If I Owned: Bob Phibbs

If Bob Phibbs owned an eyecare business

Due to keratoconus, I am almost blind in my right eye. I’ve had mostly rotten experiences in optical stores. Usually, I find myself ignored by some girl hanging out behind the counter while I stare at walls of frames, trying to find what might look good on me.

That’s probably why I’ve stuck with the same frames for a while. That’s why, if I owned an eyewear store, no matter how big, I’d focus on the customer experience. I’d hire enough staff so that they could handle the rush of customers on a busy Saturday.

I’d avoid employees who feel leaving customers alone is good customer service. If they only respond to customers’ requests, I’d fix that. I’d hire for fun and engaging rather than analytical and efficient.

First, I’d find out how customers like to see themselves. After all, glasses are a chance to start over again and be daring, dashing and decadent. So I’d organize products in such a way that customers could find the frames that fulfill these wishes.

The sweet spot in any retail display is the area between the bellybutton and the eyes, so I’d highlight the best products at eye level. Most people don’t want to stoop. Could the castle of display cases be broken up into islands that encourage browsing through different areas of discovery?

I’d limit the talk about insurance. And my employees would never ask customers if they had a budget. I would train staff to show customers to the land of bargain-basement misfit frames only as a last resort, no matter what their insurance covers. I’d suggest that customers buy non-prescription eyewear or Lasik surgery gift certificates for friends during the holidays.

I’d shop every competitor in my neighborhood as well as every competitor in the largest city I could travel to. Anything that wasn’t up to that par, I’d replace, from merchandise and point-of-sale system to persnickety employees.

Most of all, I’d put the human soul back into my operation. I’d train rigorously that you can’t judge a book by its cover. If Mark Zuckerberg walked in the door in his signature hoodie and jeans, my associates would welcome him as much as if Heidi Klum walked in decked out in Prada.

That’s because people don’t dress up to go shopping these days. Just because you or your employees may not be able to afford high-end or designer frames doesn’t mean your customer can’t — or won’t — buy them.

With more than 30 years of experience, Bob Phibbs’ mission is to get people working in retail to approach customers with an open heart, to engage customers’ senses and deliver an exceptional experience. His clients include Brother, Caswell-Massey, Hunter Douglas, LEGO, Omega, Yamaha and Vera Bradley. Visit him at retaildoc.com.