Good customer service should bea “given” in your optometry practice.To be truly successful, you need to go above and beyond your customers’ service expectations.
Despite many people in the corporate world suggesting that service is a critical success factor, it is, in fact, no more than an entitlement to customers.
Service is simply the process that customers expect and experience while spending their money with a business… or while they are thinking about doing so. Put another way, service is built into the price of goods and services, otherwise we would have to charge customers for being pleasant and courteous.
Attending to and Achieving forService can only be seen to be very important to customers if it is delivered in two related parts: ‘attending to’ and ‘achieving for’.
… service is built into the price of goods and services, otherwise we would have to charge customers for being pleasant and courteous
The business community at large has made a mess of this commitment, preferring to use the term ‘up-selling’ to describe efforts made to achieve for customers… although, in reality, most see such efforts as being ‘for the practice’ rather than for the customer.
Would customers perceive that ‘up-selling’ is something to look forward to when shopping or dealing with suppliers? Of course not: it sounds more like a confrontation than a contribution.
Do team members in an optometry practice think of the term ‘up-selling’ in a positive light? Again, definitely not. The ‘tactic’ conjures up the need to apply unwelcome pressure to customers so as to reach revenue goals.
‘Up-selling’, then, as a phrase and as an activity, has become a burden to business, and while I am sure that no one meant for the term to be seen in a negative light…it is!
To make matters worse, ‘up-selling’ is presented as a serious business disconnection, in that it is seen as
being separate to service, representing pressure instead of pleasure.
Finally, ‘up-selling’ is a form of action taken by sales staff only ‘occasionally’, when they ‘remember’
to ‘do it’, and when management reminds them that poor revenue results demand that they ‘do it’.
I have been in sales all of my working life and the term ‘up-selling’ has always turned me off, not on. Plus, it is one of those unfortunate concepts that suggests that selling is much less than a professional pursuit. Enough said. So let’s take a look at ‘up-serving’, both as a serious opportunity for customers and the businesses that ‘serve’ them.
Two Stage Process
Selling must be seen as a part of customer service, and not apart from customer service. To ‘up-serve’ means to always deliver an area of service to customers that they did not ask for or expect…but which they need and are fully entitled to receive.
The first stage of service concerns ‘listening and attending to the customer’ and the second stage involves ‘leading and achieving for the customer’.
If you think of the challenge in the retail sense, serving and up-serving would mean the difference between what a customer wanted on arrival, and what they left with on departure. And by the way, it is not possible to ‘up-serve’ if the initial phase of service is perceived by the customer to be poor… because if we can’t be trusted to perform well at the first stage of service, then there is no hope of helping at the more personal up-serving stage. Put another way, at the first service step the customer buys you; at the second step
they buy a solution.
While it is obvious that an optometrist does not have to explain the nature of their work to patients, I believe that the staff members who serve customers in the retail area of the practice should do so. This can be done by saying something along the lines of: ‘My job is in two parts; the first is to listen to what you have in mind, and the second is to ensure that you know what we feel is the best solution for you.’
Having made this brief statement, retail staff can get on with performing their true service role… in both areas of contribution. If this is not done, then the practice runs the risk of engaging only in ‘distribution of optical products’, and not in the secondary and critical role of ‘contributing advice’. Distribution minus contribution means that customers will show more interest in price than in their own personal eye care.
The way in which staff can move into the higher ‘up-serving’ role is to ask questions that will enable them to better understand the ‘external needs of the person’. This simply reminds us that although we use the term ‘customers’, all customers are, in fact, people and they live their lives away from the practice… and so the [brief] questioning process should highlight their needs ‘at home’ and ‘at work’.
Advice can then be given that is relevant and valuable to the person’s active life. It is worth remembering that customers will rarely if ever explain their ‘personal needs’ in active life, primarily because they are completely unaware of what those needs are!
‘Up-serving’ is not simply about words; it concerns a serious responsibility to conduct the business of an optometry practice in a professional, commercial and successful manner so that customers will experience your complete service to be acceptable, helpful and enjoyable.
John Lees is a speaker, trainer and consultant, specialising in sales & marketing, and he is the author of 11 books on business development. See the range of John Lees services and books, CDs
and DVDs at www.johnlees.com.au