In an industry where everyone on your team “touches” a client – the receptionist, the assistant, the stylist – it’s important that everyone on your team defines and delivers customer service the same way. What does that mean? Well, if your receptionist creates magic for your guest, creating the expectation of exceptional customer service, but your assistant chews gum while speaking, gossips about the client she just had, and then leaves your guest with a wet head at the shampoo bowl then, guess what? You know that their definitions of service vary greatly and that you have probably gotten a one star review on Yelp. “But I have an employee manual that outlines my expectation when it comes to customer service; I have systems in place,” you say. That’s a great start, I’d reply, but modeling what exceptional customer service looks like must be your next step.
Think about it this way – if a person’s only perspective of customer service is the employees they interact with at WaWa, or 5 Below, the local grocery store, Kohl’s, or Walmart, then their idea of customer service is basic: unenthusiastically greet the guest, take their order, take their money, and then look past them and say, “Next.” And, before you get your undies in a knot, I know that there are some amazing service providers at those places but they are the exception, not the norm. The service standard is B.A.S.I.C. Let’s pretend for a moment that another member of your team’s idea of customer service is with the people they deal with at Nordstrom, the Ritz-Carlton, Whole Foods, or Morimoto; places where customer service takes on a whole new meaning – borderline obsession. I’ll give you an example.
On a business trip to the Tyson’s Corner area of D.C., my husband and I stayed at the Ritz. When we arrived, we were exhausted and hungry. I picked up the menu for room service to order a quick sandwich and was disappointed when I discovered they had only white bread as a bread choice. I ordered a sandwich anyway and at the end of our stay when asked to complete a service survey, I wrote a note that said I was surprised that a hotel like the Ritz-Carlton would only offer white bread to its guests. A few weeks later I received several voicemails from a Ritz-Carlton employee apologizing for my disappointing experience at their hotel. A few days later I received a letter in the mail from the GM at the Tyson’s Corner hotel offering me a free overnight stay at any Ritz-Carlton hotel in the world to make up for not having a different choice of bread during my stay. Talk about INSANE customer service; their decision to go above and beyond shocked me, pleased me and, ultimately, ruined me because now I expect a free hotel stay anytime WaWa is out of my favorite kind of bread. Realistically, though, that customer service experience forced me to rethink what customer service really is.
BusinessDictionary.com defines customer service as: All interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter. Customer service adds value to a product and builds enduring relationship. Huh. Really? So, then that should change every single client/employee interaction, right? Right! And, it should also make defining customer service pretty simple: every interaction should be adding value and building enduring relationships and if it’s not, then your employees aren’t providing customer service at all. “But what about modeling customer service, like you talked about earlier?” Good point. We’ve defined customer service, now how can exceptional customer service be modeled for your team? Simple. A road trip (or, two).
If you’re conducting regular trainings with your team, take the next training time and pack everyone into a car and drive them to Nordstrom. Take them into the makeup department and have them speak to the counter staff; purchase something – ask questions – observe. Go to the clothing or shoe departments and mosey around; engage a sales person and watch the customer service experience unfold before your eyes. Let your team see, hear, and experience a level of customer service they may not be familiar with. Afterward, go to Starbucks and grab some coffee and while you’re there, observe how the Starbucks team interacts with one another and with their guests. Then, sit down with your team and ask them what stood out the most for them at Nordstrom and at Starbucks. Ask them if the service experience they received was different. And then, ask them if they think that that level of service would be well received at the salon and if they think exceptional service could have an impact on the salon’s bottom line. When you get back to the salon, engage your team in a role playing exercise where they will have the opportunity to practice delivering exceptional customer service. It may feel awkward at first – change is sometimes uncomfortable – but when your salon develops a reputation for being the most customer-centric salon in your area, your paychecks will feel anything but awkward.