July 9, 2020 — Robert Mursuli, COO of Eye Doctors Optical Outlets, shares how to adjust the customer experience to meet the demands of the new way of shopping today.
For many businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic altered the way we will operate for the foreseeable future. Customers have experienced a range of personal situations from this pandemic including health scares, lost jobs, financial insecurity, and more. Consumers are keen to get back to normal living, but they are also looking for dependability from their merchants.
In other words, customers want to depend on their merchants to provide a safe in-store experience, affordable payment solutions, and a painless online checkout process.
I know from my experience leading Eye Doctors Optical Outlets how different the landscape was upon reopening, and would like to share my experiences so you too can adjust your customer experience to meet the needs of the new way of shopping.
Strategy #1: Customers Come First
As our eyecare centers are open, we want to ensure our customers that they are our Number One priority. Patient satisfaction always comes first, and we continue to strive for an excellent shopping experience.
Whether it’s reminding them that their health and safety are just as important as their eye health, or ensuring that they continuously receive the care and respect they’ve come to expect from Eye Doctors Optical Outlets, we are striving to deliver an excellent experience for everyone that walks in our stores or shops online.
Strategy #2: Setting Limits
As we prioritize our customer experience in store, we’re adjusting our hours to welcome more customers through our doors. While we continue to monitor and follow the guidelines from our local authorities for a safe reopening, we’re pleased we can offer extended hours in order to provide flexible appointment scheduling, as well as accommodating unexpected walk-ins.
Our doctors will be able to see about two to three patients per hour, which will allow more time for cleaning and disinfecting in between. With smaller numbers of patients in-store at any given time and by increasing our stores’ hours, we can begin to return to the pre-Covid-19 volume while ensuring our patients that their health and safety are paramount.
Strategy #3: Framing the Online Experience
Prior to the pandemic, our online sales were modest, to say the least. We sold approximately 10 pairs of glasses a week. Once the pandemic hit, and our stores were forced to close, our online sales jumped to nearly 100 pairs a day. This increase in online sales has allowed us to refocus our online processing to ensure our customers could still purchase their necessary eyewear.
To help maximize our online shopping experience, we improved our direct shipping process as well as implemented a patient portal. This portal technology allows our patients to submit their health and insurance data in a safe and secure manner—all while reducing contact points like pens, clipboards, paper, etc. And through direct shipping, our customers no longer have to come to one of our stores to pick up their purchase.
Strategy #4: New Payment Solutions
In order to help customers get the eyewear they need both stress-free and within budget, we began offering a payment solution that provides the option for customers to easily split their payments over time. The benefits are enormous for both our customers and our business.
It eases the conversation of additional out-of-pocket expenses after insurance and makes frame and lens upgrades, or annual supplies of contact lenses, more accessible. For the underinsured and for people who don’t have access to credit, payment plans offer a big source of relief.
In early 2020, we rolled out Sunbit in select locations as a pilot program and experienced incremental revenues of more than $40,000 per store. Sunbit is a payment technology that helps a customer split smaller purchases, between $60 and $2,000, into monthly, manageable payments. With Sunbit, about 90% of our customers are approved and the 30-second application does not ding their credit.
Since the pandemic, our reliance on Sunbit has drastically improved our sales. Today, we’re expanding Sunbit to all of our locations.
Strategy #5: The Future is in the Details
While it’s difficult to envision what the future holds for eyewear retailers, what we can do is take steps to improve the customer experience each time they walk in the door.
The new norm will be to take it slow and steady—allowing fewer patients to be in the stores at any given time; ensuring the cleanliness and sanitization of common areas, equipment, and surfaces regularly touched; and leveraging technology to offer a better online and in-store experience with flexible payment options.
With more attention to the details, I believe our industry can see a steady stream of customers returning to their preferred eyewear retailer as more stores begin to reopen. We’ll continue to monitor the recommendations by our state and local government and health authorities as well as industry leading communities such as The Vision Council, the Opticians Association of America (OAA), and the American Optometric Association (AOA), among others.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Mursuli is the chief operating officer of Eye Doctors Optical Outlets, which has over 50 locations across Florida.