17 February 2015

Why the smallest of details count the most when it comes to customer service.

Today, I'm writing about something I normally wouldn't.

Customer service.

Customer service is one of the most important things when it comes to business. Without it, you cannot sustain a stable and steady clientele which is essential to the success of a business. Building rapport with your clients or customers doesn't just come down to how you speak to them; body language and attention to detail are probably the biggest influencers when it comes to building that trust and business relationship.

I've worked in retail for 6-7 years now and for just over 3 of those years I've worked in sales & customer service and had the opportunity to spend a lot more time with customers compared to my previous retail roles. These last 3 years have taught me a lot about people and I have unintentionally set a high standard for customer service whenever I go out.

What does it mean to provide excellent customer service? It's not about sucking up to the customer. You should approach customer service the way you would, as a customer yourself, in the manner you wish to be treated. There should be attention to detail and a genuine willingness to assist the other person as best you can. 

The reason I'm touching on this topic is actually because of a recent experience I had with a salon I have been going to since 2009. I hadn't always had the BEST experience there - the worst experiences were directly related to poor service from trainees - but I would only ever go to see one stylist and I have trusted him with my hair since the salon opened. Unfortunately, news got to me that he had decided to leave that salon and I was left in utter disbelief.

It had taken me a long time to find a regular stylist to go to for my hair. I have had some pretty appalling experiences with hairdressers in the past and with those experiences, pretty shocking haircuts and styles to boot! It was really upsetting to hear the news, but I was even more upset because I had prepaid a special treatment package just last year and I had 7 treatment vouchers to go.

After chatting to a girl friend about it, she decided to buy one of the vouchers off me so we could go and get treatments together the following month. Yesterday, we finally had a free morning to book ourselves in. The experience, from start to finish, was enough to prevent me from visiting again. If not for the 5 remaining vouchers, I wouldn't even bother. Seeing as each treatment retails at $100 a pop, however, I don't think I can wistfully throw that money down the drain. (Since I bought the treatments as a special prepaid pack, the vouchers average out to be just over half price)

Monday morning, my girl friend and I arrived just before our appointment. We were greeted by a lady (whom I've never really noticed around the salon previously) with a grim look on her face. No smile, no cheerful greeting. Just mumbling and an expression which read 'Monday-itis' all over it. Look, I understand if you're tired, you've had a bad morning, you had a late night, or you generally hate your job.. BUT! You're here now, aren't you? So do your job. Provide excellent customer service, even if it's just a simple smile and a 'good morning, how can we help you today?'.

No matter what people say: First impressions last.

There was only ONE staff there whom I recognised. I had previously been served by him at another salon prior to this one opening. Everyone else was an unfamiliar face.

My friend and I had our hair washed and were then seated down next to each other. Hair treatment commenced and all I kept thinking was.. something wasn't quite right. This nagging feeling kept creeping up on me during the entire process. I really wanted to chat to my friend about it, but it didn't seem appropriate.

Something was missing. All the little bits of attention to detail which the regular staff did were missing. Things like, covering my legs with a towel when I'm wearing a skirt or shorts while I'm sitting at the washing station, reclining the chair at the washing station so that my legs are on the leg rest, wiping my face when they've accidentally sprayed water onto me (*sigh* it happened twice), offering a complimentary beverage during the first round of the treatment.

There was just no attention to detail at all. This, coming from a salon where I have frequented for almost 6 years. These small details had always been an integral part of their level of service and also a big reason why I recommended the salon to so many friends and family. It's a given that, perhaps because the owners weren't there, and the staff were all seemingly unfamiliar, there was perhaps no proper order in the way the salon was being run that morning. I could feel urgency, stress and disorder there. It made for a terrible experience. Perhaps if I had not been a regular there, I would have written it off as just a regular salon and wouldn't think much of it. Perhaps, my previous experiences have built up the place too much so now the level of customer service given is now regarded as completely unsatisfactory.

Attention to detail aside, our treatments did not go well. I have had this treatment many times and it involves a two step process. A mask is applied liberally and massaged into my hair ends before applying the treatment bag over my hair and using a machine to apply a some kind of 'special' steam. After that, the mask is rinsed off. Hair is towel dried, then sprayed with a keratin spray and slightly dried using a hair dryer. After that the steam is applied again, but without the bag. Once finished, hair is rinsed again before a blow-dry and style. When I leave the salon, my hair is so darn smooth and looks really gorgeous. It also has a weird treatment smell - not fruity or florally hahah it actually smells of the treatment steam used. Usually, my stylist will always finish my hair off with a bit of hair oil.

Compared to my regular treatment service, I received a remnant of what was supposed to happen and left the salon with slightly damp hair, with no finishing product and a 'no effort' blow wave ("because [my] hair is already very straight"), resulting in my hair not only feeling knotted when I ran my fingers through it, but also a feeling of total annoyance. My hair looks, feels and smells that way when I do a regular shampoo at home, with a super inexpensive conditioner. In fact, my hair feels a lot smoother when I use my weekly ~$10 Japanese hair mask!! How can this possibly be?! Well for starters, they shampooed the CRAP out of my hair after each treatment process. Talk about undoing the work of the treatment products. What a waste.

It was also very annoying that I had to wait quite some time for someone to dry my hair - while my friend's hair was already dried and styled. A girl who had served us tea, came to dry my hair and even threw in a comment that I needed to do my regrowth. She ditched me after a few minutes to attend to the front counter and I wasn't even reassured that someone would be with me soon. Why there was a lack of communication is beyond me. The guy who initially washed my hair had finished off with another customer and came to finish off the blow dry and blow wave. He was sincere but seemed rushed and this resulted in my hair not being properly dried and roughly 'blow waved'. It's so strange how much I took for granted. For me, it was always the norm for my stylist to be meticulous when it came to styling my hair - small sections at a time, not large sections being dragged by a round brush and a hair dryer to produce no body or volume *sigh*. After being treated so well for the past 6 years, it's blatantly obvious to see where a lot of hair dressers lack.

I have nothing but a bad impression after this visit. It only takes one bad experience to change a person's perception. I really hope they rectify their management and staff issues soon, because from where I stand, all I see is a sinking ship.

Bad customer service. No attention to detail. Terrible salon service.

I am not looking forward to my next 5 treatment visits. I want it to be over as soon as possible. I never thought things would go so far south after my stylist left. It's a real disappointment to see.

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