Gather round, designers. It’s time for a story.
A strange thing happened to me, right before I headed off on vacay last month: my hairdressing salon called me.
(Not the strange part, you guys, stay with me here and don’t you very dare give me any of that TL;DR nonsense.)
Apparently my regular hair BFF had been called out on a ‘family emergency’, and was there another stylist they could move my upcoming appointment to?
So here’s the much promised and probably overhyped aforementioned ‘strange’ part – my ‘next appointment’ wasn’t for another 7 or so weeks.
Confusion. Like, was this ‘family emergency’ really going to keep him tied up for over seven weeks? (I got the phone equivalent of a shrug, just incase anyone was wondering)
More confusion. I literally did not know one other stylist at the salon. Was I supposed to just start throwing names at phone lady and hope that one of them belonged to an actual real hairdresser (and not an apprentice, #thehorror)?
Eventually I just suggested that maybe we wait to see how the situation played out – and could we touch base a fortnight beforehand if he was still out to move me to someone else? Mostly I just wanted to get off the phone because this stressed lady was getting kinda angry that I didn’t know how to re-schedule her appointments in the absence of one key team member…
And end scene.
Obviously we all know what really happened here, don’t we poppets? My fabulous favourite stylist had flitted off to another salon, a rock solid ‘do not contact any of your former clients’ agreement in his hot little hands, and my hair was forced to update it’s relationship status to ‘it’s complicated’.
The story gets better. Very right now, I’m supposed to be at the salon, getting my bi-monthly refresh, but as I’m sure you can guess, that’s definitely not the case. (I’m not that digitally nomad-y, sadly). I’m sitting here typing away, hoping that a decent purple shampoo can keep the brass in check, examining for any rogue split ends.
- No one called me to follow up about moving to another stylist.
- In fact, they just removed my appointment all together.
How do I know this? Well, when I didn’t get my customary reconfirmation text three days out, I called – and also to double check who I would be entrusting to snip an-inch-and-a-half-and-absolutely-no-more off my beloved locks. I was promptly informed that as I hadn’t moved my booking to another stylist, I basically didn’t have an appointment anymore. WHAT BLOODY GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE, GIVE THESE GUYS A GOLD LOGIE!
I was ditched. I mean, I kind of get it. We all know they lied in their initial conversation with me, and then there’s the chance I’m gonna ask what happened and where he works now when I come in, and ugh. I’m sure no one is paid well enough to want to deal with that hot mess so I’m sure they took great delight in scrubbing out my name while screeching CUT HER LOOSE, while focusing on shiny new customers that have no questions about the ghosts of stylists past.
But damn, Felicia. How the times have changed.
In 2018, have we become so confident in our abilities to attract new customers, that our current ones become disposable the second they have ‘baggage’?
It’s certainly not the first episode in the show I like to call ‘companies who don’t want to deal with anything hard’. I’ve had refunds and discounts thrown at me anytime I dared leave less than a five star rating, with the rate increasing in direct correlation with the rate the requests for feedback are decreasing.
In fact, one new-ish online retailer just threw a refund at me WHEN I DIDN’T EVEN WANT ONE. (hashtag: make it rain dollar bills, y’all!)
I contacted her after my first delivery – some leather boots which were so on trend, I basically could have become a fashion blogger. Alas, she had packed them in a super lightweight box which had torn in transit – slightly scuffing the right boot. It wasn’t a deal-breaker – heck, I’d probably do more damage than that on my first wear, and it was not really noticeable once on – but I emailed her all the same to let her know that the packaging didn’t stand up to the rigours of Australia Post and that being a new business maybe she might want to invest in some tougher boxes and did she maybe want some pics of how they arrived and not to worry I still loved the boots.
The response? ‘Sorry they arrived damaged, we have refunded the full amount, please return them to this address.’ #coolyeahthanks
I stared in confusion at the screen, double checked that I had definitely said I didn’t want a refund or anything in my initial email (I drink a lot of wine, you guys, I legit could have written anything…).
There’s a name for this phenomenon.
The leaky bucket.
It’s generally in the ‘don’t do this’ part of the Marketing guide book, but somehow, strangely, it’s starting to come back in Vogue, especially for those businesses who primarily live on the interwebs.
These days, we can literally quantify the cost of attracting a new customer – and when you take into account the time and energy that goes into satisfying a pissed off one – the $2.58 *or insert your own number here* acquisition fee starts to look mighty appealing.
So is it any wonder that we’re just cutting loose the ones sitting in the ‘too hard basket’ with a copy and pasted email, their refund and a wave?
The downside? Well, eventually we’re going to burn out all the low hanging fruit and that palatable $2.58 Google tells you will get you a brand, shiny new sale – suddenly blows out to a number a whole lot bigger (trust me, I’ve done this, one-star, do not recommend). Also what sort of horrific brand damage are you doing – with all those ex-customers running around in the wild telling everyone they know that your product ‘was shit, I had to return it and get a refund’? (The literal, one star, do not recommend.) What happened to the days when we used to consider turning a customers frown upside down a win?? And finally – are you really learning anything about your business? I mean, newbie online retailer could still be sending her beautiful boots out in those shitty little boxes for all I know, disappointing a brand new crop of customers, all because she couldn’t be assed spending 10 minutes chatting to me about how my delivery arrived.
As an industry, I know (c’mon people, we’re all professionals, right?) that we’re better than this.
So what would I do? Easy. Get a new bucket.
(or, like, some super durable tape to plug up the hole in this one, because #ecoconscious)
Go back to basics – turning leads into customers into brand advocates is still a bloody good business strategy, even if it means you have to work a little bit harder or have some awkward conversations.
And for my (former*) salon? Seriously, the answer to the question of ‘How Should We Have Handled This Situation’ is so freaking simple it hurts.
‘Hey Emma – just calling to let you know that Christopher has left the business.’ (Simple and honest is always best. Also, it’s the hairdressing industry. Stylists move around all the time. This is not a big deal.)
‘We know you have an another appointment booked with us soon – and can see that you generally get a cut, treatment and balayage. Can we recommend *insert name of another amazeballs stylist here*? (You can see that I’ve literally only been seeing the one person, like, help a sister out with some recommendations here, guys.)
‘We want to find you someone in the team that you’re happy with – can we offer you a *insert nominal discount here* to come in and give them a try?’
And that’s what you call Put That $2.58 New Customer Aquisition Fee In The Kitty For A Coffee. (Or maybe just ‘Marketing 101’…)
*Obviously it’s now my ‘former’ salon because after that shit show I insta-stalked my favourite hair friend to his new salon, and we all lived happily ever after. Or at least we will after my first appointment and he restores my tresses to their former, un-brassy, glory.
Image via Unsplash