Seldom do I take my car back to the dealer I bought it from for service. It’s not that I don’t like my dealer and he is competitive on his prices, it’s just that my other guy is closer. My guy doesn’t care where I bought my car or what brand it is, he just cares that if I have a problem I come to his shop to take care of it.
There has been much discussion and concern over the last year on optical forums about glasses that were bought elsewhere and patients bringing them to us for repair, service or adjustment. Get used to it, this will become the norm in the future. More than a few comments have been made around the notion of “what if . . .” What if I broke them, then what? What if I scratch them, then what? What if the patient accuses me of . . . then what? Are they valid concerns? Sure. Should they cause us to tarnish the whole optical industry because we are afraid to assist a patient in need? No.
Let’s first look at the upside to a patient coming to you to look at their glasses. First, you are deemed the expert in eyewear at that very moment. They need you to solve their problems. Seldom does a patient in need ever turn on you for trying to solve their problem. Second, it is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your vast knowledge and expertise; the very expertise they should have tapped into when they bought their eyewear. But they didn’t. Now you have the good fortune to educate them on what you do, how you do it, and why they need to become your patient. Third, this is free marketing. You didn’t pay a dime to have them walk in your door. They showed up, asking for help, and looking for a place to build a relationship for the future. Don’t blow it.
Now let’s look at the down side and separate fact from fear. I have heard many times over about taking a frame bought elsewhere from a patient, and something broke during adjustment. It’s not until I ask the questions “So how many frames do you adjust frames during the day, week or month that weren’t bought from you?” The second question I ask is “Of all those frames, how many actually broke?” Not surprisingly, the numbers are extremely low. We may be making a much bigger deal out of adjusting other frames based in fear and not in reality. Second, it takes time to adjust frames from others and it may cut into serving current patients. Stop for a moment. The person (patient) standing in front of you at that very moment is your patient. Regardless of where they bought their eyewear. That may be a hard pill to swallow for some, but it doesn’t change the reality that this person is in your practice looking for help. Help them. If they’re not your patient now, they may be in the future because of this interaction. There is no more important person in your office than the one you are helping at the moment. Don’t discriminate because they bought their glasses elsewhere. Finally, glasses break. It happens. Life is hard that way sometimes.
What can you do?
1) Before you do anything, evaluate the frame for how fragile it is, what needs to be done to adjust the frame, and is there a higher chance it could break during the process. Trust your judgment.
2) If is a very quick adjustment, do it for free. Yes, free. There are points scored for just being a decent human being and helping out our fellow man in need.
3) If will take some time and real effort, agree on a nominal fee to adjust. Remember, most of us make about $15-$30 an hour, so it takes 5 minutes to adjust a pair of glasses, don’t charge the person $25. You will lose the patient for life if you gouge him on this one interaction with your office. It’s also the right time to say, “Glasses bought here have lifetime adjustments for free.” Lose the battle and win the war should be your mantra.
4) If you have a frame that is fragile tell the patient upfront that “these are very fragile, I’ll do my best and they may end up breaking.” Most patients are reasonable people. They know they are at your mercy to fix their problem.
5) Next, be upfront and ask them to agree with you that they could break during adjustment. Then,
6) Ask them- before you adjust them- what is the plan for them to see clearly and safely while a new pair is being made IF they break?
7) Depending on the response from the patient and the plan moving forward, determine if you want to adjust them or not. If you feel you will be “stuck” buying a new pair of glasses for this patient if they break, have that conversation with them up front. You’ll know if they are going to take advantage of you or not.
8) Make sure you have a frame problem or a lens problem. Sometimes the frames look tough, but often an outdated prescription is the real issue.
9) If they happen to be a patient of yours already, but bought the eyewear elsewhere, verify the Rx in the lenses and compare them to the Rx on file. Make sure if this is your issue or not before you move forward. You are not responsible for remakes of lenses.
10) Do you’re very best to solve the problem of the patient graciously and how you would want to be treated. Everyone has the choice to buy wherever they want. In today’s market, that could be anywhere, literally. However, you have the opportunity to be the hero in their lives today.
Finally, just greeting the patient and actively listening to their issue is a very good place to start. Show the compassion you posses to someone who is dependent on eyewear to see, and now has a problem. Then, be authentic and upfront about what it will take to solve their problem. Alert them to the dangers of adjusting a frame that could break, and discuss up front what will happen if it does. Most of the time patients with adjustment issues burn offices because this was not discussed up front first. If you have a patient threatening, “If you break it you own it” take a pass. It’s not worth it. If the plan moving forward is purchase a replacement pair, you can move forward with some assurances.
Just like my guy who services my car, he feels the moral obligation to help me if my car breaks. He knows if it only needs a tweak or a repair. I sometimes pay for tweaks but I always pay for a repair!