I recently had an experience involving a sore eye and the classic ‘Google diagnosis’ which lead me into a frenzy that if I was not seen by an optician in the next 60 minutes, I was sure to be blind within 24 hours. It was not a pleasant position to be in, especially as I had been experiencing the problem for 4 days and chose a Sunday morning during a nationwide lockdown to conduct said Google search. Alongside this, due to having vulnerable family members, I have been trying to limit social contact as much as possible, so the prospect of having to go to into an opticians was not ideal.
I am a customer of Specsavers. Their brand is all about exceeding customer expectations, providing great value care and ultimately to “treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves”.
They want to be ‘people, people’- by cutting out the jargon, using a witty, catchy tagline (‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’) and bringing customers and staff into the Specsavers family. Over the years I have had my ups and downs with them, but my most recent experience was a positive one, which is a lot to be said considering current circumstances.
After I had concluded that losing an eye was a realistic prospect, I called my local Specsavers and my call was answered instantly. After explaining my predicament, the person on the phone explained to me that they didn’t have an optician in that day as it was a Sunday, but she took my details and promised me she would call the nearest store to check if they had an optician in and get back to be.
Within 5 minutes, I received a call from another Specsavers store in Manchester. Not only had the previous lady checked the nearest store, she had checked all the stores in Manchester and asked the one with the optician in on that day to call me back. My details were taken and I was asked a few questions before being offered an appointment for that day. It turned out that as I am on the contact lens scheme, and as my problem sounded like it might be linked to contacts, my appointment would be free of charge. This was a definite reassurance as I feared I would be paying emergency appointment prices. I was told that I would be asked to wear a mask and sanitize my hands on arrival.
When I arrived, the store was locked, but with a staff member standing at the entrance allowing those with appointments in. Usually, I would be put off walking into a locked store, but it offered me reassurance that they were taking limiting numbers seriously. As expected, I was asked to put on a mask and clean my hands, before walking through the one way system and sitting in the socially distanced waiting area- again the measures were not just there but were being properly implemented.
All staff members had masks and gloves on, yet there was no ‘clinical’ feel about the store, as their friendly, welcoming faces soon warmed the atmosphere. Before I went into my appointment, I watched as the optician opened the door, and cleaned the handle, door frame, chair and Perspex screen. This transparency and the visual act of cleaning put my mind at ease, meaning that when I walked into the room, I felt safe.
The optician had gloves and a face shield on, yet didn’t comment or draw attention to it; this was nice as he normalised the situation. He did the check and came to the conclusion that my life threatening eye disease was a mere scratched eyelid… but assured me I had done the right thing in getting it checked out!
I left with my eye drops in hand feeling reassured about the whole experience. My eye was OK, I was safe and I felt as though all necessary COVID precautions had been taken.
COVID measures could have a tendency to take away from the customer experience and remove the personality from the brand. One way systems, social distancing, and being locked outside a store could have a detrimental effect on the CX and be impractical for customers. Masks, gloves and a ‘clinical’ feeling environment could take away from what is usually a light-hearted and down-to-earth brand.
However, Specsavers have mastered the balance between reassuring customers for their safety, whilst retaining a positive CX. They have implemented the measures in an on-brand way and this is largely demonstrated through their friendly, welcoming staff who really do “treat people as they would like to be treated themselves”. Alongside this, the transparency and visual act of following COVID guidelines, signals that they genuinely are a customer-centric organisation that care for their customers’ and their staff’s wellbeing.
My experience was a great example of how you can implement safety measures and all the necessary precautions, whilst remaining aligned to the brand. Achieving this balance will become crucial to meet customers’ expectations as we move into the ‘new normal’.