Boots Opticians: A Disappointing Customer Experience

I get a letter

I got a letter through the post informing me that I was due for an eye test.  Given that it has been several years since I had my eyes tested I welcomed the colourful reminder from Boots.  I noticed that I could book an appointment online or by calling.  At that moment I did not have a laptop handy so I chose to call. My call was picked up almost immediately and a helpful chap booked an appointment for me at the local Boots (Opticians) store.

How am I feeling? Happy.  What kind of impression do I have of Boots?  This is an organisation that has its act together: it has sent me a useful reminder, it has offered me several options, it has made it easy for me to book an appointment, and the fellow on the phone exuded human warmth.

I turn up at the store for an eye test

Several days later I turned up at the local Boots Opticians store. The store looks spacious and clean – I notice the whiteness of the store and I wonder if Boots is ‘stealing’ from the Apple retail stores. Walking up to the woman at the counter, I smile, I give my name and let her know I am there for an eye test. This is an opportunity for her to show up as a human being. She declines. In her best robotic voice, she tells me to take a seat.

Looking around the various stands housing the spectacles, I notice four seats in line. Two seats are occupied, two are free.  As I approach the seats I notice that one of the seats is dirty – obviously dirty. The dirtiness of seat clashes with the sparkling whiteness of the store. And I notice that the seats (for customers) look crammed in comparison with the spaciousness of the rest of the store.

What does this tell me?  It tells me that the star of the show at Boots Opticians is the product: the range of spectacles. How am I left feeling? Disappointed. Unwanted. What am I thinking? I wonder what the rest of the experience is going to be like.

The eye test happens

Shortly, and on time, a professional looking man comes out from the ‘back’ of the store, calls my name, and asks me to follow him. He shows me into a ‘tiny area’ which houses three machines. At one of the machines, a member of staff is testing a customer. I am handed over to a young woman. She proceeds to conduct an eye test.  Whilst another member of staff takes my glasses to get those tested.

What am I thinking? I am asking myself how it is that there is so much space in the front for the spectacles and so little space at the back for conducting eye tests on customers.  And I am asking myself if a lack of ‘human warmth’ goes with the opticians and/or the Boots brand.  I am clear that for the staff, I show up as a ‘widget’ to be processed and not as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being.

Thankfully, the eye test does not take that long and the professional looking man is back. He asks me to follow him and walks me to a room that occurs as positively spacious-luxurious.  Over the course of the next 10 – 20 minutes he proceeds to test my vision by inserting different lenses into the spectacles he has placed on my nose.  His manner is professional. He shows up as knowing what he is doing.

At the end of the testing he tells me that my short-sightedness is slightly worse. And that I have started to become long-sighted too.  He tells me that I can either have two pairs of spectacles – one for short sightedness and one for reading. Or I can go for one pair of spectacles that will cater for both needs.  He suggests that I go for the single bifocal pair of spectacles. He then hands me over to another member of staff.

I walk out without buying spectacles

The new member of staff, a good looking lady with a smile, is keen to take me to the front of the store to pick spectacles.  I decline. Instead I ask for my prescription, receive the prescription, make my way to the robotic lady on the counter, pay and leave.

Why did I not buy?  I did not buy because I did not feel valued.  I did not buy because it did not occur to me that I was consulted on my needs. I did not buy because it occurred to me that the focus of the staff in the store was to sell me spectacles.  I did not buy because the people in the store and the experience lacked any semblance of humanity.  Put plainly, I was looking for an ‘I-Thou’ relationship and what I got was an ‘I-It’ relationship – I was the ‘It’.

I look forward to the day, that an ‘Amazon’ like competitor puts the likes of Boots Opticians out of business.

Worth remembering

Investments in CRM (including database marketing) are not likely to yield the desired results if the customer experience sucks! To generate ROI from CRM investments you have to pay attention to the customer experience.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

8 thoughts on “Boots Opticians: A Disappointing Customer Experience”

    1. Hello Rubal,
      Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my speaking. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to listen to your speaking. I will check out Lenskart.

      Be well, be great.

      Please know your existence makes a contribution to my existence,


  1. I would like to think that this is coming soon. Keep your eye on an emerging practice called “Service Design”. It basically applies the best practices of user experience to the bricks and mortar environments. Given that empathy and human factors considerations are key to good experience design, I hope that you will find the experience you seek in the future. But before this can happen, the world needs more people that, like you, take the time to acknowledge their experience among their peers.


    1. Hello Daniel,

      Thank you for speaking up and allowing me to hear your speaking.

      For several years I have been following the emerging practice of “Service Design”. I have several books and I strive to put into practice the philosophy of service design (and use the tools and techniques) when I am seeking to understand and architect customer experiences.

      At your service and with my love


  2. A very nice example Maz of how collar and cuffs don’t necessarily match.

    My big question is why was the woman “robotic”? Was she born that way? Or was it beaten into her?



    1. James,
      It occurs me that every normal child I have ever experienced is expressive. I’d say it is that full self-expression that I find both delightful and frustrating. I have also participated in Landmark Education courses and seen-witnessed-experienced the transformation in expression that all kinds of people go through when the context-environment calls forth that kind of self-expression. Which makes me think that the woman showed up robotic simply because our cultural practices call us forth as robotic. To show up as a human being that is alive and embodies-exudes aliveness is rare.

      With my love,


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