Synsam was listed on the stock exchange last year, and is a growth-oriented company. In Norway, they are establishing shops all across the country, both at the street level and in shopping malls.
“We have the potential for more physical shops”, says Torhild Barlaup.
The eye care industry has multiple chains that are expanding with new shop openings.
One of Synsam's unique traits is that they have the widest inventory in the industry. They have products for every wallet.
“We have been highly innovative in a conservative industry, and the customers have noticed”, says Barlaup.
Synsam was the first eye care chain with a subscription model for glasses.
The chain is also investing in the circular economy through outlet shops. In total, they have eight of these among the Nordic countries, and the first such shop in Norway recently opened at the Strømmen Storsenter shopping mall.
Torhild Barlaup came to Synsam two years ago and has held several roles: head of operational excellence at the group level, in charge of establishment in Norway, acting CEO, and is now heading into a position where she will be in charge of B2B. The service encounter is a field she has been closely involved in over the past two years.
World-class service encounters
Synsam aims to create world-class service encounters. In 2020, Synsam in Norway conducted an assessment of IT tools that could help them improve the service encounter. This finally led to an investment in Maze, while continuing to use mystery shoppers.
A Maze pilot was started a year ago, and its results were so good that all of the eye care chain’s shops in Norway now use the solution.
Torhild Barlaup had experience with Maze from a previous employer. She is satisfied with the tool, and describes it as intuitive and simple.
“It has given us measurable results, and our shop managers greatly appreciate the system.”
Synsam has gone from believing to knowing.
“We need to know what the customers think of us. What we're doing must be based on facts”, Barlaup says.
“When something is happening out in the shops, for good or for ill, we’ll see it in the customer feedback. What we're doing is dynamic, so it's important to pick up on changes. We depend on feedback to know that we're on the right track. Our lodestar is: The customer is no. 1, and Maze gives us the answer to whether we are delivering on that”, she says.
Status for each shop
Through the IT solution, they receive quick answers from real customers.
“We can quickly check the status of each shop, and both we and the shops manage with these results in mind.
It’s a powerful tool for change, and we don't have to push this onto the shop managers. It’s self-driven. The system is also set up to let us cheer each other on”, says Barlaup.
For example, Synsam has tested how the customers have received the subscription model. Have the customers been informed? Has the model been explained to them, and have they understood it?
“When we focus on an area through Maze, something happens. We can measure that. We see if the shops have worked on the issue in question. We get answers, including when things didn't go so well. It gives us a foundation for discussing things with the shop”, says Barlaup.
Synsam has both regional managers and sales coaches who all contribute to elevating the service encounter at the shops.
Synsam has a target of reaching an ambassador level of over 80.
“We've done this, but there's some variation between the shops”, Barlaup admits.
If a shop is too low over time, it becomes a threat to Synsam's brand. It will then be important to analyse why. Are there misunderstandings due to poor communication? Is there a new hire who hasn't been sufficiently trained? The feedback explains where the customer journey is failing.
Trust is decisive
The eye care industry is trust-based. It’s highly important to be able to determine the customer’s needs and to find the best solutions. Good skills are the key here, both in terms of optical expertise, but also with regard to giving the customer good, personal service.
The relationship between the optician and the customer is closer than the relationships in other retail industries.
“We're talking about eye care, and opticians are considered healthcare workers. We're extremely dependent on maintaining the customers’ trust. It’ll be very clear in the Maze measurements if we don't have it”, Torhild Barlaup concludes.
“We get useful feedback and a chance to set things right”
Azra Trnka is a shop manager at Synsam in Lille Grensen, Oslo.
“It’s highly useful to get feedback from customers both when the service encounter has gone well and when it hasn't gone so well”, she says.
Customer feedback gives the shop the opportunity to contact the customer and re-establish good dialogue.
Since the shop began using Maze, they have been receiving more customer feedback, not to mention feedback that was given shortly after visiting the shop.
“When customers come in for a vision check, we tend to encourage them to give us feedback”, says the shop manager.
All franchise employees are given access to the system. None of the shop employees have felt negatively about the tool.
“It’s sad when we get a frowny face, but that gives us the chance to do something about it. The employees will often gather in the shop to discuss what happened. We keep up with our ambassador level, says Trnka.