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  • Writer's pictureDr. Quendrida Whitmore

A Culture of Indifference - Three Lessons in Customer Service

It has been a few months since my last blog, but an incident inspired me to capture and share the learnings. For many who know me well, you know that I have multiple eye issues, which caused me to change from contacts to glasses years ago. Glasses became part of my look, and I gathered a great collection over the last five to six years. My company of choice is See Eyewear, but unfortunately, when I moved back to Dallas, I realized there was not one in the area. Recently, I had another eye surgery and needed to update my lenses due to a significant shift in prescription. I decided to call LensCrafters; after all, I only needed lenses changed, and it’s in their name, “Lens.” The store I called informed me they would service other frames, so I drove over with my new prescription in hand, excited to get my glasses updated. Here’s a quick timeline of events:


  • I dropped five frames off on 4/21 and received excellent customer service.

  • I received a call on 5/3 to tell me they had lost my frames but they found the package; it would be another week and a half. My glasses were supposed to be back by 5/5.

  • I called on 5/15 and was told they were attempting to determine timing on my glasses. I received a return call at 4 PM on 5/15 informing me there was no update.

  • Without communication from LensCrafters and all trust lost, I suspected an issue with my frames. Because there was a lack of transparent communication, I drove to LensCrafters on 5/17 to find out they had officially lost my frames.

  • It is now 5/19, a month and almost $8k later, and I have filled out multiple forms and am still waiting for a call from someone from LensCrafters to resolve the issue.

Many have asked me, “How in the world did they lose your frames?” Which I was also stuck in for about 24 hours. I then realized the issue is not the mistake of losing frames; the real problem is a culture of indifference towards the customer. In my article “Rebuilding #HospitalityStrong” in the Boston Hospitality Review for Boston University School of Hospitality, I define hospitality as “creating a welcoming, safe, homey experience by addressing the needs and wants of the customer and encouraging repeat visits.” What strikes me about my LensCrafters experience is that it’s the opposite of this definition. Here are three leadership lessons to ensure you do not have a Culture of Indifference.

  1. Ownership & Action: Mistakes happen every day. Perfection is impossible, but in leadership, it is vital to take ownership of mistakes, admit when something went wrong, and work to make it right. The fact that I have not received one phone call from LensCrafters trying to make this right is reprehensible. One call from someone who takes ownership, admits the situation is messed up, and gives options to resolve it makes this situation better for the customer and the employees.

  2. Honest & Transparent Communication: No communication is poor communication. I love a quote from Colin Powell, “Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age”. Communication and connection are crucial to building trust with customers. A lack of transparent communication in challenging situations will only make it worse. Furthermore, it keeps the story going. The number of times I have repeated this story continues to grow due to the lack of communication. Don’t let the story and the swirl grow, communicate!

  3. Engagement of People: Engaging and developing people is retail. The company has left two less experienced leaders in a store who need direction, support, and training on how to deal with this situation. Both young ladies in the store seem very kind and motivated to do the right thing. I looked for a way to contact the executive team, but that’s the one process that appears to be solid; I could not find them. If LensCrafters had put time and attention into their people and processes, I do not doubt these ladies could have resolved my issue. This culture of indifference towards caring for people, when their mission states they have a “personal approach to eye care,” is inauthentic. A shift in focus from the executives to the customer and employee is essential to building a culture of ownership and creating leaders that will lead your organization in the future. I worked for companies where customers could quickly find the CEO’s email. This communicated a focus on the customer and sent the message that the entire organization should be aligned.

There is good news out of this debacle! See Eyewear continues to stand for genuine service and hospitality. I contacted Sylvia from the San Jose store, and she jumped into action, scouring the system for replacement frames. She even sent selfies of herself in frames she thought would look good on me. She is sending these frames to a store I will be traveling to and gave me a discount on the fram

e she found to replace one of five lost frames. Sylvia repeatedly said she felt bad about my situation and wanted to make it right. She took ownership of a problem that was not her company’s to own. Additionally, I found Black Optical, a local shop with great independent designers and fantastic service. Even Black Optical wanted to help. I found some excellent frames, and Lisha quickly offered to expedite the glasses. So while there is still a need to focus on rebuilding excellent customer service and hospitality, some incredible places are doing it right! A culture of indifference is detrimental to employee engagement, customer service, and business.

Dr. Quendrida Whitmore

Coach Quen is an Executive Coach & Consultant specializing in team building, leadership, career development, retail, and hospitality.

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