Failures and Refunds

How to approach spectacle rechecks with humility


Despite our best efforts, every eye care practice will experience failures from time to time. It might be a new instrument that doesn’t achieve the hoped-for return on investment. Or, it could be a new frame line that never quite gets popular with patients, and you’re stuck with frames you can’t move.

Failure can present itself occasionally as a patient who doesn’t like his new glasses. When you see “Glasses recheck” on your daily schedule, what emotion do you feel? If you put yourself in the patient’s place, you can imagine that this isn’t comfortable for him either. We all know that refraction is an art, and lens prescribing is a result of careful listening, and that comes from an understanding of what the patient needs in his vision correction. But there may be a barrier of pride that we have to overcome when a prescription doesn’t work. Here’s the way I approach it.


As I enter the room, I acknowledge the patient’s complaint by saying something like: “I understand that your new glasses aren’t working for you. Let’s see what we can do together to fix that problem.” This is a validating statement that shows you care, and that you want to collaborate with the patient to fix the situation. The faster you get to a sense of teamwork, the easier the problem is solved. If a mistake has been made by you or your staff, admit it. People always want to hear the truth, so be sure to tell it.


Each time you fail with a spectacle prescription, it becomes another part of your prescribing experience and makes you better equipped for the next time. Thank the patient for the second chance to get it right. After all, he could have just left and spread the bad news to his friends, and that type of collateral damage hurts your reputation.


If a refund is requested, offer it quickly and with a smile. There is no greater indicator of a company’s culture than its response when things go wrong. If the consumer has to go through unnecessary red tape and long waits, that speaks volumes about the customer service. Never let money get in the way of retaining a patient.


The last value of failure and refunds is that they teach us humility, if we let them. While some people respond poorly and place the blame on the patient, we can all benefit from a reality check that we sometimes fail. However failure presents itself in your practice, it should not be something to avoid. If you’re not failing once in a while, you’re not growing and learning. Failure is a far better teacher than success; fail fast, incorporate the lessons from failure, and then move toward making the next effort a success. OM