At our practice in Fredericton, NB, achieving excellence in customer experience does not happen by accident, nor does it automatically happen by simply hiring friendly staff. It starts with an overarching philosophy on the customer experience, being open to change, and availing ourselves of the many training opportunities provided by our partners and others.
Don’t Sell, Educate and Provide Solutions
Every person who enters our clinic or optical area is looking for a solution and education to protect or improve their vision. Every encounter we have with a patient, be it on the phone, online or in the office, influences this customer experience. Having our team trained and consistently motivated to provide these solutions and to exceed expectations is the only way to create an awesome customer experience.
Our Team will tell you that we help people solve problems and fulfill their needs. We try not to just see to their vision needs but to really get to know people and find out what they require to optimize their visual experience in the world. Sometimes the absolute best solution is more than what their pocketbook can afford, but we pride ourselves on having options available for all budgets. As independents, we have a vast array of product options available and the professional and staff expertise to deliver; not always the case at retailers and box stores.
Training is Empowerment
Knowledge is power, and we give our team every opportunity for training. These opportunities may come from a third party outside the industry, from our buying group or from specific industry partners and suppliers. Providing those opportunities to our staff is incredibly important, as training serves to empower them to use their depth of knowledge and provide great customer service.
Don’t overlook the opportunities that are available to your team through your key suppliers. Each and every training session or customer experience can provide a new insight or action item. Arranging those opportunities is incredibly important. Essilor Canada offered our practice a Customer Journey Engineering program which we were able to benefit from. It was very comprehensive and didn’t require us to shut down the office or invest a lot of money.
Customer Journey Engineering
Our local Essilor Training and Development Consultant arranged a full 360⁰ practice assessment involving the entire team through their Customer Journey Engineering program.
The consultant spent a lot of time within the practice doing things that I just hadn’t taken the time to do. She sits in on every step of the customer journey listening, observing, and analyzing from the patient’s point of view. She also sits in our waiting room and uses all her senses to observe what people are experiencing when they walk through our door. She provides a report on specific improvement areas and training requirements. This gave us an opportunity to view our practice from a fresh perspective that we could not achieve on our own.
Uncovering Blind Spots
One of the big things that I would not have necessarily realized, but affected how people think about our practice, was at the front desk. We have a beautiful big desk; the control center in the front office. However, the desk was a mess! I know why the desk is a mess, they are being productive and busy, but a patient seeing the desk would say, “What’s going on here?” I never thought about it that way, and didn’t see it as a problem, but that was on top of the consultant’s list to fix! We deployed strategies to move and remove items to clear the space. The Customer Journey Engineering process provided by Essilor was enlightening.
Leadership Training for Associates
We go to school for many years to get our Optometry degree and then hone our skills to become experts at taking care of people’s eyes. Then, there’s this other part of independent practice: running a business and leading a team, for which we often don’t get training.
Reflecting on my own experience of not being provided with business and leadership training, when our Associate Optometrist expressed interest in becoming a partner in our practice we took the initiative to have her do an extensive 6-month leadership program. If you want someone to buy into your practice and they show promise, give them the tools to succeed and build confidence. Leadership training gave her insights and skills moving forward and makes it easier for her to give input in terms of practice processes and systems.
It’s a Team Approach
We try to create a positive team approach. None of it works if we are just out for ourselves. We like to try to lift our team up and educate them just as best as we can so that they can feel confident in their interactions with our patients and our customers.
We encourage our team to go the extra step, which serves to create trust. That emotional connection people develop to our practice hopefully brings them back time and time again, so we become their go-to for anything to do with their eyes or their eyewear.
I don’t think there will ever be a time when we have it all figured out and can’t learn new approaches or benefit from further training, we are all just works in progress. The more we educate ourselves, the better we can perform for our teams and our patients.
Bronwyn Mulherin, OD
graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 2004. She practiced in several different retail and clinical settings in the Ottawa area before joining Downtown Optometry Clinic in Fredericton. She can be reached through downtownoptometryclinic.com
This message is sponsored by Essilor Canada.