asking questions about your use of eyeglasses and what you feel should be improved.

The doctor gives as much information as appropriate, explaining the tests to be administered. Explains his/her recommendations for lens types and features. Invites you to ask the optician about a product that comes up in the conversation.

After the exam, having already met the patient, the optician is ready with a few more frame suggestions. He offers information about lens choices, shows concern for UV and blue light exposure. Offers prescription sunglass options. Offers options to reduce stress from extended computer use. Fills out all the paperwork for vision plan benefits and completes the bill.

The receptionist explains the charges and answers any questions you may have. Invites you to come back to see us, no appointment needed.

In 3 days you are called that your glasses are ready, which is fantastic, since the estimated time was 5-7 days.

When you arrive, the glasses are presented on a jewelry tray with a little gift or goody bag, along with free eyeglass cleaners and extensive instruction on how best to care for your eyeglasses. The optician remembers what you had been looking at and brings the other set of frames you were considering and asks if you are ready to order these for an alternate look, or special occasions. You are expertly fitted, cheerfully welcomed to return at any time, no need for an appointment. Reminded return to them to use your FSA funds for eyeglasses before they expire the end of the year.

This experience is what will set an independent, smaller practice apart from the discount, wholesale and online retailers. I personally will stay in the same purchasing pattern unless I am forced to look for an alternative. Having to look for an alternative product made me also reexamine the provider of the product I was using. A service provider can take full advantage, as Whole Foods did, of the patron that either stumbles in or is guided in by a friend or a marketing piece, by completely enveloping them in service and friendliness.  If that patron is like me, they will stick like glue, because of that feeling that this provider can meet all of my needs, both in terms of the product provided and service delivered.

Every employee and every process at Whole Foods demonstrated a sincere wish to give you an incredible experience. This type of experience in an eye care practice gets people excited to tell all their friends and co-workers about how fantastic their annual eye exam was. And how fantastic their eyeglass purchase was. We can employ this strategy in our practices and not only see improved patient satisfaction, but a much more pleasant work environment.

The other thing I would note is that no employee had more ownership than any other in the overall service. They seamlessly worked together with courtesy and consideration for each other as well as for the clientele.

I am not easily impressed, so when it happens, I am very willing to change my buying habits. Changing purchasing habits is a reality of the new business paradigm; positioning ourselves to be a beneficiary of this, rather than a victim of it, is the secret to success in this new reality.  If you take the approach that you absolutely love and appreciate your patients, they will reward you with unwavering loyalty. 

Patricia Basile
Optical Management Consultant
Pat Basile has extensive experience in sales, customer service, management and laboratory operations in the optical field. Licensed in Connecticut and certified by the ABO and NCLE, she has had great success in developing and implementing growth plans, providing training and leadership to achieve greater sales and productivity results. She believes that the consumer is much better served by the personal care provided by small, independent and caring optometric practices. Pat will listen to your concerns and help you identify those things that can be done to bring your practice to the next level. Some of these things may include training and setting goals for sales and customer service, inventory management and frame board management.
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