When I graduated from UMIST with a First Class Honours in Optometry I was armed with the skills and knowledge to be an excellent optometrist. But my university and professional training failed to reveal one vital secret.
I was a freelance optician for a couple of years and I always got a different reaction from clients when I worked in different practices. In an independent practice where I spent longer with each person, I was able to answer their questions fully and actually get to know them a little and tailor my recommendations for them, clients seemed happier. It was fulfilling work.
But in the high street chain opticians the reaction I got was different. These opticians operate a bums-on-seats business model. Unqualified staff does a significant portion of the work, and time the client gets with the professional optician is limited to 20 minutes or less – just the bare minimum to get the job done and no time for pleasantries or answering questions.
I discovered it’s hard to be an excellent optometrist when you work in a business that sees clients as numbers.
I can remember the exact day when I finally had enough. I was working freelance for a busy high street opticians and the clinic was running behind as usual. Several patients had been waiting over half an hour. Some were having initial screening tests performed (slowly) by unqualified sales assistants with minimal training and little understanding of what they were doing. Running late, I had already spent the allocated 20 minutes with my current patient, a 50 year old woman who had concerns over her vision.
I had done all the necessary tests but I only had time to give her short answers to her questions. I was in an environment that wasn’t set up for spending time with patients never mind reassuring them or putting their minds at ease.
Feeling guilty, I said;
“I’m really sorry but I’ll have to hand you over to one of the optical assistants who will be able to answer the rest of your questions”
I could see the anger appear on her face.
“This is appalling. No I wont speak to one of the sales assistants. You obviously can’t be bothered to answer all my questions. I’ll just pay for the eye test and go somewhere else.”
She stormed out leaving me dazed and thinking about what just happened. I was disappointed in myself. I was the person that should be reassuring her and answering her questions. That was my responsibility.
Yes, I had tested her vision and checked the health of her eyes but there was no personal service.
Instead, the experience I delivered was a factory process. There was no human element to it. No time to take account of the individual person in front of me.
Feeling unfulfilled and ashamed I decided that day I would only work in practices where I could truly look after my clients needs. No more would I take part in the high street opticians conveyor belt, processing patients like factory parts, treating each person like a number.
So, it was early in my career I learned that clients want a lot more than just expertise.
That led me on a journey that culminated in the creation of Jones And Co. Styling Opticians. A practice 100% focused on the client and delivering a positive and enjoyable experience.
Over the years I have found that we appeal to a certain type of person.
We appeal to:
But you don’t have to take my word for it.