Delivering customer service that sells

Many customers like to create a relationship with one customer service representative, and then continue to ask for that one person.

Editor's note: Quality customer service is at the forefront of any successful business-including dispensing eye-care practices. A handful of representatives from the trenches weigh in with advice for how dispensing eye-care practices can incorporate customer service to enhance sales.

For years, Robertson Optical Laboratories of Atlanta and Albany, GA, and Columbia and Greenville, SC, have proudly displayed the tagline: "It's a pleasure to please you."

Adherence to this philosophy by Robertson Optical employees, especially customer service personnel, has contributed to its substantial growth, according to Calvin W. Robertson Jr., secretary/treasurer of the Atlanta lab and president of the Columbia, Albany, and Greenville labs. Robertson Optical has seen an increase in weekly jobs from 149 in 1958 to 7,000 today. In 2005, Robertson was ranked 10th in the United States of all independent wholesale optical labs by Vision Monday for prescription sales and jobs per day.

"Our customer service excels because of the time we spend with our patients, attention we give to detail, and knowledge we share with them about the products," Mackey said.

Mackey outlined several tactics Camden exercises to ensure that patients have a positive customer service experience.

"First, we deliver what we promise by double checking our products for quality," she said. "Second, we explain things up front to customers, informing them exactly what they will be receiving, so they will know what to expect."

A recent 3-year study conducted by the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB) in Washington, DC, showed that businesses that place heavy emphasis on customer service were more likely to survive and succeed than competitors who emphasized such advantages as lower prices or type of product.

"The climate of the recession-ridden early 1980s, when customers blithely traded away high-quality service in exchange for price reductions or convenience, is no more. Instead, customers are demanding service again. And companies of all sizes are realizing that their strongest selling point can sometimes boil down to treating customers as they would like to be treated-or better," according to the U.S. Small Business Administration's Web site at http://www.sba.gov/.

Margie Chapman, vice president and convention chairperson of the South Carolina Association of Opticians and co-owner of Gosnell and Chapman Vision Center in Greenville, SC, said her message to optical professionals is: "Treat patients the way you want to be treated."

"Many of our customers have one-on-one relationships with our staff members that have been developed as a result of quality customer service through the years," said Mike Fussell, sales and customer service manager of Robertson Optical's Atlanta (Loganville) location. "We offer a personal touch."

Gordon Scott Jr., vice president of Robertson's Columbia lab, said, "We spend an enormous amount of time on internal training of our customer service staff on phone etiquette, professional courtesy, customer follow-up, delay notification, and building individual relationships with customers, and these have contributed to the growth of Robertson."

He added that many customers like to create a relationship with one customer service representative, and then continue to ask for that one person whenever they call Robertson.

Achieving customer delight

A study published by Paula M. Saunders and Robert F. Scherer in the Journal of Applied Business Research entitled "Delighting Customers by Managing Expectations for Service Quality: An Example from the Optical Industry" found that in the optical industry, "service quality and customer satisfaction management are critically important factors in the success of [optical] organizations."