Try the Kool-Aid, It’s Delicious.

An excerpt from our packet on “People Skills:”

WHY CUSTOMERS QUIT

1% DIE

3% MOVE AWAY

5% OTHER FRIENDSHIPS

9% COMPETITIVE REASONS

14% PRODUCT DISSATISFACTION

68% QUIT BECAUSE OF ATTITUDE OF INDIFFERENCE TOWARD CUSTOMER BY SOME EMPLOYEE.

REMEMBER, YOU REPRESENT THE COMPANY. YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. KEEP A GOOD ATTITUDE, SO WE CAN KEEP OUR GOOD CUSTOMERS.

I mean, no pressure or anything.

That being said, I’ll admit that I’ve moved on from hair stylists when I felt like I’d lost their attention a bit, and figuring out how to tame my wavy hair was no longer their reason to get out of bed in the morning. Simon Scott says it’s a common problem: Stylists and estheticians give amazing service the first time they see a customer, meaning you walk out feeling like they’ve changed your life. The second time around, they do more or less exactly what made you so happy before — but you’re disappointed because you didn’t get that epiphany moment of “oh my God, why have I been straightening my hair all these years?” And by the third visit, you start to think you’re in a rut and it’s time to move on.

That scenario rings pretty true for me, and it’s making me wonder why we want our salon workers to treat our acne, our split ends, our callused feet like these admittedly mundane problems move them on some kind of spiritual level. On the one hand, it should elevate our respect for their work — these people are trained professionals, artists, heroes even, capable of working strange and powerful magic on your appearance that you could never hope to replicate on your own. Miss Jenny tells us all the time how great she feels when a client won’t shut up about how amazing his or her skin looks, post-treatment.

On the other hand, you’re asking a near-stranger to obsess over the clogged pores and hard-to-grow-out bangs that might keep you up at night, but the rest of us barely notice.

Also from the packet:

THE CUSTOMER IS…

… THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE SHOP. WITHOUT THEM, THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR THE SALON.

… NOT A COLD STATISTIC, BUT A FLESH AND BLOOD HUMAN BEING WITH FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS LIKE OUR OWN.

… NOT SOMEONE TO BE TOLERATED SO THAT WE CAN DO OUR THING, THEY ARE OUR THING.

… NOT DEPENDENT ON US, RATHER, WE ARE DEPENDENT ON THEM.

… NOT AN INTERRUPTION OF OUR WORK; THEY ARE THE PURPOSE OF IT. WE ARE NOT DOING THEM A FAVOR BY SERVING THEM; THEY ARE DOING US A FAVOR BY GIVING US THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO.

I get that this is a business and we’re in the service industry. I’m just wondering when customer service turned into the customer cult.

Thoughts, please: What do you expect in terms of service when you go to a salon? What makes you leave a hair stylist or esthetician and take your business somewhere else? Do you think our expectations about salon pampering have crossed the line? (Leading the witness there, I know — feel very free to argue the other side.)

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9 Comments

Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, In Class, week 9

9 responses to “Try the Kool-Aid, It’s Delicious.

  1. Dan

    I can’t speak to the salon piece, but the cult of customer service thing has certainly turned into a twisted reality. I think most people in a customer facing roles (phone/internet companies not withstanding) handle customer service as well as can be expected at that pay scale.

    On the flip side I think you see far more customers who seem to think the “customer is always right” mantra means “I’m a consumer God, you’re subhuman and must tolerate any kind of attitude i feel like copping.” Not sure if that’s the case in spas/salons, but I’d speculate there are more terror customers than there are rude staff members.

  2. The problem, for me, is that the whole salon process is so expensive (NYC haircut – $85, NYC highlights – $150, and that doesn’t include tip) that I feel like I need a little something extra for my money. If I pay that kind of cash, I should walk out of there feeling like I’m lit from within. And yes, I’m kind of disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

  3. Chandler

    To me, this is the same reason I prefer my neighborhood independent bookstore over Amazon.com, or why I eat at my locally owned roti roll shop instead of Chipotle (well, that and food quality, of course): when I feel like I have a personal relationship with the people who sell me products or services, I care more about their business’s survival, so I’m more likely to patronize it in the future.

    I haven’t been to a salon since college, so I can’t speak to the “second time disappointment” factor directly, but I also feel that in general people who take the time to be friendly and attentive give me demonstrably better service — not only do the bartenders at our neighborhood brewhouse know my and Eric’s names, but they can even recommend beers they think we’ll like. (Which I guess says something about our drinking habits.) If I wanted to chop off my hair, it would probably comfort me a lot to feel like the person doing the chopping understood my personal style, and actually cared about making the haircut reflect that.

  4. Elle

    I’ve seen a bit of the customer-service-as-cult from a different angle: I’m a university professor, and last year I taught a class on conference management (basically, this means students get hands-on experience organizing an event, and I get free help for something I somehow agreed to do anyway). There were a number of issues in the class, but one of my frustrations was in getting the students to understand the importance of the *substance* of the academic content of the conference. They thought all they had to do was be polite and friendly and smile all the time, and they could put on a good conference.

    While there is some “customer service” involved in conference management, the big parts are reviewing proposals, organizing panels, and otherwise making sure the CONTENT of the conference is worthwhile for the participants. My students didn’t really care about that, nor did they understand why they should.

    Most students at my school are working-class kids working their way through school, so I understand that most have had retail or restaurant experience, where customer service (rather than the quality of the product) is the only thing they can control. But as their instructor and as the conference organizer, I was frustrated that they didn’t seem to want to do any more than that.

  5. KNB

    Well, to be honest, it may be in response to the recent trend, especially in the Beauty Industry, to have a “We’re Prettier/Better at this than You” Attitude.
    “Wait! You don’t use a PRIMER before you apply your foundation and powder?! tsk tsk tsk…I GUESS I can try to help you, but it may already be a lost cause.”
    The “they’re not doing you a favor by being there” is something I deal with all the time, and hate it every time. When I am being waxed or trimmed or pampered, I just don’t want to feel like you are being put out. I am paying for a service, and I don’t need you to bow and scrape, but I would like for you to smile and not be snotty.
    So there is a fine line. We (the client) are not the only person in the equation, but then neither is the Beauty Provider. It is a business relationship, both dependent on the other, and therefore should be treated as such. And that, to be honest, is all I am looking for.

  6. I’m with Kate A. The cost is the reason I want some personal attention and an attempt to figure out who I am and what my style is. I feel like I see a lot of salon baggage–ie, people who are too afraid to cut my hair short because other women have yelled “Too short!” at them. I almost always leave with hair longer than I want, even when I beg them to go shorter. Sigh.

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