What do you expect when you go to get your sight tested? Some technical expertise? A knowledge of optical health? What about a friendly welcome, a comfortable, clean environment, a sense of calm, an ethical, patient-first approach?

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by contact lens manufacturer CooperVision showed that spectacle and contact lens wearers value customer service more highly than price when it comes to choosing their optician. So what are the elements that make up great customer service? Here’s our take on the findings of the survey.

1. Knowledge and expertise

The expertise of the optometrist is paramount, giving customers confidence that their sight is in good hands. You should expect your optometrist to be up to date with the latest science and technology, as well as the regulatory standards that apply to their business.

In addition to their knowledge, optometrists should have a high degree of manual dexterity – putting a contact lens in a patient’s eye is not a job for the ham-fisted! They also need business and management skills in order to run their practice in a way that appeals to both their customers and staff.

2. Professional practice

The CooperVision survey found that the eye test protest came second in customers’ order of priorities. The most important factor here is time. A good optometrist takes the time to put customers at ease, listen to them, explain the process they’re undertaking and apply the necessary attention to detail.

Access to the latest equipment, such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), is another sign of a good practice. The OCT helps detect the earliest development of a range of eye conditions, such as macula degeneration and glaucoma, which are often hard to spot with traditional optometry equipment.

3. People skills

Having the knowledge, skills and equipment is of no value if your customers feel ill at ease. An optometrist must have the ethics and communication skills to make their customers feel cared for and well informed. Sometimes compassion is called for. The optometrist must combine the people skills of the boutique fashion shopkeeper with the bedside manner of a GP: relaxed, reassuring, compassionate, authoritative, attentive.

Communication with customers between appointments is also very important. Familiarity with the practitioner helps to build trust and if you don’t hear from your optometrist from one year to the next, or you see a different practitioner every time you go there, the all-important bond of trust breaks down.

4. Ease of use

This item combines two of the attributes customers specified in the CooperVision survey: Ease of booking an appointment and Ease of ordering and buying. The internet gives us lots of clever tools for making booking, ordering and buying fast and simple but we have to remember that our customers span all ages, from very young to not so young, and some customers prefer the traditional methods. A good optician will have the flexibility to take your bookings or orders in whichever way you, the customer, find most convenient, whether it’s in person, over the phone, via post, email or online.

Other factors that make the whole customer experience easier are on-site parking, the efficiency of the appointment system, being greeted promptly on arrival and not having to wait for more than 10 minutes to be seen.

5. Quality products

The range and style of frames available from their optician also ranks highly in customers’ priorities. This shows that there is much more to the role of an optician than correcting customers’ vision; people want spectacles that complement their sense of style and they want help and advice in finding frames and lenses in which they feel comfortable and confident.

A good optician will have a range of high quality frames available to choose from, offering more than the standard looks on offer from the high street outlets. Customers who like to dress well will carry that value into their choice of spectacles, so they will naturally choose an optician that can supply the designs they like.

It’s interesting – but not surprising – that despite the proliferation of cheap eyewear on the high street, customers value the service provided by independent opticians more highly. After all, buying spectacles is not like buying a fuse for a plug. The service you receive can make a vast difference, both to your vision and your confidence. At Malcolm Gray, we are committed to providing our customers with the standard of service that has kept them coming back for generations.

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