How to effectively handle dispensary complaints

Having a clear understanding of expectations from optical dispensary consumers is key to being able to resolve complaints.

Take-home message: Having a clear understanding of expectations from optical dispensary consumers is key to being able to resolve complaints.



Dispensing Solutions By Arthur De Gennaro

An old adage says: “The customer is always right.”

I used to work for an optical company that leased optical shops inside J.C. Penney. Our human resources manager modified that rule to say: “The customer is not always right, but he/she is still the customer.”

As a guide for customer service, we were asked to follow the Golden Rule, which everyone knows as: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” To keep that idea uppermost in every employee’s mind, employees wore a small golden ruler on their lapel or collar.

Customers and customer service, however, have evolved.

Today’s consumers are far more demanding and knowledgeable. They expect more value for their money and extremely good service. Consequently, contemporary retail workers are asked to use what I call the “new” Golden Rule: “Do unto others as they would like you to do unto them.”

The new rule takes into consideration that not everyone will want what you or I might want. It is therefore imperative that you determine what each customer views as valuable and try to provide it. Since everyone is different there is no one formula for success.

Here’s a process that should help to resolve dispensary complaints more effectively. Use the acronym “A LEAF” to remember the individual steps:


The first step in being a good customer service representative is to anticipate what customers are thinking and, more importantly, feeling. Anticipate that returning customers may be angry, frustrated, annoyed, stressed, inconvenienced, disappointed, disillusioned, skeptical, and a host of other negative emotions. All of this equates to a loss of trust in you and your practice. To turn the situation around, it will be necessary to re-establish trust.


Listening is the most important customer-service tool in anyone’s armament. Learning to listen with an empathetic heart will enable you not only to understand what customers are looking to accomplish, but also what assurances they will need in order to trust you to handle the problem to their satisfaction.

After asking customers what the problem is, simply listen. Listen intently. Don’t rush this process. Customers need to vent. Just allowing customers to vent can often make a situation much easier to resolve. The goal is to determine what customers are looking to accomplish and what it will take to satisfy them.



Putting yourself in another’s shoes, so to speak, was the intent of the old Golden Rule. In that respect, it still has validity.

Something as simple as, “I understand how you feel. I’m sorry you have experienced (this problem). It must be very frustrating” is a good way to begin to rebuild rapport. This technique works because it allows customers to feel that you are on their side.


While listening, formulate a plan of action. This is a list of what you will propose specifically to satisfy customers or make things right. Now is the time to share your plan with customers. If you have listened carefully, your plan should suit their needs.

As you make your proposal, be sure to “connect the dots” between what you are proposing and what customers expressed they wanted/needed. The more dots you connect, the more likely it is they will see value in your plan and accept it. Any plan that exceeds customers’ expectations will be viewed extremely positively. The reverse is also true.

Follow through

Keep in mind that customers have already experienced dissatisfaction and have lost trust in the dispensary. The only way to re-establish that trust is to demonstrate the event was an unusual occurrence and that your dispensary’s service is better than that.

Consequently, whatever the plan, follow through diligently on every aspect of it. This means engineering processes that allow you to monitor the progress of your plan on at least a daily basis. Communicate with customers promptly at those times when you said you would.

Customers’ concerns are not over until customers have obtained the agreed-upon service they were looking for and acknowledge having received it. This assumes you will follow through by personally speaking with them and getting them to express their satisfaction.

If you have done a good job, they will thank you for providing such a high level of service and, more importantly, for caring about them. This type of individual caring is what often turns customers with complaints into advocates for your business. Wouldn’t that be a nice outcome?



Arthur De Gennaro is president of Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC, an ophthalmic practice management firm that specializes in optical dispensary issues. De Gennaro is the author of the book The Dispensing Ophthalmologist. He can be reached at 803/359-7887,, or through the company’s Web site, He maintains a blog at





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