Above and Beyond: 1-800 CONTACTS Restores Vision, Faith in Customer Service

1-800 CONTACTS restored Kim’s vision, and her faith in customer service. Kim ordered four boxes of contacts, but received the wrong lenses, a fact she discovered when she tried them on and the world went fuzzy. “Way fuzzy. Like more more fuzzy than with no contacts at all.”

So I started comparing my old boxes to my new boxes and discovered that while the power of the lenses was correct, there was a plus sign (+) on the new boxes and a minus sign (-) on my old boxes. The order form had a plus on it so whoever fulfilled the order (probably a machine since the boxes are bar coded and we use a similar boxing system at my company) did their job properly. I came to the awful realization that I had filled the order form out wrong. It was all my fault and a fairly expensive $200 mistake.

Ouch. Kim made the mistake, so Kim should pay for new lenses, right?

Kim called 1-800 CONTACTS and was immediately connected with a customer service representative (CSR.) Kim explained the situation, and the CSR promised to “take care of it.” In less than two minutes, the CSR ordered four new boxes of the correct lenses, and a shipping label to return the other lenses – all at no additional cost.

It gets better after the jump…

Kim soon realized that she would be without contact lenses until the new order arrived. She called back, willing to pay for expedited shipping. The CSR would have none of it, and expedited the order to second-day shipping for free.

    What Went Right

  • No wait for a CSR: An immediate answer is the breakfast of call-centers. It starts the call off right.
  • Exceptional service: This was Kim’s fault. She knew it. The CSRs probably knew it. The CSRs just didn’t care. They helped out not once, but twice.
  • Happy customer: Thanks to incredible CSRs, Kim is now a “frenetic preacher-of-a-customer who is now out spreading the gospel about the church of 1-800 CONTACTS.” You can’t ask for more than that.
    What Went Wrong

  • Preventable Error: Though Kim filled in the order, 1-800 CONTACTS should have verified the prescription.

Kim’s email, below.

Back in December 2006, I ordered 4 boxes of contacts from 1-800 CONTACTS.COM. I wasn’t really needing new contacts yet since I had just been to the ophthalmologist a few months before and had purchased 2 boxes at her office but I needed to burn up the last of my medical flexible account money before the year was out. I have ordered contacts from 1-800 CONTACTS.COM before but this was an entirely new brand and new power for my lenses so I had to clear the pre-filled information from my last order and fill in the information for my new lenses.

Well, this morning I opened up 2 of those 4 new boxes of lenses and proceeded to put them in my eyes. I couldn’t see a thing. I took them out and rinsed them with a different brand of lens solution and I still could not see. I took the contacts out again and returned them to my eyes inside out. The world was still fuzzy. Way fuzzy. Like more more fuzzy than with no contacts at all.

So I started comparing my old boxes to my new boxes and discovered that while the power of the lenses was correct, there was a plus sign (+) on the new boxes and a minus sign (-) on my old boxes. The order form had a plus on it so whoever fulfilled the order (probably a machine since the boxes are bar coded and we use a similar boxing system at my company) did their job properly. I came to the awful realization that I had filled the order form out wrong. It was all my fault and a fairly expensive $200 mistake.

Well, maybe it was a little bit their fault. I mean, yes, I did fill the form out wrong and was probably given ample opportunity to correct it before I hit the “PLACE ORDER” button. But shouldn’t 1-800 CONTACTS.COM have noticed that this was on the opposite end of the spectrum from all the orders that I have placed over the last 10 years? And aren’t they required to contact the prescribing physician to verify the prescription validity? In both cases, they should have, but ultimately I felt the responsibility was my own. If I had taken better care in filling out the order form or opened the box on its arrival and closely inspected its contents, I would not be in this situation.

So my choices were to call 1-800 CONTACTS and either:
a) play the ignorant customer and demand they send me new contacts because there was NO WAY that I filled out that form wrong so somebody there must’ve switched it,
b) request they send me new contacts based on the fact that even though I did fill the form out incorrectly, they held equal responsibility for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph, or
c) admit my mistake, grovel, and hope they would allow me to return the 2 unopened of the 4 total boxes of contacts for credit towards some new contacts.

As I dialed the phone (yay – no digging through a website looking for a customer service number!), I still wasn’t sure which approach that I would take. I got through to a customer service representative within 60 seconds. The representative answered the phone with a smile in her voice and spoke American English. God Bless this young lady, because the events that followed made me forget her name.

I told her my first and last name (both of which are fairly common and I’m sure their were several people in their database with the same one) and that I placed an order in December. I explained that after opening 2 of the boxes and placing the contacts in my eyes, I discovered that the prescription was incorrect. I didn’t say I entered the prescription wrong, I didn’t say that they sent me the wrong thing. I really didn’t have much of an opportunity to say much of anything after that, which was a really good thing, as it’s very difficult to speak when your jaw has dropped to the floor.

The CSR quickly chimed in that she would “take care of it.” She had already located my records in their system in the 20 seconds it took me to tell my story based on my name and last order month (gasp – she was ACTUALLY LISTENING to me from the get-go!). She simply asked me to verify my address so that she could make sure she had the right person, said they would send 4 new boxes with the correct prescription out to me, and that the new order would also contain a return shipping label so that I could mail the wrong prescription back to them at no cost to me. This entire process took less than 2 minutes.

What a fantastic outcome! There are so many other ways that this call could’ve ended. Probably the fairest outcome would’ve been that I ate the cost of the 2 boxes of contacts that I opened, shipped the 2 unopened boxes back to them at my cost and paid 1-800 CONTACTS to ship me out the correct prescription in exchange. My feelings about 1-800 CONTACTS would probably stay pretty neutral at that point. I probably could’ve managed an even exchange by raising a big stink, claiming that it was all their fault that I got the wrong lenses. But I probably would’ve walked away from the transaction with a bad taste in my mouth towards the company, embarrassed because I had to lie and fight to get my way. Worst case scenario is that they could have denied my request for an exchange since they sent me exactly what I ordered and due to the fact that these were prescription items that could not be re-sold or that almost 3 months had passed since the contacts had been delivered to me. My next and all subsequent contact orders would have come from one of the many other vendors out there simply because I would feel, at that point, they had enough of my hard-earned money.

Instead of wasting time determining culpability, they stepped up to the plate and did what it took to make it RIGHT. In the process, they enhanced their profits. “How?,” you say. Well first off, time is money, and every second that my CSR was dealing with my problem, they were losing the opportunity for her to be selling contacts to the next customer and were also paying telephone time while that customer waited on hold. They have also gained a life-long customer. I will never think about buying my lenses anywhere else.

But there’s more to my story. It’s how they turned this mild-mannered life-long customer into frenetic preacher-of-a-customer who is now out spreading the gospel about the church of 1-800 CONTACTS. And this is how it happened:

Several hours after my initial phone call this morning, I went in search of the spare pair of contacts I thought I had put in my overnight bag. The prescription was a little different than my current lenses but they were close enough to carry me through until my new contacts arrived (5 to 7 business days per the CSR). They were nowhere to be found. So I got out my credit card and called 1-800 CONTACTS again hoping that I could still pay to expedite my package’s delivery. While I was sure it would not be cheap, I figured it would be way less painful than buying 2 new boxes locally or having to wear my dorky glasses for a week.

The phone at 1-800 CONTACTS was answered immediately and I told the CSR how they were shipping me some new contacts due to my ordering error and if there was any way that I could pay to have the delivery upgraded. Again, by the time I finished talking she had already located my customer record. After verifying my name and address she said she would upgrade the shipping to Second-Day at NO CHARGE to me!

OK, so maybe someone at 1-800 CONTACTS did a cost-benefit analysis and determined that the costs accumulated in the average time it took an agent to collect credit card information from a customer were equal to or greater than the profit they made from upgraded shipping. Or maybe they found out that treating their customers this way created loyalty bordering on fanaticism. I don’t care either way. I’m more than happy.

Take note, corporations. Good service creates vocal brand fanatics. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
(Photo: Chessia)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mconfoy says:

    Why I have no doubts this is a good company, let’s be clear — they have to be a good company in this business. These are prescriptions we are talking about and opticians and optometrists across the country don’t like them for undercutting them in price. Any kind of negative publicity would have the local providers sharpening their knives all after 1-800-CONTACTS since they did not validate the order form versus the prescription.

    I do know that they have cause contact lens prices to drop with my optometrists though, so I love them even if I don’t use them.

  2. Amy Alkon says:

    Another fantastic company — celadongifts.com. My very, very sick friend bought a microwaveable Sonoma Lavender spa pad from them which she burnt in her microwave. It was her fault, not theirs, it turned out. When I called and talked to the owner, she, I think, got how sick my friend was (I told her I was calling because she was sick, plus she was sleeping in the other room) and she thought for a moment and said she’d Fedex a new one free. And she did. Arrived the next day.

    I had been thinking of ordering one, and I did, on the spot. The woman, Kari, said, “You don’t have to do that.” But it’s just so great when people are so completely decent, it makes me pull out my credit card and charge things. And I also e-mailed a bunch of my friend’s friends to suggest they do the same.

  3. tombot64 says:

    I recently ordered my annual refill from them, and didn’t change my shipping address that was on record. I called them up as soon as I realized my mistake, and the CSR shipped me a new order immediately with no charge.

  4. Scazza says:

    Anytime a company offers to ship something for free, or upgrade shipping is an awesome “above and beyond”. Sure a company can replace an item or what have you with little cost to themselves, but shipping is something most companies get nothing back from. Congrats 1-800 CONTACTS.

    Btw, Kudos to this kotaku feature, makes my day to find the great companies in the sea of shit out there.

  5. soulbarn says:

    I’ve been using them for years. I know opticians don’t like them – but opticians charge double, or even triple. I’ve got a very unusual lens presecription – and 800 Contacts came through on that, as well: I’d recently ordered my lenses – eight boxes – when I found out that a new “size” lens was issued that was much better fitting in my eye. When I called 800-C, they noticed that I’d recently ordered a different type of lens, and checked to see if I was making an error in ordering the new ones. I explained the situation, and they did exactly what the poster of the above story described: they took back all the old lenses, shipping me replacements with a return box.


  6. r81984 says:

    I love 1-800 contacts. I overnighted a years worth, 2 years ago and it was at a great price. Now I use my insurance through my eye doctor and they are so slow and they will not have them shipped directly to my house, I either have to go to the eye doctor again to get them or pay them extra so they can reship them to my house.
    1-800-contacts has done contact wearers a great service by lowering price through competition. Before 1-800-contacts contacts were so high if you did not have insurance you had to wear glasses.

  7. I have had similar issues with 1-800-CONTACTS. They screwed up a few of my orders and sent me replacements without issues, and I got two $5 gift certificates (no expiration date as far as I am aware; it was a handwritten letter!) from their CSRs apologizing for the error.

    Interestingly, while one of the problems was the wrong prescription, the second time was simply a fault of mine (I moved and didn’t update my address). They still apologized despite my admittance that it was my own oversight. I’m very impressed with them.

    Too bad I don’t really wear contact lenses anymore though.

  8. Rachel says:

    The exact same thing happened to me.

    FYI: 1-800 contacts now price matches and takes 2% off the price. Froogle a price from another retailer and you’ll most likely find a better price (I did with visiondirect.com) and you’ll get the 2% discount.

  9. OnoSideboard says:

    I, too, have used 1-800-CONTACTS with pleasing results (although I never had any problems requiring customer service). What bugs me, though, about the whole industry, is the law against selling contacts without a prescription. Thanks to the 1955 Supreme Court case Williamson v. Lee Optical (348 U.S. 483), one of the most blatent examples of special interest groups influencing public policy, I have to pay $200 every year to get an updated prescription from my optometrist, despite the fact that my prescription has not changed in over a decade. Stupid.

  10. mopar_man says:

    I’ve never used this company but after reading this, I think I may have to try them once my current supply runs out.

  11. VA_White says:

    I am also a big fan of 1800Contacts. I wear a toric lens in one eye only (for astigmatism) and the first time I ordered online, they called me to be sure I meant to order toric for only one side. Because their call delayed my order, they upgraded me to overnight shipping when I confirmed that yes, I only need a toric lens in my left eye.

    Also they ship to APO which is a godsend for military families overseas. Contact lenses at a European doctor are outrageously expensive and if you order your lenses through AAFES, you’ll pay too much and wait two months.

  12. clbarrientos says:

    @OnoSideboard: My prescription for my lens exp 2 years ago, and 1800 contact will still sell me the same prescriptions today…since I have I no longer have vision insurance 1800 understands and ships the contacts to me…cheers to this company!

  13. Blind But Now I See says:

    Hi – this is Kim – the girl that wrote the letter. First off, I wanted to add that I work on the corporate side of my company’s customer service division and I understand how difficult it is to staff a call center. I think that ours is one of the better ones since our hourly wage is higher than most, we offer excellent benefits from day one, there is a fairly liberal bonus plan that is paid monthly, college tuition reimbursement and a clear and attainable career track. Yet with all that, we still struggle to keep people that are bright, cheerful and have a customer-service attitude.

    Probably what blew me away the most today was the consistency between my 2 interactions with the 1-800-C agents. Both of them had the opportunity to kick me while I was down. But instead they picked me up, brushed me off, and sent me along my way with no worries.

    I think we often fail to recognize excellent customer service when, in actuality, it happens to us all the time – the guy at the body shop that fixes our car on the first try, the waitress that keeps our water glass filled throughout the entire meal – we expect this but are rarely aware of the complexity needed for everything to go “right.”

    Today started out wrong and it was all my fault. But 1-800-Contacts went out of their way to make everything right without bothering to assign blame. Then they topped it off with a little bit of magic.

  14. mad_oak says:

    1-800-C Added $30 worth of lense cleaning solution to my wife’s order of disposable lenses. We assumed it was a case where they deceitfully added it in the hopes we wouldn’t return it. Given the CSR accolades, perhaps it truly was an error. Returning the cleaning solution was very quick and easy. They credited us immediately and sent us a prepaid shipping label for the box we had received.

  15. Smashville says:

    If I remember correctly from one of my textbooks, 1-800-Contacts gives it’s CSRs so many hundreds of dollars per customer that they can spend to ensure satisfaction.

  16. shiny says:

    I can’t vouch for 1-800-CONTACTS because I’ve never used them.

    I do, however, use another online lens retailer called “ACLens.” When I started wearing lenses again back in 2002, I checked prices and found ACLens to be slightly cheaper than anything else out there at that time selling my particular brand and prescription. I’ve stuck with them for the past four years simply because of consistency and accuracy. They’ve done the job right, they haven’t raised their prices (and often will email me discount coupons), and deliver quickly.

    It appears that in the contact lens game there isn’t much of a difference between retailers selling a sealed third-party product. I guess the only edge one can get is through pricing and superior customer service. I’ve read that 1-800-CONTACTS will price-match any competitors and edge them out by 2%. But do I really need to change a system which performs as expected for less than $10 worth of savings per year?

  17. sam says:

    Heh. I made the exact same mistake last year, and 1800contacts came through in the exact same way.

    As an extra added bonus, now I actually pay attention to the +/- signs when filling out my reorder forms! (Little hint – the “+” is the default sign on the web form, but the “-” is for nearsightedness, which is much more common – I’d be surprised if this isn’t such a common mistake that the company just has this exchange policy set up as the automatic response).

  18. yalej says:

    Yeah, I use them as well. Never had any problem with them. Opticians are nuts if they think we’re gonna buy their over priced contacts.

  19. Dr. Eirik says:

    There’s a good reason to have your eyes checked regularly, even if you don’t think the contact Rx has changed in years. I’m an optometrist, and I’ve seen what can happen when people go five or ten years without coming in. Contact lens overwear isn’t all that uncommon. Seeing a cornea that looks like hamburger because someone decided that spending $100 was too much is hard to take. I’ve had several cases of neovascularization in my office that were so severe I’ve pulled people out of contacts permanently.

    There’s also just the simple matter of contact lenses changing from year to year. I don’t prescribe the same lenses that I did when I started practicing in 2000 because the industry and materials have changed. We’re even seeing now that some solutions don’t work as well with some lenses. If you don’t go in, then you don’t get updated.

    I personally don’t sell contact lenses, I work in a commercial location that does that so if people want to take the Rx elsewhere then I don’t care. I do know that a few years back 1-800 contacts was telling patients that I didn’t have their best interests at heart because I prescribed Biomedics 55 contacts. I prescribed them because I thought they were the best choice for many patients, but because they wouldn’t sell to 1-800, suddenly I was a bad doctor. To top it off, at the time, they were charging the same or more for some lenses than the store I work with.

    BTW, I had to interrupt this reply because of a patient, who I hadn’t seen in 2 years, had come in. At the time, he needed a special order lens that cost about $300 a year. Now? I can try him in a new, high oxygen silicon lens that just came out in his Rx in the last few months. I don’t know yet if it’ll fit, but if it does, it should save him about $100 a year and allow about 5 times the oxygen to his eye. His exam co-pay was $20. I think he’ll be happy with that.

  20. Jon Parker says:

    Is it possible to get the management of 1-800-CONTACTS to start a cell phone company?

  21. Kaix says:

    Don’t forget Walgreens.com. They’ve recently started selling contact lenses.

  22. the-wanderer says:

    My only complaint with 1-800-contacts is that they refuse to sell some of the “Special Effects” contacts, ’cause they say that it “Encourages Sharing…”

    Personally, if I wanna put weird contacts in my eyes, and I’ve got a perscription for ’em, you should be willing to sell ’em.

    And I get my contacts from Sam’s Club anyway, since they’re actually cheaper than 1-800 contacts.

  23. sam-i-am says:

    I live in Utah where 1800Contacts is, and have been to their building and have had friends who worked there. Despite being a call center, they really value their employees. They have a chef on staff and provide everyone with a free meal every day (and I even got one free as a guest) as well as all you can eat cereal, snacks, and drinks.

    They have relaxation rooms that are dark where you can go sit in a massage chair and hang out for a while, as well as an on-site gym complete with excersize equipment, a basketball shooting game, and dance dance revolution.

    Happy employees comes through in their interactions with customers. Always.

  24. criticman says:

    I had the EXACT problem with an order mistake. It may have even been my fault, choosing – instead of +. In any event, they overnighted me the proper ones and included a pre-paid label to send the other set back.

    And I save so much compared to paying for them at the doctor!

  25. javguy says:

    Here’s what 1800 really seems top have done. They possibly violated federal law by not confirming the prescription from the doctor’s office before filling the order, unless they tried to verify the prescription and the doctor’s office didn’t respond within 8 business hours. In that case, although it’s ridiculous, the contacts are allowed to be sold by assuming the prescription is correct (passive verification), which it did not appear to be in the original article. Even if 1800 did try to verify the prescription and didnt’ receive a response within the allotted time, 1800 is basically indicating by their actions that they’re willing to risk problems like this and possibly have their customers experience physical harm or danger because 1800 is evidently not willing or able to take the time to actually verify every prescription. My understanding of the law is that unfortunately they don’t have to get actual verification of every prescription, but morally I think they should.
    As you can also see from previous posts, they’re evidently also filling prescriptions for medical devices without valid prescriptions. Seems that they’re more interested in selling something than in preserving the health of the consumer. I feel that contact lens prescriptions should be held to the same standard as pharmaceutical prescriptions.