customer service

Get off the phone!

Posted on March 16, 2009. Filed under: customer service, management |

The 21st Century Business Traveller
Image by Noonch via Flickr

Are you spending time on the phone booking appointments that you could be spending pampering the clients in the salon?  It is time to join the 21st century and get an online appointment system!

An online appointment system works 24/7.  It doesn’t call in sick and it never comes to work with a hangover.  We have used online appointment services in my salon for years.  If I tried to take it away, the customers would string me up by my toes!  Whenever they think about their hair, they can get an appointment.  It doesn’t matter if you are open or closed, or where the client is when they get the idea.  If they have an internet connection, they can make an appointment.

Reasons salons are afraid of online appointments:

  1. Clients can’t be trusted to book the right thing.  Most of your clients are smart enough to know whether they get a highlight or a brow wax.  Most systems are easy enough for even the most obtuse clients.
  2. I want to pre-book my clients while they are in the salon.  Web based systems are live all the time. You can make the appointment just like you would on paper, but now your clients have access, too.
  3. I don’t want my clients to know what or who else I am doing.  Clients will only see slots that are available for the service they select.  Some systems even have a “smart booking” feature that directs clients into the most effective slot so that you have tighter booking.

So, what are you waiting for?  These companies are safe, effective, and affordable.  Plus, they will let you set up a trial account to make sure the system works for you before you have to pay!

(By the way, last week I had a client make an appointment while she was on a work trip in Mozambique.  If I didn’t have online appointments, she would have had to wait until she was back home to make that appointment, but instead, she came straight from the airport.  How cool is that?)

I even found a company that has a complete online system that integrates your appointments, client records,  inventory and point of sale!  If you need a full solution, you really need to check out Rosy.  It’s all that (and a bag of chips!)  I spoke to them in depth today and they walked me through the system.  I have not seen a better, more affordable solution for small salons.

When you get yourself up and running, let me know who you chose, and why.  We’d all love to hear!

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The Customer Experience as Competitive Edge – from Wells Fargo Small Business

Posted on September 16, 2008. Filed under: customer service, small business | Tags: , , |

Wells Fargo Small Business Round up sends me links to articles once a month or so.  When I find them helpful, I share them here.  Why don’t you bookmark their page and check it now and again?

Competitive differentiation is critical. Whether your value proposition rests on price, service or offering a completely unique product or service, building the optimal customer experience can help separate you from the pack. Creating ongoing, meaningful relationships with customers may just be the best retention tool you have.

“We live in a world of abundant choice, uncertainty of innovation and change and the stress of time pressure,” notes John Todor, Ph.D., author of Addicted Customers. “From a customer’s perspective, this pushes them out of their psychological comfort zone. Bidding wars make products and services commodities, which leads to stress and the tendency to buy on price and convenience, not on value. It takes the joy and inherent loyalty out of the buying experience. But an emotionally satisfying experience gives customers a sense of belonging, helping you increase desire and demand, while decreasing the focus on price.”

Thus, the goal of building the best customer experience is to create desire, and increase demand and commitment on the part of the customer; it’s an experience customers want to return to because they derive value from it. Todor points to the experience of walking into an Apple computer store. You’re greeted by a concierge, and all the products are turned on and ready for use, which is actively encouraged. There’s even a classroom in the middle of the store to foster in-depth product learning. The value for customers is clear: They can experience the product right now, not after they’ve purchased it. They’re subjected to the potential value of owning and using the product in the future—this is the root of desire.

But you don’t have to be big to offer a great experience. “We have a local hardware store where all the employees are ex-tradespeople,” Todor says. “Most of the customers are do-it-yourselfers, so the staff works to have the right person—a plumber, electrician, etc.—talk to you about your needs. They offer solid, sound advice about projects that helps keep customers from making mistakes. They may charge about 10% more than other big box or hardware stores, but you’re getting real expertise when you visit. In this case, the shared experience is valuable and meaningful because the anxiety of concerns the customers have about doing their project without unexpected complications are defused. It turns a nagging task into a project that, when done right, leads to gratification, and the confidence to tackle more homeowner projects. The result: more business for the hardware store. A bonus: customers who spread the word to friends and neighbors.”

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Ever wonder what your clients are thinking?

Posted on July 6, 2008. Filed under: customer service | Tags: , |

Occasionally I stumble across stories about people and their DIY hair color disasters.  As I read this woman’s story, I just couldn’t help but be amazed at her determination to find a solution even as things continued to go awry, rather than cutting her losses and waiting for professional help.

I pony-tail it and go BACK to the store. Now I really, really wish I had listened to hubby and just waited to go to the salon on Tuesday. My stylist would have talked me out of blonde, but at least it would have been a color I could wear in public. I get yet another box of color. This time, just a medium brown shade to hopefully hide the hideous mop that is my hair. I am still hopeful it will turn out and I can highlight over it. All would be well with the world.

The end result is not bad…but I will be going to the salon on Tuesday to get my brunette glaze put over this medium brown on the very red side head of mine. The Lord made me brunette, but it can be a little shinier and I won’t have roots, right? Right. Plus if you can believe it, she charges less for the glaze than I spend on my 4 boxes of color. Way to save money, huh?

Read her entire story here.

Now, the question to us, is how do we communicate to our clients that we are often the more economical choice?  How do we teach them that a consistant color experience produces hair that is healthier, shinier, and more likely to stay attched?

What’s your best story about a client who got a wild hair up her butt one weekend?

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Ever have an angry customer?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: customer service, small business | Tags: |

Typical debit card transaction machine, branded to McDonalds.

Image via Wikipedia

We have all had customer service incidents.  (Here’s one of mine.)

But have you ever had a really angry customer?  It is not a pretty sight.  My customer service plan is to try to avoid “angry” as best I can by nipping things in the bud.

Last week I had trouble with the credit card terminal.  While I was batching out the day’s receipts, the machine went blank.  After a call to the merchant service line, I was told that the batch had not gone through and it was no longer in the memory of the machine.  I was asked to manually re-enter each slip.  (Luckily it was not a big, busy day, so there were only 10 items.)

I input the items again.  Just in case there was any problem, I emailed all the customers and told them what was up.  The next day, one of the clients emailed me to let me know that two transactions were pending on her account.  Yikes!  Panic!

Another call to Merchant Services, and a different person told me that I was supposed to have re-entered the transactions as “offline” and used the same authorization number.  So what had happened now was that on the day before the batch failure, when the clients’ cards were swiped, an authorization was put through to their account.  The actual transaction is not processed until the batch is sent.  When I reentered the items, an additional authorization went through.  I was assured that the original authorization would “drop off” of their accounts in a few days and only one charge would go through.

So I sent another email to all of the effected clients explaining things as I understood them, apologizing for any trouble and thanking them for their patience and understanding.  When they come in the salon next time, I will give them a little gift as an additional apology.

The reason I communicated with the clients was to keep them from seeing their bank info, seeing us on their twice for the same event, freaking out, and wondering what was wrong, or worse: calling and screaming at me!  For me, it is easier to avoid drama than to deal with it full blown.

Sometimes they get you, though.  For 5 steps on how to deal with an angry customer once they are really hot, read this post from Business Pundit.

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What goes through a client’s mind when they decide to break up with their hairdresser?

Posted on June 20, 2008. Filed under: customer service | Tags: |

I read a post written by a woman who could be a client of any of us.  She is no longer in love with her hairdresser.  She explains why and asks for guidance on finding a new one.

Read it here.

The question to us is obvious.  How do we stop this attrition?  I have a client that I can feel isn’t loving me as much right now.  I have decided to really focus on her experience.  I am noticing the deltails of how she interacts with me and the salon, what her body language tells me, and if there is something she is trying to communicate to me that I am just not getting.

Of course, I should be giving this level of focus to all my clients, right?

Perhaps I am the only one guilty of slipping occasionally.  Of running on auto-pilot.  Of assuming that just because a client has been coming for two decades that they will still be here tomorrow.

This woman’s post served as a nice wake up call to me.  A reminder that I do still have to be great.  Every time.  My mortgage and car payment depend on it!

How have you handled it when you found yourself on auto-pilot or when you felt a client slipping away?

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What kind of hair do clients want for formal events?

Posted on May 19, 2008. Filed under: customer service | Tags: |

I got all riled up about the devolution of formal hair dressing for formal events.

Read my post on my salon’s blog.

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Changing the salon decor keeps clients on their toes

Posted on May 6, 2008. Filed under: customer service, small business | Tags: , , |

I have a decorating rule in my salon.

If it isn’t nailed down, it can (and will) be moved!

About 3 times a year I re-merchandise the retail area, moving different products to different shelves.

Why, you ask?  Because clients get numb to their surroundings.  You have to shake them up a little so they get the impression that you are always moving and growing.  Salons that don’t stay fresh find themselves losing clients to other, more interesting salons.  Not necessarily because your salon was bad, but because it got boring.

Now, don’t start arguing with me and say that all your customers would walk over broken glass in bare feet to get to you and that how things look doesn’t matter to them.  Of course some clients are that way.  And some are not.  The ones who don’t care if things are old and stogy also won’t care if it is new and different.

Like most salon, we have a small operating budget and there isn’t money to do a huge remodel all at once.  Last spring I replaced our traditional “stations” with Craftsman toolboxes.  Last month we got new shampoo chairs.  We move the reception area stuff (customer seating and front desk) around whenever the mood strikes.  (We just went through a big spring cleaning/purge of lots of crap in the salon last week.)

Reasons to change the salon decor:

  1. You get a chance to clean behind things (and you know how filthy it gets!)
  2. You get to talk to the customers about what is new (and they understand why you charge the prices you do!)
  3. Customers get to know that you are trying to keep things fresh for them and they aren’t being taken for granted.
  4. A cleaning project gets the staff motivated and improves their outlook on the salon and gives them pride in their workplace.

My salon may not have marble floors and a water fountain, but that doesn’t mean I have to let it go to pot.

What can you do for little or no money to freshen up your space?

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Reviews and Word of Mouth – The BIG Kahuna

Posted on May 5, 2008. Filed under: customer service, marketing, small business | Tags: , , |

I get lots of new business because customers have written nice reviews.  Nothing helps a customer believe in a salon more than reviews from actual customers.  Our policy is to keep any bad reviews (we only have three last I checked) and to respond to them so that we can appear real, and so that we can have the opportunity to reinforce our brand.

Remember, not everyone is your customer.

You really need to add the Brand Identity Guru blog to your reading list.  Tons of good ideas there.  Here is one of them.

Reviews and Word of Mouth

When you’re looking to buy a product do you read reviews online? I do. And it most certainly drives my decision making process. Reviews are a form of word of mouth and people value word of mouth.

I just bought my wife an Olympus E-Volt 510. I read reviews and compared it to the Nikon. For the features and cost the

Olympus faired better. The reviews were all glowing. This built up trust in the product for me. So now I feel confident because reviews were good. Now I need to decide where to buy my product? I notice I can buy it for far less at no-name internet stores. But have you ever checked their return policies or tried to call them? Off to Amazon I go and pay and extra $50 and feel confident in my purchase. Moral of this blog?

  1. Get people reviewing your products/services
  2. Review the reviews of your product/service
  3. Work on obtaining great reviews by interacting with customers and reviewers
  4. Keep conversation alive by setting up tools like message boards and blogs
  5. Build credibility/trust (like Amazon)
  6. Word of mouth is an important part of branding

Go read some more, will ya?  There’s too much good stuff to bring it all here.  I can’t gather everything for you!

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Putting testimonials to work for your business – Dex

Posted on April 30, 2008. Filed under: customer service, marketing, small business | Tags: , , , |

I have a testimonials page on my salon’s website. I think it is a great tool for potential customers to be able to hear what your existing customers have to say. It can make them feel more comfortable with your business and give them an idea of what they are in for.

Our favorite client comment? “I can wear my pajamas and cuss!”

Putting Testimonials to Work, Part I: Print

Print

Capitalize on your biggest fans’ power of persuasion with customer testimonials.

There’s a reason all those infomercials hawking everything from jewelry to fitness equipment use stories direct from customers’ mouths to sell their products. They work. And including testimonials from customers can yield big results for your advertising too.

“Testimonials are a form of proof that what you’re selling really works and works for the average customer,” says David Frey, author of the Small Business Marketing Bible and president of www.MarketingBestPractices.com. “They’re an extremely powerful form of marketing and have a heavy positive influence over a person’s buying decision.”

Customer testimonials may be short and to the point—perhaps just a couple of sentences about the stellar service your customer received—or they may be three or four paragraphs long. Regardless of their length, well-done testimonials lend credibility to your company.

Read the rest of the story here.

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Customer, Client or Guest?

Posted on April 30, 2008. Filed under: customer service, small business | Tags: , , , , |

It has become popular for some salons and spas to refer to the people who visit their businesses as guests. That never resonated with me and I always felt a little silly using the term. Yes, I know very well that they are more than customers. To me, a customer is someone who just walks in to the salon and buys a bottle of shampoo, but does not have a relationship with a stylist there.

But guest sounds too familiar to me. And also makes me feel odd accepting money. If I had a guest in my home, I wouldn’t charge them. I know that hotels often refer to their customers as guests, but you sleep there!

I prefer client. Attorneys and accountants have clients. Clients and service providers have relationships, engage in a consultative process, and money is very clearly involved.

Aura’s definitions:

Clients look for advice and guidance.

Customers want a product, whether it is shampoo or a haircut, not a relationship.

Guests don’t expect to pay.

Dictionary.com’s definitions:

Customer: a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron.

Client: a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc.

Guest: A person who spends some time at another persons home in some social activity, as a visit, dinner or party.

For the record, I give great thought to the meaning of words. Perhaps more than the average bear. One of the biggest fights I had with my first husband was over the difference in definitions of the words chore and errand. This argument involved the purchase of more than one dictionary.

Because I have grown since then and no longer am consumed with the need to be right, I am open to input on this. Do you have a different term that you use in your salon? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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