I have very strong views on customer service, which almost certainly stems from spending several years as a customer service manager for a very large company, and means that whenever I come across poor customer service I notice.
There are lots of ways that hair salons can display good customer service and over the years I’ve experienced both fantastic customer service and terrible customer service. The frustrating thing is that sometimes you get both ends of the spectrum from the same salon.
New clients seem to bring out all the best and most professional service but a year later when you’re classed as a regular it can be a very different story. Instead of rewarding you for being a loyal customer some salons seem to class you as a friend they’re not that bothered about. The level of skill is exactly the same as it was a year ago but the general level of respect seems to have dipped. There are signs that you have dropped down the scale of importance, little things such as when you arrive on time but are still thumbing through the magazines an hour later.
I’m smart enough to know that hairdressers have to make conversation with clients even if they don’t really feel like it. I also know that many of them work very long hours and as such it’s perfectly reasonable that they have their mobile phones with them. It’s less reasonable that they’re so busy talking to their friends on the phone that they burn one of your ears with a set of straighteners!
I’m now at a stage with my hair where I’m not willing to take risks. My hairy horror stories post explains the background to that. In my experience one of the biggest risks to your hair is a dodgy stylist and the second is a good stylist who isn’t putting you first. I currently only ever deal with two stylists and both of these ladies consistently provide excellent customer service. The know their craft. They do excellent work. They respect my time.
I’m fairly relaxed about braiding. If somebody plaits bits of nylon into my hair, even if they do it wrong the worst that could happen is that they’ll fall out or be so tight that my head hurts. Well technically the worst that could happen is that its so tight that it makes me go bald but lets not tangent. Unlike attaching extensions with the superpower of braiding, lots of other hair treatments involve irreversible processes that rely on some very serious chemicals and when it comes to chemicals I only ever talk to one person and that person is called Barbara.
I live in a smallish village in Greater Manchester and the population isn’t particularly diverse. There are currently seven hairdressers and three barbers in the village but none of them deal with afro hair and although the number of salons has varied over the last twenty years there has always been at least five hairdressers and none of them had ever specialised in afro hair, so as you can imagine I was quite surprised one sunny afternoon when a man approached me with a business card because his wife and her friend were about to open a hair salon.
Dishing out business cards to random black women in the street didn’t feature in any of the marketing books I read during my time at university but it definitely worked in this case. As customer relationships go that random business card has led to a relationship of over fifteen years. During that time my family has grown, the salon has closed and I’ve experimented with lots of different hair styles, but Barbara still does my hair. The location may have changed but the level of customer service is exactly the same.
My ongoing battle with my natural hair and my lifelong reluctance to ever let it have it’s own way, have led me to tolerate nonsense from a long line of hairdressers on the basis that all is forgiven as long as I look amazing on my way out of the salon. The question for me now that I’m older and better able to reflect on the whole situation is – Just how much did I hate the way my hair looked when I arrived at the hairdressers, if I was willing to accept a two hour wait and burnt ears just to look great on the drive home?