5 Creative Customer Service Strategies from Michael Crispel
By: Angie Manson
“There are a lot of great haircuts and great hairdressers out there,” says Michael Crispel, owner of Earth Salon in Toronto, “so adding top-notch customer service to a great cut is the most important part of maintaining a successful business.” Michael definitely knows a thing or two about the positive results of great customer service, because his salon has experienced its most successful year to date, despite Canada’s worst economic downturn in recent history. Michael credits his salon’s success to five key customer-service initiatives that he feels truly set his business apart. Try implementing some of his ideas to build your business in the New Year.
A Little Added Value Goes a Long Way
Instead of cutting back in the slow economy, Michael decided to up the ante by offering complimentary services that his competition wasn’t. Since clients were still spending their hard-earned dollars in his salon—even in tough times—Michael wanted to ensure that every client got to experience luxury while they were there. For starters, he upgraded to a better brand of coffee in his reception area. He now also offers complimentary hand massages (using high-quality hand creams), fringe adjustments and blow dry classes to every client. “The clients who come in for a fringe adjustment or a blow dry class keep the salon busy all the time,” says Michael. “And what’s better is that clients in the salon don’t know the other guests are there for a free service; they only see a busy salon. These complimentary services keep clients happy and encourage them to come back. I’ve seen a 50% greater return from my clients.”
Sharing Your Secrets
Earth Salon has a referral program called “Share Your Secrets” that encourages clients to refer friends to the salon. “For every two referrals a client refers, he or she will receive a complimentary service,” explains Michael. It works especially well when clients are cutting back their appointments. “A lot of clients who would normally come in once per month were cutting back to nine or 10 visits per year,” he adds. “But with this program, we could tell those clients that if they referred a few friends to the salon, they could still keep their 12 appointments per year and still only pay for 10 of them.”
“We offer a couple of different programs that have really helped us build our retail business,” says Michael. First, the salon encourages their clients to bring in any gently used drugstore-brand haircare product from home and exchange it for 25% off any in-salon retail purchase (they sell KMS and Goldwell products). They then donate any usable product to a local women’s shelter and include it in their tax write-offs at the end of the year. "I wanted to make sure the percent off was large enough to encourage clients to participate," he says. Another major incentive for Michael’s clients to buy retail in his salon? “We offer full credit back to clients if they don't like a product they've purchased from us,” he says. It may seem like he’s taking a huge risk as a small business owner, but Michael ensures that he has no overhead from this program. “We mark any returned product with a big “R” and my stylists use it at the back bar and at their stations. It makes a client so much more apt to buying retail from me knowing that we guarantee everything we sell,” Michael says. But no program is successful without full participation from his staff. That’s why Michael conducts regular product knowledge classes (twice per month) with his staff to ensure that every stylist feels comfortable suggesting the right products for their clients. “I also offer a pretty aggressive commission structure that I find is quite encouraging to the staff.”
Michael knows that some clients cut back their appointments to save a little dough, so he began offering lower-priced “tide-over” services like hairline and part color applications or quick layer-refreshing trims using back-cutting. “There is always some extra time in a salon that you can spend doing something special for your client,” says Michael. “These lower-priced services take very little time—even an assistant can do them—and they allow me and my staff to maintain human interaction and continue building relationships with our clients.” Michael revealed that he’ll also throw in a toner or treatment service as added value to a color or cutting appointment. “A lot of salons spend so much money on advertising when they could be using those dollars to offer additional services or added value to their clients.”
“It’s all of these little things we offer that, when added up, have really created something special and different in our salon that our clients recognize and appreciate,” say Michael. The salon has a pre-booking, or “standing appointment” program, where clients who pre-book are given priority if an appointment time or date needs to change. It’s also mandatory that a client receives a follow-up phone call from the salon if he or she is a new client, if they were unhappy with their service in any way or if they underwent a big change. The salon also offers appointment reminder phone calls that their busy, on-the-go clients are grateful for. “We’ve received great response directly from our clients who appreciate our above-and-beyond customer service,” adds Michael. “Many of them are business owners themselves, and because we’ve developed solid relationships with our clientele, they want to see us succeed and they want to support us. They’re as much involved in our lives as we are in theirs.”
To learn more, go to www.earthsalon.ca
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