An awful visit to the hairstylist taught me a lot about service delivery!

12:12:00 AM BB 0 Comments

Owning a service based business can be quite brutal, but it is a huge learning experience. The top 2 things my clients complain about is when my employees are late, or when there are issues with the service quality.

I was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, and decided to visit a hairstylist there. Although my hairstyle looked great, the experience itself was quite frustrating. I booked a 10am Friday appointment at the Vancouver based hairstylist about a week in advance. I had a very busy day that started at 5am, catching a 7am ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, getting my hair done, getting ready for my speaking engagement, speaking and mingling, and regular weekend activities, before heading back to Victoria the next day to attend a gala that my work was sponsoring.

I got to my 10am appointment on time and the salon was closed. I had a moment of panic, where I thought to myself that maybe I had the wrong date or time. I double checked my appointment confirmation and everything seemed fine. I called the salon but it went to voicemail, cos clearly nobody was inside. About 15 minutes later, the owner showed up and my appointment began. Nothing awful happened during my appointment, the stylist was very friendly, and the appointment took about 2.5hrs.

When I went up to the till to pay, I was shocked that my appointment cost double what I was expecting to pay. I asked why, especially since I'd been there before and did a more complicated hairstyle that took much longer, and ended up costing over 50% less than the price today. She didn't really have an answer, and I didn't have the time to haggle, so I paid and called it a day. I told my sister about the experience, but we both agreed that it's probably okay since my hair looked great.

I was pissed when I noticed the next day that my curls were already coming loose. I called the salon and told them I'd like this fixed immediately, and she seemed nonchalant, asked me if I was sure this was happening (as if I didn't have eyes, and she could see my hair through the phone). She asked me to stop by in a few days as they were really busy that Saturday. I explained to her that I lived in Victoria and had an event to attend that evening so I had to catch the ferry at a certain time. She didn't seem to care, and told me to stop by but I could expect to wait a few hours.

I had to choose between fixing my hair, and catching the ferry for the gala. Obviously I caught the ferry, and did touch ups of my hair after paying over $150!! I left a very salty review on the Google and Facebook profile of the business.

The next day, the business owner called me, and I was expecting an apology. I was wrong. She started off by saying that she read my review online, and wanted to clarify a few things. First of all, they were 5 minutes late, not 15 as I wrote online. I laughed. Secondly, the price was a standard price and I wasn't overcharged. I informed her that the price wasn't a major concern, I just brought it up because there didn't seem to be standardized pricing, and other online reviews said the same thing. Finally, she wanted to remind me that she offered to make some styling adjustments to my hair, and she hopes I can edit the review. She ended her statement by saying that she understands that every customer is different and has different expectations. She never apologized.

I informed her that I won't be making edits to the review. Having a paying customer wait outside in the cold for 5 or 15 minutes is unacceptable. Deciding pricing without a clear explanation is unacceptable, and when I asked for a redo, she sounded hesitant and couldn't guarantee me an appointment, despite me emphasizing that I had a ferry to catch.

Photo credit - Phino Babu

Lessons learnt
I'm rarely ever in situations where I spend a lot of money and receive poor quality service in return.  This feeling of immense disappointment reminded me of a few things:

-Don't be late: Running a local service business presents a unique challenge in this regard because you can't always schedule the start an finish time of an appointment to the dot. Due to this reason, our appointment confirmation tells clients to expect an arrival time of about 30-45 minutes. My employees do their best to be on time, but things happen. Despite the prior warning, clients sometimes get upset if employees are late to appointments, and we apologize for this. Conversely, clients often comment on the promptness of appointments. This is something I really reflected on waiting outside in the cold for 15 freaking minutes outside the salon.

-Relationship building is important: My friends and family make fun of me for constantly eating at the same restaurants, and always checking reviews before exploring a new place. I do this intentionally because I hate having to complain if I'm unhappy with something. But this barely happens because I go to places where I know that I can vouch for how great the service and the food is, either by going there repeatedly or doing my research online. I have long term relationships with my aesthetician, my mani-pedi spa, massage therapist, dentist, etc so I know what I'm paying for. They never disappoint. Treat customers well, and they'll keep coming back

-Always apologize: It's the bare minimum. But it's polite, and makes an angry customer feel validated. Whenever my employees screw up and I get a call from an angry customer, I apologize repeatedly and think of ways to remedy the situation.

-Offer discounts: In addition to apologizing, I give a discount on that appointment (if they haven't been billed yet), or on their next appointment. The discount could be anything from 15% - 50%.

-If all fails, let your work be flawless: Maybe you were late, and didn't apologize, delivering amazing service at the end of the day could make up for this. In my case, everything went wrong, and the end result was still pretty mediocre.


Thanks for keeping your comments thoughtful and concise :)