Article Date: 12/1/2009

Say Goodbye To Warrantees
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Say Goodbye To Warrantees

Instead, do whatever it takes to make your patients happy


I recently saw a sign in an appliance store that read, "We service what we sell." I thought, "I certainly hope so." Underneath that sign another read, "Extended warranties available." While the intent of the signs might have been more informational than bragging, they left me with an uneasy feeling about how our industry perceives warrantees and service.

You probably already service the products you sell. When a patient returns with a frame that's too tight behind their right ear, you service it. If they are having comfort problems with their contact lenses, you service that. You also probably already offer "extended warranties" although not in the same sense as the appliance store. What these "warranties" actually cover and how long they cover your products varies wildly among practitioners, but for the most part, we all offer something. But should we? Do glasses need to be warranted like refrigerators? I say no.

Glasses and luxury hotels

I am not saying we shouldn't service what we sell or stand behind our products. Far from it. I'm saying that in well run practices, the concept of a warranty should never even have to enter a patient's mind. Rather, it should be understood that you'll do whatever it takes to make products perfect.

Here's an example. When you check into a luxury hotel, you have a certain set of expectations: the room will be clean, the bed and temperature comfortable, etc. If any of these things don't happen, you expect the hotel will make them right, no questions asked. Hotels don't post a signs that say, "If your room is dirty, we'll come and clean it." The "warrantee" is implied in the hotels brand and image – and so should yours.

If you feel compelled to offer separate discrete warrantees, I respectfully ask, why? Is it because you wish to reduce the number of product complaints? Is it to address patients who abuse products? If so, examine your quality control measures and how your staff communicates with patients. They are the probable source of the problem. Any warranty will just be an ineffectual band-aid.

Are you offering warrantees "Because we can — frame and lens manufacturers stand behind us, so why shouldn't we?" Warrantees and exchanges from manufacturers are for legitimate product defects, not for incompetence on your part. They add to the cost of products. Suppose a manufacturer said, "Other than an obvious defect, we're not going to take our frames back, and in doing so we'll lower prices." Would you take that option? If you're careful and diligent in your product selection and dispensing, why wouldn't you? And if you did, wouldn't this negate or at least reduce the need for a defined warrantee program?

Great products and service

My advice: Service what you sell, for sure. But just do it. Just make your patients happy. Run your practice in such a way that it becomes inherently obvious to patients that they will be happy with the great products they buy from you. And when that doesn't happen, you'll do whatever it takes to make them happy. Yes, you'll get an occasional abuser and you'll have to politely ask them to leave your practice. But the overwhelming majority of patients will benefit from your more encompassing approach to customer service and satisfaction. You'll sell more products, make more money and have happier patients – and isn't that the kind of service you want to sell? OM


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2009