Slashing Prices Isn’t the Answer to Acquiring More Customers. THIS Is!

“The Pearle Vision Center offers great service and has quality products.”

The above quote, recently found on Google, reflects a business that is profoundly focused on customer care. But that wasn’t always the case.

Although the Pearle Vision eye care chain has been around since 1961, somewhere along the way, the company lost it’s vision, relying heavily on promotional pricing as a means of getting more customers. Doug Zarkin, an experienced retail marketing executive, was brought on in 2012 to turn things around.

Zarkin, who is Pearle Vision’s vice president and chief marketing officer, talked to several competitors and franchisees, as well as patients and customers that had parted ways with the eye care chain, to gain a better understanding of what the company was doing well, what it was missing, and what expectations weren’t being met.

“What made this business the premier optical retail brand in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s was its commitment to care. So, beginning in 2013, we refocused on a message of providing the highest quality eye care,” Zarkin states on the Stores website. “Along the way, we have been able to greatly reduce our reliance on promotions in general and eliminate what I call ‘opioid-addictive’ promotions like buy one, get one free.”

In 2018, Pearl Vision experienced the highest top line and bottom line in a decade, with the largest number of locations and new eye care centers.

The Value of Listening

Helping Pearle Vision regain the success it enjoyed in the late 20th century meant adapting to a different world that plays by different rules.

Back in the day, a disappointed customer would call the store and deal with the doctor or the manager one on one. Today, the customer can share their disatisfaction on social media and tell the world.

“One way companies evaluate what their customers are telling the world is by calculating their net promoter score.” says Stores. Calculating one’s net promoter score basically involves asking 100 customers if they’d recommend your business to someone else, then subtracting the number who say “no” from those who say “yes”.

But Zarkin goes beyond that. To acquire a deeper level of information about how the market views Pearle Vision, he works with an online reputation management specialist to examine in-store and online traffic, data on social media, and various other places—information that’s proving valuable to Pearle Vision franchise owners, even when the data isn’t the best news.

Zarkin says it’s like having closed-circuit television. “It’s allowing them to train, teach and coach. It’s also allowing them to triage, and frankly it’s allowing them to be more profitable, because they’re delivering a better experience,” he suggests.

The Payoff of Response

Zarkin worked with the online reputation management specialist to gain a better understanding of the world of feedback. In doing so, he realized that while the net promoter score is a good place to start, but it doesn’t offer complete data. “It will tell you if you did a good job or a bad job, but it doesn’t get into why or how—what was good or bad about it.”

He uses technology that provides feedback from across the entire omnichannel spectrum while also enabling Pearle Vision to communicate on platforms like Google My Business about how and what the company is doing. “Having an interface that allows us to do that is key,” Zarkin asserts. “It’s allowed us to regain a measure of stewardship over our reputation.”

“We understand that trust is built both in the exam room and on the retail floor. We also understand that trust is built through a series of small interactions. Reputation allows us to directly determine if those small moments that formulate loyalty are happening.”

~ Doug Zarkin, VP and CMO of Pearle Vision

The combination of feedback and its own metrics gives Zarkin and his colleagues visibility into problems in a given location and actionable, measurable ways to deal with them.

“We know that the best way to drive positive change is to learn from our mistakes and hear what our customers have to say. Our companies thrive off customer feedback. It helps us to innovate and disrupt, and keeps us relevant.”

~ Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin group of companies

Final Thoughts

Through listening and responding to feedback, Pearle Vision has been able to refine the customer experience, allowing the company to maintain a very high positive value equation without having to discount.

That’s important, because the company understands that converting a patient into a retail customer (happy and glasses-buying)  is really how Pearle Vision grows its business.

Other areas of retail would do well to adopt Pearle Vision’s renewed attention to customer interaction and its obvious benefits.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.