The findings of the service’s 2014–2016 activity were presented at a meeting of the General Optical Council (GOC) earlier this week (13 May), by head of the OCCS, Jennie Jones, and consultant, Richard Edwards.
The report tracks the first year with Nockolds Solicitors at the helm, since the firm took over mediation of the service in April 2014.
A total of 622 enquiries were dealt with by the service over the period. The greatest proportion came from independent practices (35%), with three in every 10 enquiries received related to franchise and joint venture partnerships (the model which Specsavers and Optical Express both operate). Multiple optical healthcare providers were the source of 27% of enquiries, and 8% from an unknown source.
The top source of consumer complaints to the service was concerns around products and services (46%), followed by customer service issues (39%) and complaints regarding charges and fees (6%). The remaining 10% of complaints were classed as ‘other.’
Mr Edwards highlighted that the service has received very few complaints regarding contact lenses, and that by far the majority of customer complaints were in regards to issues around varifocal spectacles, which he added was not a surprise. “The bread and butter of OCCS is non-tolerance to varifocals,” he told the council. However, he noted that one area of alarm is optometrists’ record keeping.
User satisfaction with the service is high, with 93% of users being ‘entirely satisfied’ and 7% as ‘satisfied.’ Commenting on the 4,000 calls made and received by the service to date, Ms Jones said: “The approach to mediating is very much about talking, getting people to communicate, and that is done best on the phone.”
Following the positive first year findings, Ms Jones told the council that OCCS activity in the coming year will include sharing insight from the complaints service, feeding back to professional bodies in the sector. “It is an absolute goldmine of learning and insight,” added Mr Edwards.
The GOC’s chief executive and registrar, Samantha Peters, thanked the OCCS for its valuable work, calling it “a great start to the first year” with Nockolds at the reigns.