In this month's edition of Eyecare Business there is an article entitled Giving Away Your Profits? I read this article with interest, first as a 17 year veteran of the optical retail industry and second from a customer service perspective.
In my speech "Earning Customer Loyalty" I talk about the importance of offering something for free – really for free. Not the old Buy One Get One Free when first you have to buy something and second the free is so ugly you have to pay a little extra to make it appealing.
The optical industry has led the way in giving away value for free: free adjustments and repairs on all.
I remember telling store associates when handing new glasses to the customer, invite them to return frequently by saying "Come and visit us whenever you are in the neighborhood and we'll clean and adjust your glasses for no charge."
Some associates would get clever and tell their customers that they needed to come in once a month for a "tune-up" which was free – just part of the benefit of purchasing from us.
That adjustment might include new nosepads if the customer's were old and yellowing or replacing a screw, restringing rimless glasses, replacing a broken temple (the arm that goes from the front back over your ear).
These were all free services and yes they took sales people off the floor for a period of time but it was all part of the benefit package of buying from us.
A competitor in the mall across the street from my first store didn't do any repairs. We used to laugh and say they had a "red carpet guarantee" as soon as your feet left their red carpet – the guarantee was over. Consequently, their customers came to us for free repairs and most would return for their next purchase.
Now Eyecare Business is suggesting that opticians charge for all of these services, that by NOT charging we are reducing the value in the customer's eyes.
My experience was always the opposite. People pay BIG BUCKS for glasses and customers were thrilled to receive something for free. We made their day. They'd get out their wallet and we'd take great pleasure in saying "it's on us – no charge." Some would return with a cup of coffee for us or would bring us cookies. They remembered us and returned with their friends and family.
So as a business owner I can see how time is money and our bottom line would benefit by charging $5 for an adjustment or $10 for new nose pads, but what does that do to the customer's perception?
I can see charging if you have to actual replace something – but charging for an adjustment? Charging for a cleaning? Charging for the tightening of the screws? Charging to pop a lens back in the frame?
For those of you who are eyeglass wearers – do you expect to be charged for a cleaning and adjustment?
Think about the last time you sat on your glasses. Did you have to pay for the optician to readjust your glasses?
Am I just living in the dark ages? Someone help me out. I think it is wrong to charge for a "feel good" service experience like adjusting my glasses or cleaning my ring at the jeweler. Or putting air in my tires at the gas station.
What do you think?
Deborah Chaddock Brown