Rebecca Johnson: Don't Wait To Delight

Management advice from Rebecca Johnson

How to surprise and charm your customer (and draw them back to do more business with you)

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INVISION.

How many times have you said, “I know the fuel light is on, but I’m going to wait until I run out of gas to fill up the tank”? Sounds silly, right? Most of us stop at the nearest gas pump when the light comes on to avoid the unpleasant consequence of our car sputtering to a stop.

Now take this same thought into the optical dispensary. Too often, we mistakenly think that as long as no one is complaining, everyone must be happy. But just as you can’t put your car on autopilot — at least not yet! — you need to be proactive about customer service. Here are some take-charge tips on how to delight everyone lucky enough to do business with you.

Find out the customer’s needs before you begin telling him what you can do for him. While this seems obvious, I often observe opticians who dive into a sales presentation about the latest lens technology without any knowledge of how the customer will be using his eyewear. Asking questions is how you build a trusting relationship with your customer — and learn what he truly needs, too.

Anticipate problems before they happen. Keep track of promised deliveries and notify the customer if the order will arrive later than expected. Schedule eyewear dispensing for times when the doctor’s schedule is lighter to avoid wait times. Discuss complaints at staff meetings and brainstorm ways to avoid a repeat situation.

Do the unexpected. Little surprises produce big smiles. Search out opportunities to please customers when they least expect it. Take a photo of your patient in her new glasses and email it to her so she can share it with her friends. Comment on her nice sweater and give her a complimentary lens cloth in the same color. Pick up a boxed cupcake or a balloon to celebrate a child’s first pair of glasses. Beat your own delivery promise. Send a handwritten thank-you note. Give a Starbucks card to someone who had to wait longer than usual for his eyewear. Be creative and dream up your own day-brighteners.

Invite complaints instead of dodging them. Most customers won’t complain to the seller when they are less than satisfied with a product. They’ll just make their next purchase elsewhere. Make a follow-up phone call within 10 days of dispensing new eyewear. It demonstrates a sincere interest in the customer, and it invites your client to let you know if she isn’t happy with her purchase. Don’t wait for a bad Yelp review to find out that you have an unhappy customer.

Keep in touch. Many buyers have a great experience, but once the purchase is made, the relationship comes to a screeching halt. Keeping in touch is simple to do and should not always be about advertising. Notice an engagement announcement or a sports write-up for one of your customers in the newspaper? Cut it out and mail it to him. See a photo of a celebrity on the red carpet looking great in a frame that one of your patients recently purchased? Let your customer know who shares her great taste. Send a handwritten birthday card. Yes, you need to be selective about how you stay in touch, but in today’s impersonal world, most people will appreciate the fact that you thought of them.

So go ahead. Set yourself apart — then watch your customers smile and tell others about the great experience they had with your business.

REBECCA JOHNSON is a 30-year veteran in the eyecare business. She is the executive director of Business Consultative Services for GPN and owner of EyeTrain4You, an ophthalmic staff training and development company. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..