The realities of customer expectations

Keeping the patient at the heart of everything we do and all the decisions we make are key, writes Henrietta Alderman

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Customer service is a vitally important part of any business, whether it’s face-to-face or online. It is what binds a customer in, especially if there is a good relationship or they feel the business has worked especially hard for them to achieve a happy outcome.

The reverse is also true of course. Poor customer service is the surest way of losing a customer. We all know that the cost and effort of gaining customers far outweighs the cost of retaining them. And the damage that can be done to reputation by a customer who has had a bad experience and feels it was badly handled.

The supplement in this month’s OT celebrates the winners from our annual Awards, which took place at 100% Optical. Our award winners have clearly demonstrated excellent customer service in many ways and have exceeded the expectations of their patients. Success breeds success and the practice culture of going the extra mile to help patients brings rewards both personally and for the business. It is so good to see these individuals and practices being recognised.

Success breeds success and the practice culture of going the extra mile to help patients brings rewards

 

We need your vote

We all deal with difficult situations and customers during a career, and managing them so that everyone feels satisfied is part of good business. The maxim that the customer is always right may not work in every circumstance, but it does offer a starting point. And trying to fully understand the problem before drawing conclusions is not easy, but it can save huge amounts of time in the long run. The time taken in dealing with complaints can be disproportionate to the problem. Sometimes it makes good business sense to accede to a customer’s wishes, even if we know we are not in the wrong. In the optical sector we are fortunate to have the Optical Consumer Complaints Service, which does such a good job mediating and resolving issues at an early stage – many of which are related to retail and poor communication.

Protecting the good name of a business and brand matters, and at a time when the opportunity for any individual to give a review that could reach many thousands has never been greater, keeping the customer close has never been more important. Social media has changed the way we all make decisions. Reviews by users, for example about a holiday on TripAdvisor, play a part in our decision making.

Keeping you, our members, at the heart of everything we do and all the decisions we make enables us to deliver services and respond quickly when needed

 

The AOP is no different. Keeping you, our members, at the heart of everything we do and all the decisions we make enables us to deliver services and respond quickly when needed. For example, when you told us you would rather speak to a person when you call AOP rather than go through an automated system, we changed our system to enable you to do this whenever possible. And when you responded in your hundreds to a request for views on degree level apprenticeships, we were able to react quickly and represent your views appropriately. The AOP is your association and we need to know your views – either directly to the team here, through your Council member or to the board.

We want members to get involved in our work, which is why we encourage members to stand for election to our Council or to apply for one of the appointed positions. April will see voting for AOP Council seats across the UK. Voting closes on 23 April, so watch out for an email from Civica, which will contain your unique link to the online voting site.

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