What They See Is What They Get

As an optical industry editor, I can’t help but notice the eyecare choices of those around me. As a past employee of a retail store, the saying, “the customer is always right” comes to mind. But are customers always right if they don’t know what’s wrong?

According to a 2013 Frame Purchase Motivation Study from The Vision Council, price, convenience and familiarity are the most influential factors among frame buyers, with familiarity taking the lead. This may not be surprising, but what if the most familiar eyewear provider is not the most fitting?

An example of the familiar going wrong: my brother-in-law recently visited a nearby regional optical chain he remembered going to in his hometown and in college. Visiting to update his prescription and purchase some new specs, he left unsatisfied with the service—his vision plan was calculated differently and it wasn’t clear why, and he was offered the same pair of frames in brown instead of grey. For lack of a better option, as far as he knew, he purchased the frames and made no plans to find a better experience elsewhere.

A contrasting story is my mother’s. After being influenced by my “on-the-job” education last year, I picked out a practice in Manhattan where she and I got our first pairs of designer frames. This year, she’s enthusiastic about returning for a second pair—to a place that is neither convenient to her nor modestly priced—because she received a level of care there that she’d never experienced before.

The list goes on, and experiences vary—my boyfriend’s mother, for example, has recently become enamored with the e-tail scene—but more often than not, frame buyers are selecting eyeglass providers without knowing their options. Until they experience that higher quality care, the glasses-wearing public will be tragically unaware, and perhaps more important to optical business owners, undersold. ■