Does your Customer Service establish a good relationship?
In its simplest form, Customer Relations is about gaining and retaining customers. But let’s be honest, the last thing we really want is SIMPLE. This is especially true when we are talking about a partner lab, frame company, or vision service provider. As an Eye Care Professional, I have a daily working relationship with these fellow industry professionals.
RELATIONSHIPS can take many forms, and each one has its ups and downs. Let’s take a closer look at the areas of our industry that impact these relationships and, how as ECP’s, we interact, develop, encourage, and maintain growth within that relationship. If you’re scared because this sounds a lot like marriage, don’t be. Relationships can be as simple or complex as we like them to be.
How many times has your patient told you they have vision benefits, after they have signed their credit card slip? Do you take the easy way out and offer them an itemized receipt that they can send in to their provider for reimbursement, or do you go the extra mile and ask for details? We all know that if they didn’t initially present it, it is because they have no idea who their vision service provider is, and now you get to spend the next 10 minutes playing Insurance Investigator. The highlight of this event is calling a Vision Service Provider for additional information, waiting (on average) six minutes; hopefully, there is only another four minutes before you get to the correct representative. If in fact you are lucky enough to actually speak to an honest-to-goodness human being, it certainly will not be someone you have spoken to before, nor will you ever speak to them again. Despite how unpleasant and time consuming this experience is, it generally results in resolution and satisfaction for your client.
Waiting for that elusive “representative” from the Vision Service Provider can be frustrating, but if you maintained a level of professionalism and kept your congenial composure, you succeeded in providing excellent customer service to your client, despite the poor customer service you received from the Vision Service Provider. You also just became a hero to your client, hopefully resulting in additional sales or referrals. You suffer at the hands of managed care but your client wins. Co-dependent? Not my favorite type of relationship…
Gone are the days where I’m telephoning or faxing in daily frame orders; that spiral bound book used years ago to write down frames to be ordered has thankfully been sent to the recycling bin. All I have to do now is click a box on my computer screen. But we also get a personal “brand ambassador,” who will gladly take care of my needs and provide me with all the customer service support I could ask for, so long as his commission checks aren’t looking as fabulous as he is accustomed to, or his numbers are low. This person will also bestow small gifts upon me in order to retain my business. I like him, and I look forward to that dapper Don Draper with his Colgate smile every time he pops in to say hello. I’m secretly waiting for him to come back and sell me something else I don’t need, but will probably buy anyway. He’s like the 2AM booty call I receive and then proceed to curiously answer. Dysfunctional? Not exactly a winning relationship either…
So where does that leave the relationship with our Independent lens manufacturing lab?
I know when I call my lab, the automated system immediately intercepts my call and directly transfers me to a human being. Time elapsed from picking up the telephone to dial the number and being connected to a live person was 33 seconds. Nice. A cheerful voice greets me and asks me for my account number. My account number? I don’t know what my account number is, why would I? Can’t you just look it up for me? (Sound familiar?) Fortunately, the customer service representative that just answered their 56th phone call of the day has a Positive Mental Attitude, I just hope that their PMA will be enough for the both of us.
I’m fairly stressed out because my customer, Mr. Needitnow, is on my case about his new prescription sunglasses. I received notification via online job tracking that one of his lenses did not pass quality control and had to be restarted. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but Mr. Needitnow is leaving for vacation in two days and needs his brown polarized Trivex lens with a backside AR coat ASAP. I know that my lab does not regularly stock this lens, and that the AR coating will take a minimum of 24 hours to process. His job will not be completed in time for his departure and he is insisting on a full refund if they are not available for dispense. What should I do? Should I demand that my customer service representative go to the lab and find out why they didn’t pass inspection? Should I berate her because I’m going to have to refund my client and possibly lose future business? Do I immediately insist on speaking with a manager?
These are all things I have done in the past, but today I take a different approach. I’ve only been doing business with my new Independent lab for about 3 months and, after a deep breath, I explain the situation. Guess what happened? My customer service representative apologized and without hesitation offered me a temporary solution. She suggested to me that they do have brown polarized poly in stock, and that they would be more than happy to edge those lenses to the frame. I will not have a backside AR coat, but my client will have his sunglasses while he is away and, upon his return, I can just insert the correct lenses that they will edge from the trace.
My customer service representative was able to immediately diffuse a situation that could have escalated (due to circumstances completely out of my control), and offer me a reasonable solution. I did not lose a client and I gained a much greater respect for my partner lab. In the end, everyone wins, a wonderful example of give and take. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best type of relationship there is.
Relationships take work & cultivation; what shines bright today may be your nightmare tomorrow. If we can effectively manage the way we interact, develop, & respond to situations, we can predict the outcome & hopefully steer ourselves into the winner’s circle.
– Dwight Schrute