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Monday, April 22, 2024
HomeUncategorizedA Few Barbershop Thoughts on Customer Service

One of my favorite places in the world is the barber shop. While that wasn’t always the case during my long haired mid teen years, as a little kid I loved my barber. Bill was a great guy. He had enough sense around the time I turned 10 to listen to what I asked for in the way of a haircut, and what my mother told him to do. And for the most part both of us were happy with the results, although my mother had some abnormal obsession in me not having any bangs, but that is beside the point. It also didn’t hurt that he had one of those old fashioned coke machines and I got a dime to get a bottle of soda after my hair cut was done. Of course this was in the days when the family-run gas station still ruled the countryside. And quickie marts and corporate monolith gas and grocery marts hadn’t moved too far from the cities.

Over time, my childhood barber cut back his hours. He had had a long and successful career and it was a one chair kind of shop in a small South Western Pennsylvania town. Eventually, I went away to school and by the time I came back he had retired completely. I had to go to find someone else to cut my hair.

Since I had a few extra bucks in my pocket, I tried some of the fancy salons. Sure they had these wonderful couches, candles, and all these other luxurious services. All of which were nice, all of which were adding income and margin to their businesses but it wasn’t why I showed up there in the first place. Not unlike a lot of customers in the world, I knew what I wanted. I’d listen to new ideas but at the end of the day I had a darn good idea of what my problem was. In this case my hair was getting long and shaggy and I have about three wicked cowlicks on the front of my head alone. Because of that, I’m the type of guy who knows how he wants his hair cut. I’m not looking for a new style and color. I don’t care if I’m trendy or cool. I knew what I wanted, tried to communicate it clearly and it never once translated in to a repeatable output. They’d be too worried about the art of their profession. It wasn’t like I got a bad haircut; I just didn’t get what I wanted. After a few years at places like this I went the chain haircut strip mall route.

There are chain hair cutting places all over. They cost a lot less than the fancy salons. Instead of overstuffed couches, there are plastic chairs in the waiting area. The list of additional services was limited, but then again all I wanted was a good haircut done my way. Sadly, despite being easy to find, plentiful and well priced, the quality of their work was hit or miss. As a customer, not knowing what outcome to expect is simply frustrating and it doesn’t make for good customer service. I could never get the same person twice in a row. There was no consistency. The poor kids cutting hair there were new. New isn’t exactly bad. But while they had a license to hang on the wall, most had just finished school in the past few years. There’s nothing wrong with being new, we all have been at one point or another. Like a lot of people who have just finished school, they had the basic idea of what to do but they were missing the experience of how to refine things. There was not a mentor there to help them along the way. No one truly skilled, that could offer insight and an experienced perspective.

Eventually, I ended up in a little old barbershop with 3 guys cutting hair in it. Two old guys and the “new guy”. In this case, the new guy was one of the other guy’s sons and he had been cutting hair for 22 years. Sure I wasn’t out in the country anymore. And by the standards of my childhood barber shop it was huge. After all, there were three barber’s chairs. Even the new guy had experience and had over time come into his own. Not that his original mentors didn’t still tell him what he was doing wrong. In time he had developed his own perspective and was the one I waited for over and over.

So what does any of this have to do with business and selling? Everything, if you look at it right. Was the $60.00 hair cut six times better than the $10.00 one? No! Price alone didn’t make it better, because it wasn’t what I wanted. Had any of the people along the way given me what I wanted and not what they thought I needed, I’d still be paying a premium for their service. I also probably would have bought into the other high margin things from time to time along the way. Were the strip mall $10.00 haircuts equal to the $10.00 barber shop cuts? No! Even though the price was the same, the customer experience and the quality varied greatly.

Instead, I found someone who listened and did what I asked. Even if you ask what your customers want are you really hearing what they are saying? Or are you hearing it from your perspective and failing to meet their needs? Odds are there are a lot of corporate buyers and business owners saying what they want and if you’d only listen to them and truly work to meet their needs and solve their problems then there is more business to be had than you would have ever imagined. This isn’t about fancy questions or dazzling sales moves. It’s about asking a few questions, understanding the person you’re talking to and their real needs. Only after taking all that in can you apply your knowledge, expertise and perspective to create a good outcome for them.

So when I moved 5 states over a few years back and had to give up my barber yet again, I went about things differently. I drove past the half a dozen newly sprouted chain places, past the ornate and glamorous ode’s to beauty that were all the rage and found a simple little old shop in the middle of town with three old chairs and three barbers. In the past, it fit my needs and this one did too. Your customers are no different. Sure along the way there will always be the temptation to try something different, but most people won’t do that unless what they have isn’t really what they want and need.

Back in the barber shop I was the only guy under 50 in the place the first few times, but that didn’t matter because they cut my hair right and delivered that same predictable result time after time. Ultimately as more new people moved to my town the average customer age came down, so now they have guys like me who will hopefully still be needing haircuts long after the youngest barber retires. Recently they raised the price from $11.00 to $13.00, but as far I’m concerned it could have gone to $20 and I wouldn’t have flinched. They are giving the same great service and the same predictable quality every time I’m there. As a matter of fact, I’ve sent at least six guys there who are now regulars. Even if you’re not obviously in sales there is nothing quite like referrals.

And if you’re not listening you’d better start before they find someone else who does.

Source by Tim Kubiak


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